Mothers of sick children are offered more meals per day at public hospitals in Auckland than in Hamilton, and whether a mother is breastfeeding plays a lesser role or none at all.
But some child age restrictions are imposed on parents' access to free hospital meals at the Waitemata and Auckland district health boards, unlike at the Waikato and Counties Manukau DHBs.
The Herald asked Auckland's three DHBs about their policies on feeding parents after telling of a 32-year-old mother with a sick 5-month-old baby boy who was told she didn't qualify for meals at Waikato Hospital because she wasn't breastfeeding.
All parents supporting a sick child in hospital are given breakfast. Breastfeeding mothers are given one other meal, either lunch or dinner. Pregnant women are given an evening meal.
Meals are also given to parents of child cancer patients.
Charge nurse managers have discretion to offer meals to other caregivers on a case-by-case basis, such as if a mother cannot leave a child because the child is distressed.
Counties Manukau DHB
"Kidz First Children's Hospital provides breakfast, lunch and dinner to the caregiver - breastfeeding or otherwise - who stays with their child during the child's hospital stay," said Nettie Knetsch, the DHB's general manager of Kidz First and women's health.
"For some out-of-area children during the first day or so, we may provide meals to more than one caregiver - ie, both parents or a grandparent - so the family can get settled and organise the rest of their stay."
"All caregivers who stay in the [Starship children's] hospital overnight receive breakfast," said the DHB's director of provider services, Fionnagh Dougan.
"Breastfeeding mothers and all mothers providing care to children aged under 6 months are also offered lunch and dinner.
"Outside these criteria, our policy does allow some flexibility on a case-by-case basis depending on need. This includes long-stay parents and those who cannot leave the ward," she said.
"Waitemata DHB provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for parents of child patients up to 6 months of age,"said Linda Harun, the general manager for child, women and family services.
"They are entitled to receive meals regardless of whether their child is breast-fed or bottle-fed," Ms Harun said.
"Ward staff also have the discretion to provide meals for caregivers who are not the child's parents, and for parents or caregivers of child patients older than 6 months."