First 1,000 Days

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception until the second birthday, lay the foundations for their future. 

Our programme focuses on hapūtanga (pregnancy), pēpi (babies), and new parents, to achieve equitable health outcomes across generations. Together with our partners, we understand the importance of interdependence for whānau (families), pēpi and tamariki (children) wellbeing. We strive to incorporate the wider whānau in all that we do. 

Guiding principles

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life lay the foundations for their future.
We must act early. Evidence shows it is critical to invest in the first 1,000 days so that every child gets the strongest start to life.
The time before conception is also important. Securing the wellbeing of future parents at this time ensures that if a pregnancy does happen, the first 1,000 days have the best chance of being positive for the parents and the child.
Becoming a parent can be a hopeful time for change. It can also bring stress, anxiety, and trauma. The wellbeing of children depends on the adults’ wellbeing.
Mātauranga Māori and other indigenous knowledge have much to offer Western science. These teach us about how early life experiences affect pēpi (babies).
Reversing the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage takes a system-wide approach that focuses on growing culturally appropriate, community-focused solutions.
We can simplify complexity by focusing on what matters to whānau, trusting relationships and the process, and collectively learning.

What do we do? 

We listen and learn from others. Understanding what matters most to whānau helps us support our government and community partners to deliver better care and support for māmā, pēpi and whānau.

Read about this in our 2022/23 Summary of activity and achievement.

Our programme

Supporting communities and innovators

Communities know what they need. We believe that supporting community action in the early years is vital, because the people closest to the problem are often closest to the solution. 

Our community innovation fund has supported locally led initiatives that support māmā, pēpi, and whānau in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. These initiatives include activities that focus on maternal mental wellbeing, culturally relevant antenatal education, policy advice, or resources for whānau and the child wellbeing sector.

We prioritise partnerships that focus on sustainable, intergenerational approaches to wellbeing. The list of grant partners for the 2023/24 fund is available on this page. We work with our community partners to showcase their stories and success. The insights we gain from our partners influences our nationwide approach to wellbeing in the early years.

Hakeke Productions – Hākui (South Island | Te Wai Pounamu

We support Hakeke Productions’ work to revitalise customary birthing practices in Te Wai Pounamu. 

Hākui connects Ngāi Tahu whānau and Māori midwives in Te Waipounamu with tīpuna knowledge about pregnancy and birth, including miscarriage and stillbirth. 

Tūpuna Parenting (Nationwide)

The Tūpuna Parenting movement shares knowledge about tūpuna Māori and their approaches to raising children from pre-European and early contact periods as an inspiration for modern day parenting.

We support Tūpuna Parenting to capture pūrakau (stories) that reinforce the gentle, respectful and loving whānau relationships that were practised by Māori tūpuna. Find out more on Tūpuna Parenting's Facebook page.

Ngā Wānanga o Hine Kōpū (Te Tai Tokerau | Northland)

A short film, Ngā Wānanga o Hine Kōpū created in partnership with The Spinoff, features hapū māmā (pregnant mothers), fathers and whānau as they explore, learn and gain confidence through the wānanga.

We supported an independent evaluation of the wānanga. A summary of the evaluation by Kataraina Pipi, Kate McKegg and Huhana Moselen shows Hine Kōpū as a shared whānau experience of healing, connecting and exploring. It is about reclaiming Māori identity, cultural confidence and gives rise to tino rangatiratanga in the birthing experience. Read the report.

Whare Manaaki 

This is a Southern solution to struggles faced by isolated whānau on Te Tai Poutini/West Coast. Whare Manaaki connects whānau and fosters parenting know-how, cultural connection, aroha and local relationships.

Māmā Moving Mountains

Described as “an incubator for mothers’ dreams”, Māmā Moving Mountains was founded by a collective of wāhine in Tai Tokerau/Northland who run community networks to realise the goals of māmā. The programme has helped wāhine to set up small businesses, develop papakāinga, gain employment, buy a home, and reclaim children from state care. It has also offered mental wellbeing support and personal, life and parenting skills, helping mothers live and enjoy their potential while supporting their whānau.

Fala Pepe

Fala pepe baby mats were once common throughout the Pacific. Today they are a dying art. The skill, resources and time that went into their creation show the mother and grandmother’s dedication to their baby. Fale Pepe is the revival of cultural knowledge through the indigenous practices of weaving special mats, the Samoan art of Fale Pepe and the Tokelauan art of Apeape. As they learn to weave, women are immersed in cultural expertise, affirmation and connection. Website.

Supporting system transformation and leadership

To support our nationwide health system reform, we advocate and share research, advice, evaluations, and insights. We believe that mātauranga and lived experience are equal forms of evidence alongside policy and science. Our aim is to influence the health sector with evidence so that whānau, pēpi and Tamariki can thrive.

Kahu Taurima is the approach to maternity and early years (pre-conception to 5 years, or the First 2,000 Days of life) for all whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand. As a priority in Te Pae Tata, this programme of change will shift system settings, and redesign the model of care and service delivery models to ensure health is making its greatest contribution to intergenerational wellbeing.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and pre-pregnancy

The time before conception is important. It is a period to secure the wellbeing of future parents, so that if a pregnancy does happen, the first 1,000 days have the best chance of being positive for the parents and the child.

Over recent years, we have shifted from messages aimed at individuals to supporting communities to develop solutions to reduce alcohol harm and improve maternal wellbeing. provides up-to-date evidence and online learning opportunities about preventing FASD.

We have expanded our work to include a focus on equitable access to contraception. These are some of our projects in this area:

  • Tapu Vā was a social media project that invited Pacific peoples to join the talanoa about Pacific attitudes to sex, its tapu nature, their own experiences and their aspirations for sexual health in their communities.
  • Ai, Let’s talk about sex is a digital video series of 14 episodes. It features young, bilingual Māori discussing a wide range of topics about Māori sexual and reproductive health.
  • Whare Tangata is an online series where Māori women discuss their experiences, questions and use of contraception with obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kasey Tawhara (Ngāti Raukawa) and Kahurangi Milne, founder of a private online community of more than 5,000 Māori mothers.

Maternal mental wellbeing

Becoming a parent can be a hopeful time for change. It can also bring stress, anxiety, and trauma to parents. The wellbeing of children depends on adults’ wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders is a high priority for us and maternal mental health is an area of focus for the First 1,000 Days programme.

Several partnership projects are building our kete of resources and influence to support maternal wellbeing:

  • We have partnered with E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services through a Nōku te Ao grant to reduce stigma and discrimination for young Māori māmā.
  • We are implementing the next steps from the Mai te whai-ao ki to ao Mārama report about mothers’ experiences of distress and their wellbeing during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.
  • We have partnered with The Southern Initiative (TSI) and Called Ltd, a Pacific social innovation organisation, to better understand Pacific people’s experiences of wellbeing and distress, specifically stigma and discrimination faced by Pacific communities.
  • We are advancing recommendations from the Āhurutia Te Rito | It takes a village report about how better support for perinatal mental health can transform communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • contains information about navigating pregnancy, parenthood and mental health.


The gap between immunisation rates of Māori, Pacific and other ethnicities has widened in recent years. We are working to improve Māori and Pasifika confidence in, and access to, immunisation.

We provide the National Immunisation Progamme with communications, marketing and health promotion support. Throughout the year and in response to disease outbreaks, we promote immunisations for babies, children, adolescents and adults, including pregnant women.

Our immunisation team, with support from community partners, has developed a range of resources that champion the aspirations of Māori Māmā. Te Whainga o te Mārama prioritise te ao Māori solutions that support learning and informed consent around immunising pēpi and tamariki. 

The resources were co-designed with Māori māmā and matua from four rōpū in Whangārei, Taranaki, Te Tairāwhiti and Waihōpai (Invercargill), in collaboration with IDIA – Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa. The process centred on whānau voices and mātauranga at every stage, from research to design and production. 

The rauemi are: 

  • Pīwari the Kaitiaki: a book to support learning and informed consent around immunisation in a te ao Māori context 
  • an immunisation scheduling resource inspired by maramataka that provides an indigenised view of the immunisation schedule. 

Learn more about Te Whainga o te Mārama

This mahi follows discovery work including Māori Māmā views and experiences of vaccinating their pēpi and tamariki: A qualitative Kaupapa Māori study

Resources and tools

Innovative community resources, tools and initiatives help inform the practice of those working in the sector to drive change across the health system. There is also a range of resources designed for whānau to use independently.

  • HealthEd: New Zealand’s largest collection of free prevention-focused public health information resources
  • Fill Your Kapu While You’re Hapū: An online maternal mental wellbeing video series of Māori and Pasifika women sharing their experience and resilience.
  • Manaaki Tamariki – Kia au tō moe: A toolkit for safe and healthy sleep for babies and young children to support health professionals who work with Māori and Pasifika parents and caregivers.
  • provides information to wāhine hapū and those who support them about alcohol free pregnancies.
  • summarises the Aotearoa evidence about alcohol, pregnancy and FASD and links to resources for health professionals.
  • He Kai Kei āku Ringa, a partnership with Toi Tāngata to develop resources around everyday kai.
  • National Immunisation Progamme resources
  • Te Whainga o te Mārama immunisation resources co-designed with Māori māmā.
  • The booklet Safe and Healthy Eating in Pregnancy is a one-stop-shop for pregnant women about food and nutrition, and covers topics such as recommended foods to eat, foodborne illnesses, how to avoid becoming ill, keeping active, managing morning sickness and recommended supplements. It is available to download, or free printed copies can be ordered from the Health Education catalogue.
  • contains information about navigating pregnancy, parenthood and mental health.