Kids Health Info

Maternal and Child Health Services

  • The arrival of a new baby makes a big difference to family life, bringing both new joys and new challenges. Even if it is not your first baby, each baby is different, and a new baby will mean some changes to your family life. In Victoria, the Maternal and Child Health Service can help you with these changes by providing information and support.

    The Maternal and Child Health Service is a free service available to all Victorian families with children from birth to school age. There are Maternal and Child Health Centres located in each local council area.

    The service is run by Maternal and Child Health Nurses (MCHNs) who are registered nurses with extra qualifications in midwifery and maternal and child health. MCHNs have the knowledge and experience to deal with child and family health issues and problems.

    What your Maternal and Child Health Nurse can do

    Your MCHN can offer information, guidance and support on issues including:

    • breastfeeding
    • child health and development
    • infant and child nutrition
    • maternal health (including emotional health)
    • parenting skills
    • home safety for children
    • immunisation
    • relationships (including your relationship with your baby)
    • local support services.

    Most Maternal and Child Health Centres run some additional sessions, such as baby-settling seminars, new parent groups, breastfeeding assessment and enhanced MCHN services for particular needs. Ask your MCHN about the services that are provided in your local area.

    MCHNs will put you in touch with other mothers in your area and give you the chance to join a new mother's group.

    How to access a Maternal and Child Health Service

    • After you have given birth to your baby, the hospital will contact your local Maternal and Child Health Service. A MCHN will call you a few days after you get home and arrange to visit you at home. You can contact them before this time if you have any concerns.
    • If you have not had contact with your local MCHN, e.g. if you have moved or your baby has been in hospital for a significant time, contact your local council for details of the nearest Maternal and Child Health Service. Call them to make an appointment and let them know what it is for (e.g. development check, health concerns).
    • If you have your child's My Health, Learning and Development Record (green book) that you were given when your baby was born, take it to each appointment so that your MCHN can record relevant information about your child's health and development.

    When do you need to visit your MCHN?

    There are certain times of development that are known as key ages and stages, and visits to your MCHN are scheduled to correspond with these stages. These key visits are outlined in the My Health, Learning and Development Record, and your MCHN will fill in the book at these visits.

    During these visits, the MCHN will discuss:

    • the health and development of your child
    • physical and emotional effects on the family
    • your own health and wellbeing
    • any concerns you may have.

    You can call your MCHN at other times for advice or make an appointment to visit them if necessary.

    After hours help

    The Maternal and Child Health Line is a 24-hour telephone service (phone 13 22 29 in Victoria). Qualified MCHNs offer information, advice and referral to all families with young children.

    An interpreter service is also available.

    Key points to remember

    • The Maternal and Child Health Service is a free service available to all Victorian families with children from birth to school age.
    • Your MCHN offers information, guidance and support on issues about parenthood and child health and development.
    • There are key times when it is helpful for your child to visit the MCHN for assessment of their health and development.

    For more information

    Other states and territories in Australia have their own services for parents and babies:

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    If I'm worried about my baby, when should I see my MCHN and when should I see a doctor?

    If the problem is not urgent, call your MCHN for advice. If necessary, the MCHN will arrange for you to come in for an appointment, or advise when to see a GP or paediatrician. If your baby is unwell (e.g. with a fever, not feeding well, is crying a lot more than usual), go to your GP.

    If the MCHN finds something wrong with my baby at one of the key stages checks, what happens next?

    This depends on what the abnormality is. If there is a delay in development, your MCHN might suggest a review with your GP or paediatrician. They may also arrange investigations (e.g. an ultrasound, a visit to a speech pathologist) before the medical review to help speed up the process for you. Occasionally, they may organise a follow-up in a few weeks' time to monitor your child's progress.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Primary Care Liaison Unit. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed May 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.