Building the foundations of life

Sarah Burn (Mother), Ashton Perez (Baby), Stephanie Fernando (Clinical Nurse Specialist, Child and Family health), Nicole Shortill (Mother) and Chloe Shotill (baby).

There is a buzz of activity and conversation at the Early Parenting Support Group being held at the Telopea Public School in Sydney’s west.

And much of the talk is about breastfeeding.

Mums and dads – many of them first timers – mix with each other, show off their bubs, and talk to maternal child nurses and midwives from the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

“It’s so important to get mothers together to talk about the different stages of a child’s development because we’re all here to support each other,” said Julie Stevenson who is a clinical nurse consultant for child and family health.

Telopea is part of the Schools as Community Centres Project- or SaCC.

“It’s so hugely important for new parents, mothers and fathers, to connect and be able to have the opportunity to come together and talk about their new role as parents, to bounce off each other, to get ideas to support their children,” said Pip Martins, SaCC facilitator for the New South Wales Education Department.

“The child and family health nurses come here into the SaCC centre to use the venue on a weekly basis,” she said.

And this particular Tuesday, breastfeeding dominated discusssion.

“I’ve been lucky, it’s been pretty straight forward, I haven’t had too many issues,” said mum Madeleine Dryland as she nursed son James.

“I thought it might be more difficult than it was but I think I’ve just been lucky,” she said.

Madeleine Dryland (Mother), James Dryland (baby), Stephanie Fernando (Clinical Nurse Specialist, Child and Family health).

During World Breastfeeding Week, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is promoting breastfeeding as the ‘foundation of life’.

“Breastfeeding improves the health and well-being of women and children and is the foundation of a country’s development and future,” a WABA spokesperson said.

With the global infant formula market expected to reach sales of around $70 billion every year, WABA wants breastfeeding to play a greater role in sustaining and shaping our societies – rich and poor.

According to WABA, breastfeeding promotes healthy growth, brain function and IQ and reduces the risk in later life of being overweight or obese, by 10 per cent.

“I’m just aware of the benefits to him, not just short term but long term as well -it protects them from illness when they are very young and they don’t have their own immune system,” mum Madeleine said.

“There’s a lot of research saying that the long-term health outcomes are better, so, fewer allergies, less likely to become overweight, less likely to have chronic health issues, so I thought if I could do it, it would be the best thing for him, I guess,” she said.

Sarah Burn, nursing her second child, Ashton, loves coming to the parenting group.

“So I thought, good to get out of the house, meet some mums and you know, something to do for the both of us,” she said.

Pip Martins from the Department of Education agrees.

“Building those social connections for parents is just so hugely important, especially in the early weeks of parenting,” she said.

“It’s an incredibly good resource, because after you are out of midwife care, which is usually the first week or two after you have the baby, this is your main resource you go to for any help that you need,” said Madeleine.

And breastfeeding makes sense from a hip pocket perspective.

“I just think if you can you should, and I think it’s best for your baby if you’re in a position to be able to do that, it’s cost effective, you don’t need to prepare anything and you’re good to go when you leave the house because, you know, boobs come with you,” said mum Sarah – with a laugh.