When I moved to Sydney, Australia for work, I had a four-year visa. I originally thought I would stay for two years. I wanted the experience of living abroad since I had never studied abroad in college, and planned to move back home—but surprise! Here I am, 7 years later.
I married an Australian two years ago, and we welcomed our first child into the world in September 2018. I never could have imagined that I’d be living in Australia this long, let alone having a baby here!
When Paul and I found out we were expecting, we learned a lot about health-care benefits for new mothers in Australia, and we were blown away by the free postpartum care benefits offered.
Here are the top 4 postpartum care benefits Australia provides to all new moms (free of charge!):
01. Early Childhood Health Center: Home Visit
Upon discharge from the hospital, all moms are assigned to an Early Childhood Health Center (within close proximity to your town).
About a week after discharge, a nurse from the Early Childhood Health Center arranges a home visit. The nurse comes to your home to weigh the baby, measure the length and head circumference, watch you feed the baby, check the overall general health of the baby, and check the mom’s mental health to ensure she is coping with the transition to motherhood.
I found it really comforting (not to mention convenient since she came to me!) to have this visit because it reassured me that I was succeeding so far, and that my daughter was putting on weight and doing well.
02. Organized Parent’s Group
At the end of the home visit, the nurse pairs you with a Parent’s Group. There are four organized sessions run by a nurse at the Early Childhood Health Center. The group of new parents is comprised of about 15 new moms (or dads) within a 3-5 mile radius of the center to ensure you are bonding and connecting with new parents close by.
Everyone’s baby is relatively the same age, so you are all experiencing the same new things at similar times. This way, you can support each other through everything.
The topics of these four sessions range from sleeping and settling, how to play and engage with your baby, feeding issues, how to care for your baby but also still maintain a relationship with your spouse, and any other questions raised by the group.
At the conclusion of the four weeks of organized sessions, my group set up a Facebook group so that we could all remain in contact. We now meet on a weekly basis. Whether we meet at a park, a pool, or a café, we are forming lifelong friendships and supporting each other through this new stage of life.
03. Healthcare Support Hotlines
To help prevent new parents from relying on Doctor Google and panicking prematurely, Australian parents are provided with two hotlines which we can access 24/7. The first is the health hotline where you can speak with a pediatric nurse.
It seems like something usually pops up with your baby after the doctor’s office closes, so rather than waiting until the next day to get a doctor’s appointment or heading to the emergency room, we can call the nurse for advice.
The nurses on the line are so patient and have eased my mind numerous times; I’m a new mom and I’m not afraid to admit I’m a frequent caller!
The second key hotline is the breastfeeding support hotline which provides breastfeeding support tips and can answer any questions you may have.
04. Early Childhood Health Center Drop-In Appointments
If you’d rather consult a health-care professional in-person, instead of by phone, Early Childhood Health Centers are available for drop-in appointments.
My center is open for drop-in appointments four mornings a week, and you can see an early childhood nurse for a variety of services. This includes everything from advice on when to start solid food, to sleep suggestions, lactation consultations, and basic baby growth and development checks.
I was really intrigued and excited to see how everything played out once our baby arrived. And now, even though I’ve only been a mom for four months, I couldn’t be happier with the postpartum care I’ve received.
The most amazing thing to me has been that all of the benefits I have received have been FREE.
It really surprised me, as I never heard my friends from the U.S. speak about free benefits; they said postpartum care varied by insurance provider. It’s different here.
I have used each and every one of these services and will be forever thankful for them as they have immensely helped me in my transition to motherhood.
Depending on where you live, your government and/or insurance provider may or may not provide postpartum care that’s this thorough.
However, if you’re an expecting mother and you think these services sound awesome, there are a few things you could consider doing to build this village around yourself:
- Look into local pediatricians that also have a nurses line. There are also some hospitals that offer this service and allow you to call with any concern at any time, for free — here’s one example.
- If you have insurance, look into the “side benefits” that your employer or benefits provider offers. Some will include discounts to Doctors on Demand (or similar services) which allow you to video-conference medical doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists from the comfort of your home.
- If you’re in the U.S., there is a National Women’s Health and Breastfeeding Hotline that is open from 9am-6pm EST, Monday through Friday. It’s not well advertised through most OB-GYNs, but it’s there for you! Also, many hospitals will offer outpatient lactation consulting, and you can always reach out to La Leche League.
- Consider joining like-minded mom groups in your area (and Facebook can be helpful for this too). It’s not always easy to put yourself out there, but it is always helpful to have other moms that you can call, either to chat or to share serious concerns.
- Truly rest, and allow people to help you. More about this here and here.
What I’ve come to understand is that strong postpartum care fills a HUGE emotional and psychological need for the recovering mother. We can’t ignore this need. Even as individuals, we can (and should!) work to provide this type of care and attention to all of the postpartum mothers around us.
The fourth trimester is real, mamas: you. are. healing.
And it can be scary and isolating to navigate this for the first time. Let yourself heal, try to make sure that you have the resources and support that you need, and never, ever be ashamed to ask for help.
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