What is a child health nurse?
A child and family health nurse is a registered nurse with extra qualifications in child and family health nursing. Most are also registered midwives (in Victoria, all child health nurses are midwives).
Child and family health nurses are also known as 'maternal and child health nurses' (in Victoria), 'community health nurses' (in Western Australia) and 'child health nurses' (in Queensland).
When will I meet my child health nurse?
In many parts of Australia, your maternity hospital or midwife will tell your local child health clinic about your new baby. The nurse will probably contact you 1 to 2 weeks after your baby is born to make an appointment for the first visit. Often, this first visit is at your home.
In some states and territories, or if you move to a new area with a young child, you may need to get in touch with the service yourself. If you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to ask your hospital midwife or doctor before you return home with your new baby. You can also contact your local council or health service, or follow the links below to find a local service.
What does a child health nurse do?
Your child and family health nurse will usually offer:
- regular health check-ups for your baby to assess their growth and development
- advice and support to help you care for your baby when it comes to:
- support if you feel anxious or emotional
- support or referral for postnatal anxiety or postnatal depression
- an invitation to meet with a parents' group, so you can connect, and share experiences, with other parents in your area
Every newborn receives an Infant Health Record from the hospital or birth centre where they're born. This book is often referred to by a colour, such as the 'blue book' or 'green book'. Its colour will depend on the state in which you live.
Your child's health and development information is recorded in this book. You should always bring your child's Infant Health Record to appointments with your child health nurse or any health professional, such as your doctor.
What happens at a child health nurse visit?
At these visits, the nurse will weigh and measure your child. They will also check that your child is reaching major developmental milestones. As your child grows, you might discuss issues such as crawling and walking, toilet training, play, tantrums and speech.
If your baby's development seems delayed, your nurse may suggest a visit to your doctor or other health professional — for example, a speech pathologist for speech delays.
You can also visit the nurse at other times; for example, if you have any concerns or difficulties, or you want to weigh your baby.
If your baby is sick, it is best to see your doctor if you can. If you can't or they're not available, see your child health nurse.
What questions should I ask my child health nurse?
It is important to ask questions, especially if you don’t understand what your child health nurse is saying or need more information.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder to help you form a list of questions to ask your GP or specialist. You can print this off and take it with you to your appointment.
How often will I see my child health nurse?
Your child and family health nurse can schedule health check visits until your child reaches school age.
Each Australian State and Territory has its own guidelines for how often babies and children should have a health check. Most babies and children will see their child health nurse at least 5 to 10 times from birth until school age.
Do I have to pay to see a child health nurse?
No. Child health nurse services are free for families with children up to the age at which they start school.
Resources and support
To find your local child health service, go to:
- Australian Capital Territory — Maternal and Child Health (MACH) Nursing Service
- New South Wales — NSW child and family health nursing services
- Queensland — Child and baby health clinics
- South Australia — Child and Family Health Centres
- Tasmania — Child Health Centres
- Northern Territory — Child Health Services
- Victoria — Maternal and Child Health Service
- Western Australia — Community Child Health Program
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: February 2023