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27 February 2024

New Zealand leader to spend 3rd night in hospital with baby

Photo: AP


New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to spend a third night in a hospital before returning home with her newborn daughter.

Ardern's office said Saturday she plans to make her first public appearance since the birth when she leaves Auckland City Hospital on Sunday morning.

On Thursday, Ardern became just the second elected world leader to give birth while holding office. Many hope the 37-year-old will become a role model for combining motherhood with political leadership.

She plans to take six weeks' leave before returning to work, when partner Clarke Gayford will become the child's primary caregiver. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has taken the reins as New Zealand's acting prime minister.

Ardern has yet to announce a name for her daughter, after earlier saying the couple was having difficulty deciding.

The baby was due to take her first bath on Saturday afternoon.

The last leader to give birth while holding office was late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She gave birth to Bakhtawar in 1990.

New Zealand's 'prime miniature' baby keeps Ardern busy

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern will spend a second night in hospital with her "very alert and hungry" newborn daughter who Twitter wags have dubbed the "prime miniature".

Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford have been swamped with congratulatory messages from around the globe, including a private email from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

But after becoming only the second world leader to give birth while in office, she is now facing the realities of motherhood which has seen plans for a public appearance with her baby cancelled twice.

A spokesman for her office said "everyone is doing well if not a bit tired" after Ardern spent much of her first night as a mum feeding the newborn.

"The nurses described the child as 'very alert and one hungry baby'," the spokesman added.

The baby, whose name has yet to be released, arrived Thursday afternoon, weighing 3.3 kilogrammes (7.3 pounds) and with the proud parents using social media to make the announcement.

"Welcome to our village wee one," Ardern, 37, wrote on Instagram. "Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness. We're all doing really well thanks to the wonderful team at Auckland City Hospital."

It is the first child for the prime minister and her 40-year-old partner, a television fishing personality who will become a stay-at-home dad when Ardern returns to work after six weeks' maternity leave.

Among the messages and parenting tips was sound advice from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting @jacindaardern & Clarke. Pro tip, Jacinda: Briefing notes make excellent bedtime stories," Trudeau tweeted.

The birth has dominated headlines, with New Zealand opposition leader Simon Bridges -- while passing on his best wishes -- noting that he was now in a "complete news vacuum".

New Zealand media have dissected every aspect of the birth with headlines ranging from "First Baby and politics: What the PM will want to avoid", to "Revealed. Where PM's first baby's hat, blanket came from" and "Birth a 'modern family' story".

Caught the imagination

As well-wishes flooded social media, the hashtag #PrimeMiniature flourished.

"The term Prime Miniature is just too perfect. please can we call her nothing else?" a person called Nic tweeted.

"Dear world, NZ really isn't into all this '#FirstFamily' elitist nonsense. Instead, all 4.7 million of us are now honorary aunts and uncles to the new #PrimeMiniature. It's the #kiwi way. It's just how we roll," added 2Covet.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark believed Ardern and Gayford had sent a significant message to the world, particularly with Gayford being a stay-at-home dad.

"I think this is why it's caught the imagination, in New Zealand, and globally. Clark said.

"It's inspirational for younger women and men... It's a story for men and women, this story; a very human story."

Ardern's deputy Winston Peters is now acting prime minister, although she will continue to be consulted on significant issues.

The birth capped an eventful year for Ardern who became prime minister last October, three months after inheriting the leadership of the Labour Party when it was languishing in the polls.

The baby girl shares the same birth date as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who in 1990 became the first head of government to have a child while in office.

Her daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, now 28, tweeted "congratulations" to Ardern and shared a link to a news story on how the Pakistani leader showed it was possible to be a mother and a prime minister.