Apumoana Marae was filled with babies, whānau and mothers still hapū (pregnant) last Tuesday celebrating the Hapū Wananga programme.

The Kia Wana Lakes Baby Service started its hapū wananga in late June, to provide advice and support around pregnancy, birthing and breastfeeding, with a particular focus on Māori tikanga (customs) and traditional practices.

The service's childbirth educator Jenna Anapu said the whakanuia (celebration) was planned to celebrate the journey of those families who had been through the programme.

"Because we hold them monthly they (mothers) don't get to meet, but we thought if we could bring them all back together, then it further strengthens the relationships they can make.

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"And it gives us the chance as well to keep engaged with them."

Anapu said the team did not get to engage with the mothers as often as they would like but was in the process of setting up a post-baby programme for next year.

Before the DHB initiative was established Anapu had run her own version at the same marae which she described as being less supported.

She said a Hapū Wananga of this scale was a dream come true.

"We want it to be mana enhancing. We want everyone who walks in the door of our programme to feel empowered when they leave.

"How we do that is not just teaching them traditional birthing practices. But it is the notion of whakawhanaungatanga, where we all come together as one."

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The Kia Wana Lakes Baby Service team sees the whānau leave empowered to make decisions and to make changes in their lives.

Some parents go through a journey of identity just by being on the marae and Anapu said the pāpā's especially gave good feedback.

"Just our last wananga, we had all of our dads stand up and one of them said that he realised through this wananga that he could be a gentle father.

"He could make changes and lifestyle choices for his whānau and he was grateful for the support to be able to get the courage, to make the changes."

Anapu said all whānau were invited to the wananga to ensure the support existed when the mother walked out of the wananga.

Lactation consultants Amy Wray and Alys Brown established the programme in Tairawhiti then set one up in Waikato before eventually creating one in Rotorua.

They designed the programme to empower māmā, pāpā and whānau to have healthy pregnancies and a healthy start for the baby that would last a lifetime.

"We want to have partners and family members feeling fully involved in the learning process and we try to achieve this by delivering the content in a way that is fun and relevant to them as well as the mothers." Wray said.

First time māmā Tireni Ratema said the Hapū Wananga empowered women and gave them the knowledge to navigate their own waka.

Ratema attended the wananga in August and was happy to join the whakanuia to reunite with the other māmā's that were pregnant and meet their babies.

She said the wananga provided a space for women to come together and share their experiences.

"The wisdom of some of the elders that attended was very valuable. We had a number of kuia (female elders) that were a part of the wananga in some shape or form."

She said having a kaupapa Māori based programme had been essential to identity.

"Being able to identify and have that connection that underpins who we are as Māori people and affirms who we are as Māori women has been essential to placing us within this space of transitioning into motherhood."

Referrals into the hapū wananga are through
- The Kia Wana Lakes Baby-Rotorua Facebook Page (Self referrals)
- Calling the 0800 lakes baby phone 0800 525 372
- Filling in tick box referral form found at LMC/GP clinics.