New mothers share their stories

Dunedin mum Sam Gittoes (left), who gave birth to baby Addison (7 months) during Covid-19...
Dunedin mum Sam Gittoes (left), who gave birth to baby Addison (7 months) during Covid-19 lockdown, is among dozens of new mums to share their experiences in Mamas in Lockdown, a book compiled by Dunedin breastfeeding specialist Denise Ives. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Between March and May, while New Zealand was going through Covid-19 Alert Levels 4, 3 and 2, about 10,000 Kiwi women gave birth.

The impact of the global pandemic on New Zealand hospitals meant that having a baby was a strange, disconcerting, and often lonely experience for new mums.

Among them was Dunedin mum Sam Gittoes, whose daughter Addison (now 7 months) was born at Dunedin Hospital in April — after a long, anxious wait.

Her subsequent painful battle to breastfeed her daughter, in isolation at home, and the struggle to access the right support in the midst of a lockdown, is something she still finds difficult to talk about.

"For a long time it felt as though there was no-one I could talk to in the health system — I felt very isolated with my baby," Ms Gittoes said.

With the help of family and close friends, and the specialist support of Denise Ives, of Dunedin’s Breast Room, she got through it.

"Being a mum is hard enough, throwing Covid-19 into it makes it that much harder," she said.

"Denise is amazing — what she does for the community is wonderful.

"She was a great help for me during a time that was very dark and hard for me."

For Ms Ives, who worked with many women who faced similar challenges giving birth and establishing early routines with their babies during Covid 19 alert levels, it became clear that parents needed to talk about what happened.

"Covid-19 had a huge impact on people — particularly those giving birth.

"Some had to give birth without the support of their partner, who had to wait outside, or having a home birth instead of a hospital birth — it was a very disconcerting time for many.

"So, I started encouraging mums to write down their stories, which they seemed to find therapeutic," Ms Ives said.

She decided to cast the net wider, by putting the word out on social media, with the thought of putting together a booklet.

The response was extraordinary. Ms Ives was inundated by families interested in participating, and received 80 personal stories written by new parents from Whangarei to Invercargill — 20 of them from Dunedin parents.

Those stories have been collected and published in a new book — Mamas in Lockdown, Personal stories of becoming a parent during Covid-19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ms Ives said the self-published book, which is being launched at a private function in Dunedin today, will help to raise awareness and funds for The Breast Room.

Run by Ms Ives for the past nine years, The Breast Room is now located in the South City Mall, where weekly drop-in sessions are held on Thursday mornings.

She also provides home visits and online support to new parents.

Mamas in Lockdown is available through


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