Child Health Nurse Appointments – Developmental Milestones
It’s become a bit of a contentious issue in some of my mums groups about attending and keeping up to date with the MCHN/Child Health Nurse or purple book appointments. I’m not talking about the immunisation schedule – more so keeping track of your child’s development and growth charts, receiving information and an opportunity to ask a qualified nurse any queries you might have, in a one-on-one environment.
It saddens me greatly that many mums deliberately avoid these appointments due to the relationship or lack thereof, with their local child health nurse. We had a number of health issues with the eldest Royal, and I attended more appointments with nurses and lactation consultants than I care to think about! Being a first time mumma, I followed their advice often and was disheartened when I received conflicting advice about the same issues from different health professionals.
More than once I’ve walked out of one of these appointments feeling very discouraged, it’s really hard when you’re a new mum and you’re trying to do everything right. In the same breath – sleep deprivation is very challenging and emotions do run high when your hormones are still trying to sort themselves out too, which makes it even harder to make sense of all the info you’re given.
However by the time your child has reached the magical 12 months of age, you’d think that these appointments would be going a lot smoother…but sometimes it’s just not the case. I can’t tell you how upset I was to learn that so many of the things that I thought I was doing well – were apparently wrong, disadvantaging my child’s development and that my child was borderline on being labelled as developmentally delayed.
So I did what most parents would do and I read up a storm, researched additional ideas to help strengthen those skills that were lacking and was determined to push and improve the identified areas of weakness. You can almost see it now, the mumma determined to help her child learn who just isn’t quite ready? How do you think that went? We both got upset and frustrated, neither of us understood what we were trying to achieve, the blue square didn’t fit into the red star hole and I went to bed that night and cried.
The other half and I had a long discussion later that night, he’s got a much more laid back attitude to just about everything – and he reminded me that we’re all different and we each learn in our own time. The fact that the potential diagnosis was borderline meant only that they were possibly concerned, not that I had failed our first born and that everything was going to be ok.
So, we took a different path in the morning…we jumped into the car and went to the park, we looked at the trees and I tried to make peace with it all. The fact that our gorgeous little Royal had full comprehension of what I was saying and asking, actually made me feel a lot better – and as they say…kids will only speak when they’re ready to, and not before. You know what…a few weeks later the words did start to form a bit more, and at the check-up 6 months down the track things were looking significantly better – and the MCHN praised me on my dedication to helping things get back on track. Wish I knew what I did that helped…
Looking back on those times, I think the pressure to succeed and the fear that we would be labelled as something we potentially weren’t was too strong a driving factor. Even if there was an official diagnosis of a learning delay – it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
All this talk about early intervention scares parents into seeking and pushing for answers perhaps earlier then we need to. Maybe if we instead spend more time playing with our kids and cherishing those cheeky little giggles, pointing to the sky and engaging them in real world learning, we wouldn’t be so worried. Even if they are a bit late to get the words out, the fact that they can understand and they know what you’re talking about means even more!
So please go to your appointments mummas, I know some of the nurses are overworked and a bit frazzled around the edges. They’re stretched thin but please remember that they’re human too, they deal with a lot of new and stressed out mummas and I’m sure they struggle with how to help some of us on our new parenting paths as well. I’ve certainly clashed heads with a few of them through my early parenting days, I’ve shed many an unnecessary tear stressing over things that may/may not sort themselves out with a bit of time – and missed some of the bigger issues along the way too.
However they are a wealth of knowledge available to all parents, with both new and toddler aged babies (or see your gp/health professional) and they are well connected to many government services than are incredibly valuable, just in case your child does require a bit of extra support/testing/referrals during their first few years.
I know how hard it is to hear any criticism, and they most certainly don’t always get the delivery right – but I would hope that they have their hearts in the right place and that they want the very best for you and your baby(s). That said, if you absolutely can’t fathom the thought of going back to your clinic, call the health line and ask to see a different nurse – hopefully that option is available to you. Otherwise you’ll miss out not only on these appointments, but you won’t get all the other good information that you receive at the same time either, some of which is really good info!
I know there’s a few rare mumma’s out there that have a great child health nurse from the early days, and that’s really fantastic to hear! Please share the details of your fabulous nurse with your other local mummas, knowing that it could make the difference between them going, versus never attending an appointment at the clinic again.
Last word of advice, take everything with a pinch of salt…we don’t all fit in the same cookie cutter mold regardless of how often we try. Your baby might talk at 10 months and crawl until 18 months, walk at 9 months and not talk until they’re nearly two. Just remember how different we all are as adults…and trust your mumma instinct!
If something doesn’t feel quite right, book that appointment ASAP, see your gp/health professional or three and gather some advice before jumping to conclusions. Hopefully with a little bit more time they’ll get there – just like we did…and now, you can’t keep them quiet if you tried (and we do)!!!
Don’t ever forget – you’re doing a great job! Love HRM.