Moree Hospital establishes full-day antenatal education and parenting classes for first-time mothers of Aboriginal babies

A new antenatal program at Moree Hospital is proving to be an outstanding success in helping first-time mothers of Aboriginal babies prepare for birth and beyond. 

Led by Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service (AMIHS) midwife Deb Key and Aboriginal Health education officers Kelly Lawton, Aneata Hickey and Sharlene Williams, the Aboriginal mums and bubs team introduced a full-day antenatal education and parenting class targeted to first-time mothers giving birth to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identified babies.

Noticing a lack of Aboriginal families attending the hospital’s regular birth and parenting classes, which are run on Mondays over five weeks, Ms Key came up with the idea to combine everything into one full day in an effort to attract more women.

“This is a one-off and we pack in as much as we can,” Ms Key said.

“We touch on everything. It mightn’t be as intense as the mainstream classes, but we touch on the most important things.”

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Covering everything from antenatal through to labour and birth and on to postnatal care, the small classes provide a safe space for women, and their partners, to prepare for parenthood.

“We run small classes so they don’t feel intimidated; it’s very down-to-earth,” Ms Key said.

The classes feature many hands-on, practical activities including safe wrapping, sleeping, breastfeeding and bathing of newborns, with a range of different dolls used to demonstrate various techniques.

Baby dolls the size of a newborn baby are used to show women how to feed in different positions, while a male baby doll is used for learning correct bathing techniques.

There are also special dolls used to show the effects alcohol, drugs and shaking has on babies.

“One of the babies is for shaking - it’s head lights up and shows what shaking does to the brain,” Ms Key said.

“The drug and alcohol doll has a particular cry – we show them what their babies would be like if they take drugs or drink during pregnancy.”

So far the team has held two classes, which include morning tea, lunch and a tour of the maternity unit.

Ms Key said the classes have been a great success with plenty of good feedback from the first groups of expectant mothers.

“They felt it was what they wanted to hear, especially the hands-on stuff,” she said.

“It’s all about making it easier for them.

“It gives the mother confidence that she can go to hospital when she’s in labour and know she’s going to get some pain relief and be cared for. There are great benefits for the baby when that care is offered.”

One of the expectant mothers, Adrianna Haines said everyone was helpful and broke down the information so she could understand.

“The tour of maternity was interesting to see where I’ll be giving birth, sleeping and also how to bath my baby,” she said.

“I have learnt how to safely set up a cot, how to hold my baby when breastfeeding and the benefits of tummy time,” another first-time mum, Selina Moore added.

Meanwhile, Grace O’Neill said she found the classes very welcoming.

“It was relaxing and comforting; I didn’t feel the need to be shy,” she said.

The AMIHS team are now planning more classes later in the year, with the next to be held at the end of August.

If you are interested, contact the AMIHS team at Moree Community Health on 6757 0200.