An early childhood educator says many people are losing confidence in how to be parents because they now see their role as going back to paid work as soon as possible after having a baby.

Dr Sarah Farquhar, a former chief executive of the Early Childhood Council who runs an independent professional network called Child Forum, says many parents are handing over their parental role to early childhood teachers.

"Teachers ... are getting worried about parents not knowing what to do about little things to do with their children and basic parenting," she said.

"For some babies childcare may be the best option, but there is a growing amount of worrying anecdotal evidence from early childhood teachers that they are seeing a loss of confidence in parenting, and in parents understanding their crucial role as their children's 'first teachers'."


Census data showed that 37 per cent of parents of children under 1, and 57 per cent of parents of 1-year-olds, were either in or seeking paid work in 2013. Fifteen per cent of under-1s and 43 per cent of 1-year-olds were in formal early childhood education, up from 10 per cent and 29 per cent respectively in 2000.

Dr Farquhar cited Plunket data showing 14 per cent of babies were no longer being breast-fed by six weeks, 25 per cent by three months and 35 per cent by six months, despite World Health Organisation advice that babies should be breast-fed exclusively for the first six months if possible.

"They are not getting the time to learn about parenting and to talk to other parents.

She said parents were encouraged to think of themselves as "economic units" by policies such as paid parental leave, which increases from 14 weeks to 16 weeks today and to 18 weeks next April.