Maternal and newborn health

Information for early childhood professionals and MCH nurses to understand maternal child development and key stages. Includes guidance on working with parents.


There is established evidence showing that there are immediate and long-term positive health benefits associated with breastfeeding for both mothers and babies. Breastmilk contains unique properties which cannot be duplicated in infant formula.

Benefits for long-term health

Research shows babies who are breastfed have fewer episodes of gastroenteritis, respiratory infections and ear infections.

Breastmilk has been shown to decrease the incidence of chronic disease in later life such as:

  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • childhood asthma
  • some leukaemias.

A baby’s development, positive mental health and attachment to their mother is promoted through breastfeeding.

Benefits for the mother

Women who breastfeed are more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner and are less likely to develop pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Guidelines for breastfeeding

The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for around six months; once solids are introduced breastfeeding should continue along with those solids for 12 months or beyond.​

The following information will assist early childhood professionals who may be asked to recommend information and web links for families related to breastfeeding.

More information and research

Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a condition that affects the hip joint in babies and young children.

The normal infant hip is not mature at birth but develops into a strong and stable joint as the child grows. In DDH the hip does not develop normally.

Infants with DDH are not always born with the condition. It may develop in the weeks or months after birth. One or both hips can be affected. DDH is not painful in babies and young children; however, untreated DDH can result in hip pain and early development of osteoarthritis.

Signs of DDH

Sometimes the signs are hard to see, even by a doctor. Signs of DDH may include:

  • stiffness of the hip
  • uneven positioning of the legs
  • one leg appearing shorter than the other
  • uneven thigh or buttock creases.

Treatment and diagnosis

Early diagnosis and treatment is best, since late diagnosis often requires surgical treatment and can mean a higher likelihood of ongoing hip problems.

All infants should be examined regularly in the first year of life at various stages utilising the procedure described in the following form. See: Exam Procedure (pdf - 33.29kb)

Referral form for MCH nurses

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) referral form (pdf - 41.09kb)

More information

The following resources will help you identify and treat DDH.  Forms are also provided for health professionals to download and complete.

Neonatal jaundice

​The Neonatal Jaundice presentation from the April 2016 MCH Conference provides MCH nurses with information on clinical management, referral criteria and resources for neonatal jaundice.

Maternal health and parent support

Parent group information

The first time parent group resource and facilitation guide focuses on the role of the maternal and child health nurse as a group facilitator. There are some tips for running effective groups and a series of sessions detailed. 

You can select directly from these sessions for your group work or you can adapt them to suit the needs of your own groups and facilitation styles.

Quit smoking forms and guidance

Mental health

Perinatal depression and anxiety have serious and long lasting effects on both parents and children if untreated. Consistent, early and effective identification and response by trained health professionals to families during this period can improve outcomes.

Perinatal Mental Health and Psychosocial Assessment is a practice resource for MCH nurses. It gives nurses guidance on:

  • perinatal mental health disorders
  • screening and psychosocial assessment
  • pathways to care
  • women centred communication.

Support organisations

Beyond Blue, clinical practice guidelinescovers depression and related disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder and puerperal psychosis in the perinatal period.

Cradle to Kinder is an intensive ante and postnatal support service to provide longer term, intensive family and early parenting support for vulnerable young mothers and their families, commencing in pregnancy and continuing until the child reaches four years of age.

Healthy mothers, healthy babies is a program that aims to reduce the burden of chronic disease by addressing maternal risk behaviours and providing support during pregnancy.

Perinatal anxiety and depression Australia (PANDA) is a specialist not for profit organisation that has helped tens of thousands of Australians get vital information and support for antenatal and postnatal depression for over 30 years.

​Birth notification forms