This article outlines the history of Plunket in New Zealand and what Plunket Nurses have to offer young families.

What is a Plunket nurse?

One of the most visionary and far-reaching innovations to come out of New Zealand is the nationwide Plunket Nurse system. These specially trained nurses work in baby and child health to ensure Kiwi children reach optimal wellness. Plunket Nurses are registered nurses with specialist post graduate qualifications in child health.

Plunket nurses work with babies through to five-year-olds, assisting parents by  supporting and educating at every stage of early childhood development.

The Plunket movement began with the famed Dr Truby King in 1907.

Firstly, the Karitane Homes were set up to feed malnourished infants, with six hospitals eventually opening across New Zealand. In 1912 the Plunket nurse system was set up to provide home and clinic visits and to teach mothers how to feed and care for their babies. Today over 90% of babies born in New Zealand receive support and care from Plunket nurses.

The services offered by Plunket include-

  • A national car seat rental scheme
  • A free telephone advisory service (0800 933922)
  • Parent groups who help and support each other
  • Family centres where parents can access practical help
  • Mobile clinics to enable rural families to access Plunket support
  • Toy libraries to improve children’s access to educational toys
  • Provision of `Parents As First Teachers’ which offers education and support to parents, helping them to understand how their children develop and what they can do to promote learning and development.

When should I see a Plunket nurse?

The earlier you enrol your baby for Plunket service the better – it is advised to enrol when you are still pregnant.

You can enrol online, by phoning your local Plunket nurse or speaking with your midwife or doctor.

Alternatively, your Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) will ask you if you would like them to enrol you for Plunket care after the birth.

Once you have given birth, your midwife will continue to visit you at home until your baby is around 6 weeks old. At this stage she will hand you over to the Plunket team, who will be available to support and advise you through the pre-school years.

Plunket visits

Visits are offered at:

 Where are the visits held

Between 4 – 6 weeks

Between 6 – 9 weeks

3 months

5 months

9 months

15 months

2 years

3 years

You are also able to access Plunket services at any time between these visits.

Plunket visits are initially held in your home – your Plunket nurse will ring to make an appointment to come to see you.

Clinics are also held at Plunket Centres around the country – you will be encouraged to attend these once you are out and about again.

Plunket clinics also take place at kindergartens, marae and early childhood centres.

In some areas of the remote South Island, Plunket have a mobile bus to help families access Plunket services.


During visits to your home the Plunket Nurse will monitor and advise you about your baby’s health, feeding and sleeping. They are a great support to the family / whanau, helping parents and children to adjust to the new arrival.

You can see your Plunket Nurse in between times also – they are a one-stop shop for information, advice and support on a whole host of issues – safety, cot death prevention, immunisation, nutrition and parenting and discipline techniques. They will also advise on potentially tricky issues, such as toilet training and behavioural challenges.

How do I find a Plunket nurse?

  • Visit www.plunket.org.nz and click on the map of New Zealand to find the nurse working in your area
  • Call into your local Plunket branch
  • Ask your Lead Maternity Carer about local contacts
  • Look up Plunket in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book

What will the Plunket nurse do?

  • Assess the health of you and your baby
  • Ensure your baby is feeding, sleeping, growing and developing well
  • Support you with your breast feeding
  • Link you with community and parent support groups
  • Liaise with other health professionals if required
  • Help with obtaining better housing or medical care if needed
  • Help and support you if you are a victim of domestic violence
  • Liaise with organisations such as Work and Income (WINZ)
  • Keep records of your baby’s progress
  • Give information on immunisation

Plunket is also a great way of connecting with other families in your community – through toy libraries and parent and child play sessions / coffee groups.

Keep the Plunket Line number to hand 0800 933 922 – the line is open 7am- midnight, 7 days a week, offering information, support and advice to parents and carers.

For new parents, one of the best things Plunket does is help you keep a record of your baby’s progress.  When your baby is born, you will be given your own copy of the Well Child (Tamariki Ora) Health Book. Known to previous generations as a “Plunket Book”, this handbook is designed to track the progress of your child from birth to age 5.  Length, weight and significant milestones are recorded, and this is also the home of your child’s immunisation record. These books make marvellous mementos to give to your child when they are all grown up, and are fun to re-read to remind you of what your children were like when they were tiny.

What can I do to help my child?

  • We recommend that you register with Plunket whilst you are pregnant or as soon as possible after the birth
  • Make full benefit of the visits that Plunket offer, to promote wellness in your family
  • Make use of their resources on breast feeding, infant nutrition and parenting
  • Use Plunket to connect with other families in your community, through parent and child play sessions and toy libraries.

Helpful websites & articles


This website holds a huge amount of information and resources for parents.

For information on Lead Maternity Carers visit our article Choosing an LMC

For information and advice on caring for your new baby see our article by midwife, Paula Skelton First Six Weeks

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Kimberley Paterson is a writer and public relations expert living in Whangaparaoa. She had an initial career as a registered nurse and has spent the last 20 years writing about health and well-being.

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