Baby Steps to Better Health
I have spent 30 years delivering babies in Perth and looking after their families as they grow, in my family medical practice in Wembley. It has been my honour and pleasure to have been involved with thousands of families and to have helped them through the huge challenges of parenting. I have three adult children now and one gorgeous grand daughter who brings so much joy and love into my life.
Sadly for me, she lives with her parents in Sydney and to see her I need to travel over east. This led me to the view that if I did not let go of the commitment to always be available for my Obstetric patients, I would miss out on seeing my granddaughter grow up. So, along with my medical partner, Dr Maria Kailis, we made the decision to stop our Obstetric practice and we delivered our last babies in July 2015. This was sad for us, as catching babies is the best fun! Looking after mothers with kindness and trust, creates strong relationships and it has been a great privilege to have been able to care for them.
So we then had to decide how we could use all this experience and joy of caring for mums and babies, after ending our work in the delivery suite. We had become aware of the struggles of mothers to get the services that they need when they need them, especially in the first months of parenting.
Young mothers and fathers in Australia find themselves in 2015 in a difficult position. They are having their first child as an older adult, with less hands on assistance from close family, with greater expectations on them both as breadwinners and contributors to the workforce, and with greater expectations upon themselves to be the "best" parent.
And yet, they are discharged from hospital very early in the process with little follow up and professional advice.
Their Obstetrician has largely completed his or her role and will usually only see them again at a 6 week check.
Their Paediatrician, appropriately, is interested primarily in the sick child, not the issues of parenting a well child.
Their GP may or may not be experienced in the newborn phase for the mother or baby.
Child Health Services and visiting Midwife services are increasingly busier than ever and are often not able to extend to assist with the extra needs of new parents.
The first 6-8 weeks especially is a scary time to the new family. The mother's body and the baby's needs and responses are changing frequently, and there is often a serious difference between the expectations of the inexperienced mother and the reality of parenting a newborn infant.
This is a time where more assistance is required not less.
This is the time when most mothers begin to struggle and yet this is the time when most of our current services leave the mother to her own devices.
Therefore, with the enthusiasm and energy of our Practice Manager and Child Health Nurse Kate Davies, we created the idea for a private, mother oriented holistic health service encompassing all health professionals in one place. We called it Baby Steps Health Centre and it opened only a few months ago.
The centre piece is the early parent clinic served by Child Health Nurses and Lactation Consultants and supervised by GP Obstetricians (myself and Dr Kailis). In the public system the Child Health Nurses busily tick off the long list of Government set tasks to be achieved in the Child Health Nurse appointments. They often do not have time to focus on the specific needs of the mother at the time and rarely now have enough appointment times available for follow up reviews and extra assistance. Our private clinic, although not free, focuses on the mothers needs and issues, and sees them as often as they require in the very difficult early months. Lactation Consultants are available for home or clinic appointments especially in the vital first weeks. And the GP Obstetrician and the Child Health Nurse work together to give a thorough and coordinated full assessment of the mother and the baby for the 6 week check, and in the first week or two after leaving hospital, when the greatest uncertainty and need exists for reassurance and guidance, yet when the greatest gap in services currently exists.
Additionally, educational activities are a key part of this new clinic. First aid and baby massage classes, pilates for pregnant mothers and pilates after birth to assist with recovery from child birth, as well as educational workshops on all aspects of feeding, settling and coping.
Aligned with these services are specialist Physiotherapists for mother and for the child, Psychologists for parents and for child, Speech Therapists, Dietitians and soon Paediatricians. These specialists provide services to the young families and coordinate services for developmental assessments and management programs for older children with potential developmental difficulties.
Additionally, procedures available for this group including vasectomies, contraceptive devices and tongue ties all routinely performed in the theatre room. All together, it is a unique service, the only GP Obstetrician led service covering all health professionals relevant to mothers and babies.
Baby Steps is a new concept and a great approach for parents to get all their health needs met in one place. It is a project of which I am very proud. I hope you use it and get benefit from the many experienced carefully chosen professionals who all want to serve you.