Christchurch baby could be number five million

Odette Deane was born at Christchurch Women's Hospital on March 10 - the month when Stats NZ says...
Odette Deane was born at Christchurch Women's Hospital on March 10 - the month when Stats NZ says our population hit 5 million. Photo: Supplied
Nobody really knows who the five millionth person in New Zealand was - but there's a chance it could be Odette Olive Deane.

The chubby-cheeked tot was born on March 10 this year, around the time Statistics NZ reckons the country's population ticked over to 5 million.

Our population has grown from 4m to 5m in 17 years thanks to a combination of natural growth (births minus deaths) and net migration (arrivals minus departures). Stats NZ said today that - provisionally - the population reached 5m sometime in March.

Mum Charlotte Deane, 26, said it was "crazy" to think her daughter could be New Zealand's 5 millionth person.

"This year's been kind of crazy for babies born anyway...The fact that we're at five million and have basically a worldwide lockdown at the same time."

Charlotte had gone into labour while having lunch at Burnham Military Camp, where her soldier husband Oliver is based. "I started feeling pains, like a rubber band flicking, and then it all happened."

Oliver drove her to Christchurch Women's Hospital and was there for the birth of their "very big" 4.3kg baby, after just 2.5 hours of labour and one day after her due date.

Stats NZ's population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said the precise date when we hit 5 million also isn't available yet but it's estimated that at March 31 had a resident population of 5,002,100.

Theyers said while the 5m mark could have been reached by a newborn baby, it was more likely to be a migrant arriving on a plane.

The Covid-19 pandemic had caused unusual international travel and migration patterns in recent months, which had boosted net migration as more Kiwis arrived home from overseas, she said. Fewer people were also leaving the country.

Escalating numbers of Covid-19 cases in early March made Charlotte "a bit more paranoid" than normal preparing for birth, she told the New Zealand Herald.

"I was keeping track of where the infections were and I didn't really want to go into hospital. And after she was born I didn't want to go into confined spaces."

But she had been reassured by research showing babies and children were less likely to catch the disease and likely to have milder symptoms.

It's not all been easy. When Odette was just 2 weeks old the country went into lockdown, making the first weeks of maternity leave even more isolating than normal. She was only able to have one week of home midwife visits, and feeding the baby proved hard without outside help from a lactation consultant.

But despite those first difficult weeks, Odette is thriving. "She was obviously a giant baby but they think she was born too big. She's just started losing a lot of weight so now she's very petite - we call her Dotty," Charlotte said.

"She's very loved. She's had lots of kisses from her big brother [Walter, 20 months]. She goes a little bit crazy during the day but she sleeps really well at night.

Mid-lockdown, at just 4 weeks, Odette started smiling at them - and she hasn't stopped. "She's the most smiley baby I've ever seen."

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