What does a child health nurse do?
Once you’re home with your newborn baby, your local child health nurse can be a great source of support for you as a parent. As well as offering advice, the nurse will also check your baby’s growth and development. Child health nurse services are free for families with children up to the age at which they start school.
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).
Meeting your 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 a week or 2 after you've returned home to make an appointment for the first visit. Often this first visit is at your home.
In the ACT and Queensland, or if you move to a new area with a young child, you may need to get in touch with the service yourself. Contact your local council or health service, or follow the links below to find a local service.
You can also call Pregnancy Birth and Baby on 1800 822 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.
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.
Child health nurses provide ongoing care
Your child and family health nurse can schedule health check visits until your child reaches school age. At these visits, the nurse will 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.
For more information
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
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Last reviewed: December 2020