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.
Child and family health nurses give free support and information to families with children aged 0-5 years. Depending on your state or territory, this support can be through your local community health service, your local council or your state 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 service.
Child and family health nurses might also be registered midwives. In Victoria, all maternal and child health nurses are also midwives.
Along with your GP, your child and family health nurse is a good starting point for support for your child’s health, development, behaviour, feeding and settling. You can also talk to your nurse about your own wellbeing. It’s all part of helping your child grow and thrive in the early years.
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 and bottle-feeding
- child safety
- development, learning and behaviour
- infant and child mental health and wellbeing
- mental health and wellbeing for you
- sleep and settling
- solid foods and healthy eating
- family planning (not all states and territories).
If your child needs extra or specialised help, your child and family health nurse can refer you to other health professionals or services, like speech pathologists, physiotherapists or paediatricians. This means you and your baby will get 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 child. They can also put you in touch with parent groups in your area.
Seeing a child and family health nurse: what to expect
In most states and territories your baby’s first child health appointment will be at your home. Depending on where you live, your maternity hospital or birthing centre will inform your local child and family health service of your baby’s birth. The child and family health nurse will contact you to arrange an appointment.
If you’ve recently had your baby and haven’t been contacted, call your local child and family health service to book your first appointment.
You and your nurse can then plan your future appointments together. These will usually be at your local child and family health centre. You might be able to make special arrangements, including telehealth, 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 as they grow. This is so the nurse can make sure your child is reaching their development milestones and getting their immunisations at the right time. The appointments schedule is set out in your child’s personal health record book.
At appointments, it’s a good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse about things like the following:
- 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. They can help you with these feelings.
- Next appointments: check when and where your next appointment is.
If you have any concerns in between your regular appointments, you can always make an earlier appointment to see your 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.
Child and family health nurses in different states and territories
Different states and territories refer to child and family health nurses in different ways.
In most states and territories, they’re called child health nurses or child and family health nurses. In Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, they’re called maternal and child health nurses.