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How to grow a child

The most important responsibility we have as a community is to create and grow healthy children. It is the most effective way to bring about positive change for the future. A child with a healthy blueprint can complete schooling, have a long and resilient career, have less need for medical care and be able to find their own happiness in relationships and life.

The North Queensland Primary Health Network has identified pregnancy and child health as a key priority area. There are more women with medical problems in pregnancy, more babies with health problems and who are born prematurely. This has been partly attributed to late and low attendance for antenatal and early life care, and is associated with higher childhood learning, behavioural and medical needs.

Creating a healthy child starts before pregnancy.

  • Stop smoking and alcohol before conception, both parents, to prevent brain and placental problems, and reduce the chance of the child smoking later in life.
  • Take the folate for at least a month prior to conception to prevent spinal malformations.
  • Ensure dad-to-be has a health check
  • Get your COVID vaccination. There are no negative impacts of COVID vaccination on fertility, pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Think about your health insurance. Not all private health insurance products include obstetric care.
  • Think about your work and career. Will you have access to any parental leave? If you are returning to work, who will care for the baby? Does your husband want to take some parental leave and be the primary carer?
  • Think about your supports. It does take a village to raise a baby. If you don’t have family close by to help with cooking, cleaning and childcare, consider how you will connect with other like-minded women or pay for help. Social isolation in rural areas is a key driver of perinatal anxiety/depression.
  • Prepare for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is associated with improved health for baby and mother. Read about it. Breastfeeding is often challenging, which is why only 30% of women continue to breastfeed at 6 months, although the WHO recommends breastfeeding to 12 months.
  • Start activities with your young child, don’t just sit and watch. Begin sport, and don’t forget music and the arts, before primary school. Libraries and private classes make it easier for you.
  • See your GP when you are planning your baby and when you first suspect you are pregnant to ensure you get the care your baby needs.
  • Consider getting tested for genetic problems before conceiving. There is free testing for eligible people.