What is a child and family health nurse?
A child and family health nurse is a registered nurse who has postgraduate qualifications in child and family health nursing. Most child and family health nurses are also registered midwives. In Victoria, all maternal and child health nurses are also midwives.
Child and family health nurses give free support and information to families with children under six years of age. Depending on your state or territory, this support can be through your local community health service, your local council or your state-wide child and family health service.
If you need to find a child and family health nurse, you can start by contacting your local council, local health service or community health centre or service.
Why your child might see a child and family health nurse
Child and family health nurses offer regular check-ups on your child’s health and development in the early months and years. They offer information, support and advice on:
- breastfeeding nutrition
- sleep and settling
- development, learning and behaviour
- child safety
- family planning (not all states and territories)
- health and wellbeing for you and your children.
If your child needs extra or specialised help, your child and family health nurse can refer you to other health professionals or services so that you or your baby gets help early.
Child and family health nurses often hold parent education groups to help you meet other parents in your local area, and to give you health information and support for raising your baby. They can also put you in touch with parent groups in your area.
Going to the child and family health nurse
In most states and territories your baby’s first child health appointment will be at your home. It’s usually organised through your maternity hospital or birthing centre, depending on where you live.
You and your nurse can then plan your next appointments. These will usually be at your local child and family health centre. You might be able to make special arrangements if you can’t travel to the centre – for example, if you’ve had a caesarean and can’t drive, or if you live a long distance from the centre in country areas.
Your child will have regular appointments at set ages as he grows. This is so that the nurse can make sure your child is reaching his development milestones and getting his immunisations at the best time. Your child and family health nurse will let you know what’s available in your state or territory.
If you have any concerns in between your regular appointments, you can always make an appointment to see the nurse. If your child is sick, you need to see a GP or go to your local hospital.
Appointments with your local child and family health nurse are free.
It’s a good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse about the following things:
- Your child’s health and development: ask any questions and talk about any worries you have or things you’ve noticed about your child. You might also want to ask about what you can do for your child in between appointments.
- You and your family: talk with your nurse about how you’re feeling and how your family is going. If you’re finding it hard to cope or feeling low, it’s a good idea to tell your child and family health nurse.
- Making an appointment: check when your next appointment is and how you make it.