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Burnet Institute’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies is an important collabrative program designed to respond to the unfinished work of addressing the high rate of maternal and newborn deaths in Papua New Guinea.

When women in Australia ponder their pregnancy and the upcoming birth of their child to be, they often think of the joys (and sleepless nights) they’re likely to face. We’re lucky that it’s rare to ever hear of a mother dying in childbirth, and whilst some families do face the horrendous tragedy of stillbirth or newborn death, it’s thankfully uncommon. We’re so fortunate to have excellent prenatal care and ready access to quality and timely healthcare throughout pregnancy and birth. But this is not the case in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.

PNG is our nearest neighbour and so it is astonishing that the risks facing mothers and their babies there is so profoundly different to those we face here, just a hundred or so kilometres away. Around 1,500 mothers lose their lives as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth per year in PNG, and more than 5,000 babies die in their first month of life. This is a devastating reality for families in PNG.

The good news is that one of Australia’s leading medical research organisations, the Melbourne-based Burnet Institute is working hard to change this. The Burnet has been working in PNG for close to 20 years. The cornerstone of their work in PNG is Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies research program (HMHB), which is designed to help women and their babies have the best chance of surviving childbirth and give babies the best start possible to then thrive through childhood.

PNG is our nearest neighbour and so it is astonishing that the risks facing mothers and their babies there is so profoundly different to those we face here, just a hundred or so kilometres away.

There are many factors that contribute to PNG’s very high mortality rates, rugged geography and poor infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas, can mean access to health care is very difficult. There can be a lack of understanding around the importance of antenatal care with many women attending clinics late in pregnancy or not at all. There can also be small but significant financial constraints on families, which add to the burden of travel or the cost of accessing care, or there could also be the lack of partner support, or a preference for traditional birthing practices within villages.

All these issues can be further complicated by the complexity surrounding common diseases that are often present such as malaria, undiagnosed sexually transmissible infections, tuberculosis as well as malnutrition and high levels of anaemia, all of which can contribute to poor maternal and newborn outcomes.


Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies is working towards a healthier PNG, focusing on improving outcomes for women and babies in order to save lives. It is a broad research program examining medical causes and behavioural risk factors for poor health, and also looking at social factors influencing health, the provision of health services, and how to encourage effective uptake of services.

Our team of researchers is working alongside local facilities and communities to better understand some of the difficult issues that contribute to poor health outcomes for women and babies in PNG. HMHB is aiming to identify what the main drivers are for poor maternal and newborn health, especially for babies being born too small. Babies born too small, either because they haven’t been able to grow adequately in pregnancy or because they’re born too soon, face a much higher risk of dying in childbirth or early infancy. For those babies who make it through, they face a higher risk of poor growth and development in childhood, often referred to as stunting.

Around 1,500 mothers lose their lives as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth per year in PNG, and more than 5,000 babies die in their first month of life.

Burnet’s Senior Researcher, Dr Michelle Scoullar, has been working on the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program since 2014, and having lived and worked in Papua New Guinea, understands just how difficult it can be to improve a system that is so complex.

“There are many gaps in our understanding, but through our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program we are already identifying some of the key issues that are impacting on mothers and babies that can be targeted to improve their health,” Dr Scoullar says.

“As part of our first study, we have recruited 700 pregnant women in East New Britain Province and we’re following them from their first antenatal clinic visit, through to their labour, and then also seeing them and their baby at one month, six months and at 12 months.

“At each visit we’re taking a whole series of blood tests and swabs, and growth measurements to identify any issues such as infectious diseases, anaemia, nutritional deficiencies and stunting.”

Photo: Some of Burnet’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies research team including (right to left) Rose Suruka, Lucy Au and Elizabeth Walep together with Sr. Jacklyn Telo.

We’re also interviewing families and healthcare workers identifying barriers to families accessing available health care, and looking at ways to improve the quality of services currently provided, all factors that ultimately influence outcomes for mothers and babies.

One key issue that has arisen from our study is the significant lack of knowledge about family planning.

“Only one in four women interviewed as part of this study had used a modern method of contraception and we’ve found there is a huge demand for these methods of contraception but less than half of the demand is being met,” Dr Scoullar says.

“Supporting women and couples to plan for healthy timing and spacing of births is a cost-effective approach to reducing maternal and infant mortality and has proven benefits not just in preventing death, but also for gender equality, educational attainment and poverty reduction.”

“Were only part-way through the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program and very limited by funding, so any additional support from the Australian or Papua New Guinea community will help us make a huge difference to women and children in Papua New Guinea.”

Dr Michelle Scoullar is a paediatric doctor who is also completing her PhD as part of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program.

For more information about the Burnet Institute and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies or to make a donation go to burnet.edu.au or call (03) 9282 2111


You can stick to a budget and still have everything you need with some clever planning.

Welcoming a new bundle of joy is exciting, but with so many products on the market the prospect of preparing for life with a newborn can be completely overwhelming. Fear not, Offspring has created the ultimate guide to help you sort the essentials from the gimmicks.


The Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests a first child can cost between $3,000 and $13,000 in the first year alone – a marked difference between thrift and indulgence when it comes to preparing for your little one’s arrival. The truth is you can stick to a budget and still have everything you need with some clever planning.


Tip: Talk to other mums about what was useful and what was useless. They may be willing to loan you items, just check the safety standards and condition.

Tips for buying on a budget:

  • Question every purchase: is it really essential?
  • Plan ahead to take advantage of sales
  • Buy in bulk especially nappies and wipes
  • Borrow items
  • Decide on the brand/model and then check local Buy and Sell pages, eBay and baby markets.

Out and about

Before you hit the shops, what do you actually need to buy? Here’s a list of what a newborn needs:

Heading out with a newborn is like packing for a small camping trip and involves the biggest ticket items, so do your research to get the right equipment:


  • Car restraint:

The car seat will be one of the most expensive items on your shopping list. It is best to buy new, as car seats have a life span with most not made to last more than 10 years.

  • To trim costs, consider a travel system with a capsule that clips onto a pram frame. It might also mean easy transfers from the car to the
  • Baby capsules can be hired as they are quickly outgrown.
  • Convertible models that change from rear-facing to forward-facing will last from birth to four years and will save you the expense of buying two seats.
  • Pram/Stroller:

The price tag on a pram can vary dramatically and there are many features and accessories on offer so set a budget and do lots of homework.

  • When will the pram primarily be used – exercising or leisure?
  • Check it is easy to fold and lift
  • Check it will fit in your car boot
  • Are you planning another baby quickly or expecting twins and require a double pram or added accessories such as a skateboard or toddler seat?
  • Is it important to have a reversible handle or interchangeable seat to grow and change with your baby?
  • Do you need a rain cover, sunshade, cup holder or storage?
  • Look for second-hand alternatives as many mums change their minds or opt for different transport options as their baby grows.


  • A nappy bag
  • Pram Liner
  • Baby carrier
  • Window shades


  •  Trolley cover
  • Breastfeeding cover
  • Portable Cot

Sleep needs

Unfortunately, sleep isn’t for sale, but you can set up a safe and secure environment for your baby to encourage a bit of shut-eye.


  • Cot:

A cot is often one of the most expensive and difficult decisions faced by parents-to-be. All new cots have to comply with Australian safety guidelines but if you’re on a budget, ensure a second-hand cot meets current standards. To save money consider a cot that converts into a toddler bed. But, sometimes spending money on quality will ensure it can be reused for future siblings.

  • Mattress:

There will be many (yes, many) spills and accidents and years of use so select a good quality mattress that snugly fits your cot and invests in a waterproof mattress protector.

  • Wraps

There is a huge market dedicated to wraps, swaddles and sleeping bags, but they may take some trial and error to see which suits your baby. A large muslin wrap and some practice swaddling will work just as well.


  • A bassinet, Moses basket, cradle, cozy sleeper or hammock is smaller, more portable than a cot and great for those early days.
  • A baby monitor – to save money consider a monitor that doubles as a nightlight for those late-night feeds.


  •  Light and music display
  • White noise machine
  • Room thermometer
  • Quilts, fluffy blankets, and cot bumpers

Feeding essentials:


While breast milk is free there are some things you will need to make the experience easier:

  • Breast pads
  • Breast pump – consider hiring or buying a manual one


Bottles and formula can cost a pretty penny and there are so many options. Ask for recommendations and trial a couple of brands. Even if you are certain you will breastfeed, you may need bottles for expressing.

  • Bottlebrush
  • Drying Rack


  • A feeding chair/glider
  • Nursing pillow
  • Burp Cloths
  • Formula dispenser
  • A high chair, food processor, and plastic cutlery can all wait a few months.


  • Bottle warmer
  • Bottle sterilizer

Change time:


  • Nappies and wipes:

Cloth or disposable – you will need to stock up and be prepared to use lots of them!

  • Toiletries:

Babies don’t need lots of products on their delicate skin. But having some baby shampoo, moisturizer, and nappy rash cream ready to go, is a good idea.


  • Change table – a changing mat on top of a dresser might be a cheaper option.
  • Nappy bucket or nappy disposal bin
  • Baby bath – to save money use the sink or an adult bath with a bath support.


  •  Wipes warmer
  • Nappy Stacker


One of the best parts of preparing for a new baby is buying gorgeous teeny tiny outfits! But it is easy to go overboard and people will often gift lots of outfits.


  • At least six onesies get a mix of size 0000 and size 000 for an average-sized newborn (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, full length or a combination, depending on the season they’re due). These can double as day clothes and PJs.
  • Singlets or singlet suits
  • A jacket or cardigan
  • A hat (a sun hat for summer and a beanie for winter)
  • Socks (these can double as mittens)
  • Bibs


  • Scratch mittens
  • Going out outfits


  • Shoes – super cute but not necessary

Sanity savers:

  • Baby thermometer
  • Grooming Kit
  • Baby proofing kit
  • A few rattles, teething toys, and books
  • A bouncer, swing or activity mat for play and tummy time.

Tip: If you’re having a baby shower, set up a baby registry. It isn’t offensive to ask for gifts that will be appreciated and well used.

Your newborn will not know if you purchased the most expensive nappy bag or put them in designer clothes. The most important thing your baby will ever need is your love and attention. Fortunately, that’s free!

Sue and husband Lee, from Melbourne, have been foster carers with MacKillop Family Services for two and a half years. They talk about their experience and the benefits of being foster carers, and how it has enriched life for their family and the community.

Between them, Sue and Lee have five children of their own, and friends thought they were taking on too much when they said that they were going to be foster carers, but Sue says the family has benefited so much from the experience.

Sharing their home with kids in foster care has enriched life for everyone in this family.

“It’s not about what you give, it’s all about what you get back”, insists foster carer Sue McLaughlin.

Sue and husband Lee, from Melbourne, have been foster carers with MacKillop Family Services for two and a half years, providing a safe and nurturing home for babies and toddlers.

Between them, Sue and Lee have five children of their own, and friends thought they were taking on too much when they said that they were going to be foster carers, but Sue says the family has benefited so much from the experience,

“With four teenagers and one nine-year-old, foster care is a team effort with everyone pitching in and helping with the babies. Our kids have learned a great deal from opening their home to other children,

“They absolutely love having the babies to stay. It’s been such a positive experience for us and it’s taught the kids a lot about the wider world. We share age appropriate information with them about each little one that arrives, they understand that sometimes people need support and that’s why we are caring for the babies.”

“With four teenagers and one nine-year-old, foster care is a team effort with everyone pitching in and helping with the babies. Our kids have learned a great deal from opening their home to other children”

Sue and Lee sat down and discussed how foster care works with their children before starting foster care training and she believes it has been hugely educational for them,

“Our kids are an enormous help to me and the babies just love it when they come from school as their big brothers and sisters are there to play. Some days I say to them, ‘Guys, I couldn’t have done this without you today.’ They just want to keep them all forever, but we talk about how we have the babies for a short time and it’s our job to keep them safe and as happy as possible in that time.”

Over the last two years, Sue and Lee have looked after two young children since they were six weeks and eighteen months old as well as providing emergency and respite care for other babies and toddlers when needed.

Sue’s kids have also become advocates for foster care among their friends and at their schools,

“They see the babies as their brothers or sisters but are also quick to tell people that we are a foster family. They are happy to explain to some of their friends who have not had any experience of foster care what it is all about and why there is a need. I am so proud that they are growing into compassionate people who have empathy for others and understand that people can experience difficult times in their lives.”

Sue’s kids have also become advocates for foster care among their friends and at their schools.

Children need homes for all sorts of reasons, sometimes it is respite care to give parents a break, sometimes parents are ill or in hospital and unable to look after their children. There are also situations where children may have been abused or neglected because the children are in a domestic and family violence situation.

Foster carers can be single, retired, studying or working and can rent or own their own homes. There are also many types of foster care. Care can be for a weekend, a few weeks, a few months or even years. Foster carers can choose the type of care that suits them.

MacKillop Family Services provides practical support to carers to support them to support the child. Intensive and ongoing training provides carers with a specific insight into caring for children who have experienced trauma. MacKillop also operates an after-hours service so carers can call for support 24 hours a day.

Babies, children and young people need all sorts of different homes, so if foster care is something that could work for you or your family, contact MacKillop Family Services who will help you work through the steps to become an accredited foster carer.

For more information, visit https://www.mackillop.org.au/

You have a beautiful new baby but instead of feeling elated you are feeling exhausted, irritable with your partner and maybe even a little resentful towards your new baby. Or perhaps you have an older baby or toddler and you’ve been struggling with their sleep for a very long time.

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue for parents of babies, with recent research showing one in four new Mums are getting just three hours or less of sleep a night. What’s more, one in five admit they have experienced severe depression or post-natal depression when their babies weren’t sleeping well, according to a study by Galaxy Research.

There is an plethora of information on baby sleep and routine, and so much of it is conflicting. It’s no wonder parents are overwhelmed, confused and exhausted. Our babies are exhausted too – “caught” in the same sleep deprived cycle as their parents.

The common perception has been for a long time that baby sleep is complex. However, when we strip it all back, sleep is an inherently primal and essential human function for our babies. Our babies NEED sleep, they WANT sleep and they CAN sleep. There is no baby on this earth who hates sleep.

Here’s the thing – it is not just about the going to sleep process. That is where so much attention is focused but that is only one piece in the bigger pie. Baby sleep requires a holistic approach and all the “foundations” need to be in place before a baby will sleep well.

Here are 5 fundamental guidelines for you to implement with your baby. The key is to stay consistent at all times. If you aren’t consistent, we can’t expect consistency from your baby.

Our babies NEED sleep, they WANT sleep and they CAN sleep.

1. Establish your baby’s daytime and nighttime to be aligned with their 24-hour body clock.

This means having a consistent bed-time at night and get-up time in the morning Your baby’s circadian rhythms (and ours too as adults) is regulated by night and day. Their daytime consists of naps when they are tired, interspersed with periods of awake time. For night time, their body clock wants to be having one long continuous stretch of sleep for 12 to 13 hours (with or without feeds dependent on age). The ideal bedtime for babies is 6pm (6.30pm for toddlers), meaning their get-up time to start the day the next morning falls somewhere between 6am and 7am. Establishing these timings consistently will help your baby’s natural body clock fall into place. Be mindful also that your baby’s day naps don’t finish too late in the afternoon, otherwise this will impact the 6pm bedtime.

2. When at home, always put your baby to sleep in one location – i.e. the cot or bassinet.

Avoid putting your baby down for sleep in multiple locations throughout the house such as on a lounge, on a bed, in a pram, in a baby swing. Your baby should always sleep in their bassinet or cot for all sleeps day and night. By doing this, your baby will form a strong sleep association with their own sleep space (just as we have a consistent sleep location – i.e. our bed)

Baby sleep requires a holistic approach and all the “foundations” need to be in place before a baby will sleep well.

3. Respond to tired signs.

Learn to recognise your baby’s tired signs during the day. Common tired signs include becoming irritable / grizzly, rubbing their eyes, yawning, arm and leg movements becoming jerky and rigid. Babies tire very quickly. If they are kept up for too long, they become overtired and over-stimulated very quickly and this makes it very difficult for them to fall asleep. If this is happening every day (and so often it is) then a baby will constantly be in an overtired cycle and will never sleep well.

4.Create the optimum sleep environment

Your baby’s cot / bassinet area should be free of musical toys, hanging mobiles, play mirrors etc as these all equate to noise, colour and movement. These are strong stimuli and distractions and not conducive at all to good sleep. Don’t be lured by the promise on the packaging that they will help soothe your baby to sleep. They won’t!

Ensure a safe sleep space for your baby – so no bedding, blankets, soft toys in the cot or bassinet. Just the mattress with the fitted sheet and that is all.Make sure your baby is cool and lightly dressed in summertime and in warm/hot climates in general. Likewise, in wintertime and cooler weather (including the lead-in to winter), your baby needs to be dressed warmly and also the room temp needs to be adequately warm too.  A baby who is not warm enough won’t sleep well.

5.Help your baby to acquire the self-settling skill.

Each time you put your baby down to sleep, allow them some time and space to self-settle. Go into them as needed to provide hands on comfort (such as patting) or pick them up for a quick cuddle, but also try and stay out of the room for periods if you can, to allow them time to put themselves to sleep.

For more information on baby sleep concerns visit www.dreamstartbaby.com.au

Children under six, create over one million new neural connections per second and Neuroscientists are discovering that learning music engages almost every area of the brain at once. Consequently, making music is â superfood for a child’s developing brain, as it simultaneously engages areas involved in speech, listening, movement, intellect, socialisation, emotions and creativity.

Making music is ‘super food’ for a child’s developing brain, as it simultaneously engages areas involved in speech, listening, movement, intellect, socialisation, emotions and creativity.

Babies are born with an innate love of music, and music is an important part of a baby’s development. Research showing the positive effects music has on learning and brain development abounds. In fact, Finnish researchers have developed a method that reveals how wide networks in the brain, including areas that control motor actions, emotions and creativity are all activated during just listening to music. One way to maximise the benefits of music for your baby or young child is to perform regular musical activities with them at home and to involve them in group music classes. Here are some of the key benefits that a structured music education program provides at an early age;

Music encourages creativity, self-expression and self-confidence

The exploratory nature of music allows children to extend themselves creatively and to develop greater confidence and self-expression through activities such as performing for others, making up new words to songs or creating their own music.

Music promotes speech development 

Children develop an awareness of language through simple songs and rhymes. While moving singing and playing, a child learns through hearing the appropriate language associated with a specific task, for example high, low, up, down, under, over, behind, in front.

Clapping, tapping, stomping or marching to the beat of songs helps children to develop an awareness of the mathematical structure of music.

Music can help in developing a child’s ability to learn and understand maths

When a child hears a number and sees the number of fingers you hold up to them, they learn to make a connection between what they see and what they hear. Clapping, tapping, stomping or marching to the beat of songs helps children to develop an awareness of the mathematical structure of music.

Music can encourage the development of motor skills

Regularly enjoying songs with actions and movements can help a child’s coordination, confidence and motor skills development.

As well as benefiting their learning and development, teaching music to babies can help instil a lifelong appreciation of music, and by attending group music classes, babies have the opportunity to socialise and learn together with other babies.

Something to remember: Repetition is important when learning music

Children learn through repetition until the activity or task becomes automatic. Even young babies will begin to recognise a song that you sing and respond to it by focusing solely on you or babbling along with you. Children need to practice and repeat activities such as clapping and patting over and over to aid their learning process. You may tire of repeating the same rhymes and songs, but your child will be happy as they are most confident when they know what is happening or what they are hearing.

Children learn through repetition until the activity or task becomes automatic.

Mini Maestros, for babies to five year olds, specialises in fun, whole-brain development, through play-based sequential learning, and it is the longest running and most successful Australian business of its kind.

Mini Maestros provides the highest quality lesson content, developed by early childhood music education experts and delivered by a team of thoroughly trained, big-hearted professional music teachers. Mini Maestros is proud to empower generations of confident and engaged learners, who are best placed to succeed in their chosen endeavours.

Mini Maestros Fun & Educational Music Classes for Babies – 5 Year Olds;

• Build Confidence  • Nurture Whole Brain Development  • Social Interaction for Parent and Child  • Age-Specific for Children’s Developmental Stages  • Classroom Experience in Preparation for Kinder and School

New students are welcome to join at any point in the teaching term, subject to availability.

Enrol today to support your little one’s developing brain, and receive a FREE “At Home” Educational Activities ePack. Visit http://www.MiniMaestros.com.au to find a class near you.

Preparing for a baby is so exciting, but it can also be mind-boggling when faced with so many options. Offspring to the rescue! Here’s the only guide you’ll need to be ready for your new arrival…

Before baby arrives:

  • Maternity clothes are a must have. It won’t be long before undoing that top button just won’t cut it!
  • Invest in good quality maternity bras — mastitis (blocked milk ducts) can be caused by ill-fitting ones.
  • Take care of yourself using skincare products specially designed for mums and bubs.
  • Book a maternity and newborn photo shoot. This is a great way to commemorate this special time in your life.
  • Consider taking a plaster cast of your pregnant belly! It can be decorated and hung on the wall of the nursery.

Start thinking about the birth:

How you choose to give birth is a personal decision. If this is your first baby, it’s natural to feel apprehensive. If you’ve had a baby before, you may feel upset and anxious if your previous birth didn’t go to plan, or you may even be looking forward to the birth! Many women say birth is a natural and enjoyable experience.

However you are feeling, it’s normal. Take some time to research your options:

  • Will you give birth in hospital or at home? Home birth is legal in Australia with a registered midwife or obstetrician.


  • What pain relief options have you considered? No doubt you’ll have heard about an epidural which is a spinal injection to make your lower half numb, but there are other options like gas and air (laughing gas), pethidine injection (related to morphine) or using a TENS machine (to stimulate nerves in the lower back).


  • Who would you like to be present? Most women choose to have their partner present, but some also choose to have another support person such as their mum, sister or close friend.


  • How about a water birth? Many claim water birthing is relaxing and eases pain.


  • Have you thought about hiring a doula? A doula is a (non-medical) trained professional who offers support throughout labour and birth.


If you plan to go to hospital, get your bag ready early.

“Everyone has a different experience of birth.

Try not to get stressed if things don’t go to plan”

What to pack for hospital:

  • Paperwork – maternity notes, medicare card and birth plan.
  • Old nightie or T-shirt – and maybe a dressing gown.
  • Socks – feet get cold during labour.
  • Lip balm – particularly if you plan to use gas and air.
  • Your toiletries, toothbrush and glasses/contact lenses.
  • Hair ties.
  • Snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up.
  • Something to distract you and help pass the time  – maybe an iPad loaded with your favourite shows.
  • Maternity and breast pads.
  • Old underwear.
  • Newborn nappies – disposable are best for hospital.
  • Baby onesies.


Travelling with baby:

 You will want to show your baby off to the world at the first opportunity, but it is sensible to limit visitors and outings for a little while. You will be exhausted after the birth, and those first few days getting to know each other are precious – enjoy your little baby bubble!

  • Car restraint

Newborns must be in a rear-facing seat which conforms to Australian standards. Consider having it professionally fitted and buy new for safety. You might like to hire a baby capsule since newborns grow so fast although some seats can accommodate newborns to four year olds. There are also capsules that lift out of the car and click straight onto your pram which can be very helpful when baby is asleep!

  • Pram

Take your time choosing the right pram. Test drive them! Practice putting the pram up and down and don’t forget to check it will fit in your car boot. If you plan on having more children, consider a pram that can take a second seat.

  • Baby carrier

Babies love to be held and a baby carrier means they can be close whilst you still have your hands free.

  • Nappy Bag

There are so many stylish options available. It’s a good idea to choose a purpose made nappy bag as they often come with a portable change mat, bottle insulator and a zip-close pouch for storing your valuables.

Setting up the nursery:

  • Bassinet and Cot

Many babies spend the first few months in a bassinet close to mum. This makes those night feeds a lot easier! Another option is co-sleeping and there are cots that attach to the side of your bed if this suits your family. Make sure you buy a new mattress if you opt for a second hand cot.


  • Changing space

Set up an area with a mat, fresh nappies and wipes, plus a nappy disposal bin for convenience.

  • Nappies

There are lots of great re-useable nappies out there. They save money in the long run and are better for our planet – Win! Win!

  • Feeding chair and pillow

A reclining glider chair can be your saviour if you are struggling through night feeds or to settle a distressed baby. A nursing pillow will save your neck and back too.

  • A baby monitor

Put your mind at ease and invest in a monitor. Some have video option so you can see as well as hear your sleeping bub. There is also a heart rate monitor option which can help decrease the risk of SIDS.

Helping older siblings adjust:

It can be challenging for existing children to accept a new arrival. Choose how to break the news carefully. They may not be as delighted as you are. Depending on the age of the child, sharing a book about a new baby is a nice way to introduce the idea.

Let children be involved in preparing for the baby. Maybe they could help paint the nursery, help wash their old baby clothes ready to give their new brother or sister, or even be involved with choosing a name!

Once baby makes an appearance, consider getting a gift from the new baby to their sibling as a way to encourage a bond. Also, try to ask visitors to acknowledge the new big brother or sister before they fuss over the baby.

Baby clothes:

Lots of people gift baby clothes so it’s up to you how many outfits you buy, but looking at baby clothes for the first time is particularly exciting. Enjoy!

  • Onesies

Size 0000 and 000 fit newborns. Buy more than you think you will need and get a variety of styles such as long sleeved and short sleeved. Some also have scratch mitts incorporated.

  • Cute outfits

It’s nice to have one or two little outfits – but be aware babies grow quickly

Feeding time:

Breastfeeding gives your baby the best nutrition, boosts the immune system and is sterile and convenient. However, if breastfeeding is not possible for you, don’t beat yourself up! There are lots of different formula options available so accept the situation and enjoy time with your beautiful bub.

  • Formula and bottles

Buy a couple of different formulas, bottles and teats – your baby may not like the first one you try. It’s sensible to have some on hand even if you plan to breastfeed. Babies are unpredictable and you will be more relaxed (and probably more successful) knowing you always have a back-up available.

  • Steriliser

This is the best way to keep your bottles germ-free.

“Feeding time is a great time to bond with your baby

– whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed”

  • Breastfeeding cover

If you plan to breastfeed, you might like to buy a cover (a bit like an apron) for when you’re out and about. That way you can breastfeed anywhere without compromising your modesty.

  • Breast pump

It’s a good idea to have a breast pump too – electric ones are the easiest. This way you can pump and have spare milk to use if you get sick and need to go on medication, or if you need to be away from your baby for a while.

Bath time:

  • Baby bath

Buying a small tub to put inside your bath or shower saves water and makes bath time quick and easy, but you can also use your sink!


  • Toiletries

Invest in good quality nappy rash cream, shampoo and body wash specifically designed for babies. There are a lot of harsh chemicals in some products.

Other essentials:

  • Muslin cloths

There are many beautiful designs out there for this multi-use item. These can be used to swaddle baby, drape over a pram for shade or even to mop up baby vomit – it’ll happen!

  • Baby thermometer

There’s nothing worse than being up in the middle of the night trying to decide if your baby has a fever.

Top Tips

You can often borrow baby items from friends or family – don’t be afraid to ask around.

Search for second hand items online – you can save a lot on your big ticket items that way!

Your baby will grow faster than you think, consider preserving those tiny fingers and toes by creating a plaster model from a kit. When they grow up, they won’t believe how little they used to be!

96 per cent of Australian mothers initiate breastfeeding yet only 39 per cent of babies are being breastfed to three months and only 15 per cent to six months.

The nursing of high temperatures and annoying colds, the quelling of infantile rage, calming the calamity of a fall, these boobs have been the masters of multi-tasking.

A sweaty little head nestled in the crook of my arm drains my knotty aching breast. I am emotional. I’ve been weaning my two year old for the past week and I feel like an elite athlete taking to the field for the last time.

I am sad yet philosophical as I look back over my breastfeeding career, spanning almost thirteen years and yielding three beautiful boys; it is now time to pass the baton onto the younger up and coming mothers.

This last season of feeding has been by far the easiest and the longest of all three stints. Being a veteran and knowing well the state of play, I brought that newborn to my breast still standing by the hospital bed from his birth while praising his brave passage into the world, “What a good boy you are to do so well getting here”, I cried onto his little screeching head as he latched on for the first time. I decided to stay a night in hospital so I would be brought cups of tea, my sole motivation, I kid you not. I held him all night and he fed like he’d been born to it as, of course, he had.

The next morning during a feed, a matronly midwife doing her rounds reached out to grab my breast. “Let me show you…” she said before I firmly arrested her wrist mid-lunge and calmly spoke the words, “Don’t touch me please”. She respectfully apologised, I accepted and got on with my task.

It hadn’t been like that in my first season as a rookie. Countless midwives, lactation consultants and even, horrifyingly, a mother-in-law all traipsed through my personal, physical and emotional boundaries to grab, pull, push and flick at what I was, apparently, doing so wrong.

After eight tear stained weeks of tri-hourly nipple gratings a midwife suggested my son and I may have thrush. A simple treatment had us successfully feeding and within a week we were a contented little symbiotic duo.

It is easy to reduce that time to another parenting anecdote, relaying none of the potent despair I was living at the time but thinking about it now, I understand why mothers become so discouraged and give up within those first crucial weeks, where supply and demand must be met to get that factory up and running.

I would love, if I could, in the swan song of my boobs, in honour of their imminent decline into sad little deflated balloons harking to a party long dispersed, to inspire some mums to push on through those hard times and share in the wisdom and joy of feeding your children the easiest, cheapest, most nourishing and portable food source you could possibly provide.


According to the ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Society) a 2010 survey indicates that 96 per cent of Australian mothers initiate breastfeeding yet only 39 per cent of babies are being breastfed to three months and only 15per cent to six months, falling well short of The World Health Organization’s recommendation that babies be exclusively breastfed to six months of age and thereafter with complementary foods up to two years old and beyond. This tells me that the majority of mothers want to breastfeed their babies but six months on, the breastfeeding mother is a member of a minority group.

Breastfeeding can be stressful, difficult and confusing for a lot of new mothers and feeling unsuccessful at something continually described as “natural” can be discouraging but surely the statistics above show that struggling with breastfeeding in our current society is a pretty common situation. Learning to breastfeed can be really hard, at first. Persistence, however, is worth it as breastfeeding becomes the easiest thing in the world and it saves the day, day after day.

The women in my life, other breastfeeding mothers, have helped influence, inspire and inform my choices. Watching other mothers normalised the practice even when negative messages persisted around me. As I have become a wiser and more experienced mother I have become more confident and assured in my choices and ability to trust that my body will provide what my child needs.

The emotional nourishment I have had the privilege to offer through the bond of breastfeeding is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. The nursing of high temperatures and annoying colds, the quelling of infantile rage, calming the calamity of a fall, these boobs have been the masters of multi-tasking.

I look at my three sons and my heart bursts with fierce love, a love – when first encountered- seems impossible to extend until the next child is born and miraculously it multiplies, with the lithe ease of a ballet dancer executing a monumental manoeuvre.

I even feel grateful for the honour of having doughy little hands yank down my top in front of the maintenance man come to fix my pantry door because, despite the odd glitch in my dignity, even though it hasn’t always been easy and it can be tiring and physically draining, it has been so worth it. The positive benefits have far outweighed the bad.

So, it is with sadness and a great deal of gratitude that I announce my retirement, with injury pulling me up short (I have some health treatments on hold until I finish feeding), this two year old and I, despite some considerable bereavement, are saying “bye-bye booby”.

Expert in the field, Professor Marie-Paule Austin discusses why post natal depression is such a debilitating illness which affects a large number of new mothers.

Most new mothers sing the same song. You know the words. It goes, “I had no idea how hard it would be. I’m too tired to even make a cup of tea.” Repeat.
Everyone struggles to keep their head above water. But what do you do if you feel like you’re sinking? Professor Marie-Paule Austin is working as a lifesaver for women who are in danger of going under. She’s the Chair of Perinatal Mental Health at the University of New South Wales and runs the Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Health Care in Burwood — and she is there for you.
In 2012, a Victorian woman suffering from postnatal depression killed one of her infant twin daughters and left the other brain-damaged. It is Marie-Paule’s mission to support women through their darkest hours so that they never feel pushed to such desperate, tragic acts.
Depressed women have a real handicap in the daily business of being a mum.
“Depression affects our motivation, our ability to think clearly, to make decisions, and to organise ourselves,” says Marie-Paule. “It reduces energy levels, can impact on sleep and appetite, and is often associated with increased anxiety. It can include low self esteem, a sense of hopelessness, and thoughts that life’s not worth living. All of those symptoms put together mean that if somebody suffers with a significant depressive episode, their ability to function day-to-day will be significantly impacted.”

“If the mother is isolated and there’s no one else to take over for a while, then that child is more at risk of what we call insecure attachment patterns.”

Caring for baby
“Depressed women have difficulty maintaining a routine with the baby. We’ve seen mums who just can’t remember when they last fed the baby or if they put enough spoonfuls in the formula. So in that sense the mother is not able to tend as well in a practical way to the baby.”

Bonding with baby
“What we find in most cases is that, even if a mother is able to provide the practical, day-to-day stuff — like feeding at regular intervals, settling the baby and so forth — she’ll more likely be affected in her ability to emotionally care for the baby.
“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues. Babies are very communicative, right from the start. They don’t have verbal skills, but they’re doing all sorts of things to catch Mum’s attention and begin that lovely emotional bonding relationship that they need to develop with their primary carer.
“If Mum’s not able to attend to the much more subtle stuff, then the baby will, over time, learn not to expect that from Mum and will start to look for that from other key caregivers. That’s if the mother’s lucky enough to have one of her parents or in-laws or a partner who can give Baby that emotional input. But these days it’s very often the mother at home on her own with the baby. It’s very isolating. And that will impact on the gradual process of bonding and attachment that develops in the first year or two of the child’s life.”

“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues.”

Baby’s future mental health
“If the mother is isolated and there’s no one else to take over for a while, then that child is more at risk of what we call insecure attachment patterns. In the more vulnerable, less resilient offspring, that may translate into an increased risk for their own mental health in future, and their own capacity to engage in meaningful, committed relationships. So depression can definitely have a trans-generational impact.”

Do you need help or a good zzzz?
Most of us will cheerfully admit that our beloved babies drive us crazy from time to time. So how do we differentiate between serious depression and just feeling overtired and stressed out?
Marie-Paule says, “Even clinicians don’t always know the first time, because sleep deprivation can send some people literally crazy. If you sleep-deprive someone and isolate them, in some cases they can become psychotic.
“Sleep-deprivation is inevitable with a newborn, even in the best circumstances. So we admit the mother and the baby to a Mother–Baby Unit, such as the one we have here in Sydney. We give Mum a period of time where she can catch up on sleep. Sometimes that’s all she needs.
“If we’re concerned about depression, what you’re looking for are some key features, like a sense of not being able to enjoy anything. So, even if someone got a good enough sleep and you’d think they’d have a bit more energy to enjoy things, they don’t. They can’t see any point; they can’t see any future. If there’s no sense of hope, no capacity to enjoy any aspect of their life, then we’re much more likely to think that this could be an episode of depression rather than sleep deprivation or anxiety with a new or unsettled baby.

“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues.”

“At the Mother–Baby Unit, about 30 to 40 percent of the babies we see are actually quite unsettled. So we help with the routine, those mother-craft skills that many first-time mums lack — settling and feeding, things that create high levels of anxiety.
“We take pregnant and postnatal mums, with their babies up to one year of age, from across the whole Eastern States. Anyone who thinks that they or a relative might need help can ring St John of God Burwood Hospital on 02 9715 9200 for advice.”

How much does one little baby actually need? Your baby shopping list might seem overwhelming, but you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Offspring has created a guide to help you work out the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.

Before you hit the shops it is important to do some research. Look for product reviews online and talk to other mums about what they found most useful. Going to the shops unprepared can be overwhelming (just how many additional features can a pram have?) and it can be very easy to overspend when you are surrounded cute baby clothes.

Out and about

The first trips outside of the home with a newborn can seem scary, but you don’t need to pack like you are going away on a holiday.

The must-haves

Car restraint

You must have a rear-ward facing car-restraint that meets Australian Standards sorted before you bring your baby home from hospital. Many car seats will be suitable for your child from birth up to four years old, so as well as being an important piece of safety equipment, it is something you will be using every day for years.

Your decision will be determined by:
The space you have available (if you have more than one child you might need a slimline car seat to fit all the car seats across your car’s backseat).
You might decide on a travel system with a capsule that attaches to a pram frame. Some parents love this option, as it is easier to get baby out of the car without disturbing them, however, babies do outgrow this option quickly.

TIP: It’s a good idea to add to your to-do list to get your car restraint professionally installed by a local fitter to help ensure it is correctly fitted and safe to bring your newborn home in.


There are so many options when it comes to purchasing a pram, it can seem like you are purchasing a car. Features and prices can vary considerably.

The intended use of the pram. Do you want a pram that you can exercise with (to put your baby in when you go running or for long walks) or will it mainly be used to go to the shops or short trips?
How big the pram is. It is important to check that the pram will fit in the boot of your car.

Check how easy the pram is to fold. If it is too complicated or heavy it will make it difficult for you to get the pram in and out of the car’s boot.
A big consideration is if you also have a toddler, are expecting twins or are planning on having babies close in age. Twin or double prams are available (but be sure to check the width is practical to go shopping to fit through the aisles, for example) or configurations are available with toddler skateboards at the back of the pram, for example.

Second hand gems!
Purchasing or being gifted second hand baby items are a great way to save some money – and as many baby products are used for such a short time, you might find they are in brand new condition! However, it is important to carefully check the condition of things like cots, mattresses and car seats if you are considering hand-me-down options. Ensure any product is safe and meets relevant Australian Standards.

Nice to have

A nappy bag

Some sort of bag is definitely important so you have some nappies and spare clothes on-hand, as well as bottles if bottle feeding, and toys etc. Some nappy bags revival designer handbags with stylish designs and multiple storage compartments (including in-build change mat and insulated bottle carrier) but for the budget conscious, you can also get away with any practical bag or backpack.

Baby carrier

This is a personal choice and for some parents, a good baby carrier will supersede a pram. It is certainly useful to be able to carry your baby and keep your hands free to do the shopping, for example, and is a great option for using in the outdoors when going for a walk. A supportive baby carrier can also be handy to use at home to settle your baby.

Portable cot

A portable cot is definitely not on the must-have list, but can be very handy, especially if you are planning on going on holidays or to be used at a babysitter or grandparent’s home for naps or sleepovers.

Other travel products to consider: pram liner, trolley cover, rain cover/sunshade for pram, ‘Baby on Board’ car sign, car window shades.

Going to sleep

It is important to create a comfortable and most importantly safe environment for your baby to sleep in.

Must haves


A cot is an expensive investment, but if you are considering using a family heirloom or second-hand find, it is important to ensure it meets current Australian safety guidelines. There are many cots to suit your needs, including cots that convert to a toddler bed at a later stage. A good quality, clean mattress that properly fits in the cot is also a necessity.

A good quality, waterproof mattress protector is essential to ensure your baby’s cot mattress stays in good condition. Purchase two or three so you have spares for when you are doing the washing.

There are many options when it comes to wraps, swaddles, sleeping bags and baby blankets. Again, ensure you have a few options, so you have spares for when you are doing the washing. Some babies love to be swaddled, while some love to be able to have their little arms out in a sleeping bag, so test out what option is going to be best suited to your baby.

Nice to have

A bassinet

This will only be used for the first couple of months, so it isn’t a necessity. However, a bassinet can be very handy during those first few weeks, as a bassinet is easy to move around the house.

A baby monitor

If your baby is in their own room, it can be comforting to be able to easily hear them if they wake during the night. Some monitors are quite sophisticated, with options including video monitoring. Some monitors are also available that doubles as a night light, and some monitors also monitor a baby’s movement, to provide additional peace-of-mind.

Other sleep products to consider: White noise machine, room thermometer, night light.

Feeding time

Your feeding essentials will differ depending on whether you choose to breast or formula-feed.


Breast pads are essential if breastfeeding to prevent embarrassing leaks. Disposable pads are available, or reusable pads can be washed and used again and again.

Bottles and teats are essential if you are formula feeding or if you want to express breastmilk. There are many styles of bottles and teats available and sometimes it can take a while to work out which ones will suit your baby, so don’t buy too much until you try them out for yourself.

High chair

When your baby starts solids, a high chair will be used regularly. High chairs range from very basic options to deluxe designs with padded seating and adjustable backs. Whatever you choose, remember that this is where your child will be eating (which often means mess!), so it is very important to ensure it can easily be cleaned.

Nice to have

Breast pump

This might be an essential item if you are breastfeeding (especially if you want to express some feeds) but you don’t have to buy one as they can often be hired at your local chemist.

A steriliser

A steriliser isn’t optional (you can always sterilise by boil bottles, teats and feeding gear in a large pot), but a steriliser can certainly be handy.

Mess Mat

This is useful to put under the highchair to catch any food that falls from the highchair.

Other feeding products to consider: Mess Mat, bibs, suction bowls, bottle warmer, bottle drying rack.

Nappy changes

You will be changing many nappies over the next couple of years! Here’s what to get:

Must haves

Nappies and wipes

Whether you choose disposable or cloth options, you will need a good supply of nappies and wipes. However, it is advisable not to go overboard and buy too many nappies before you have bub. Firstly, babies grow very quickly so if you buy boxes and boxes of newborn disposable nappies, chances are your baby will outgrow them before you use them all. For cloth nappies, it might best to try different brands to find the best fit for your baby.

Change mat

Whether for out-and-about or to use at home, a good quality and easy-to-clean change mat is a must to keep nappy changing mess contained.

Nice to have

Change table

For some parents, a change table is essential as a dedicated nappy changing space. Other parents might use a change mat on top of a dresser or might change their baby on a bed. Do whatever works for you!

Barrier creams

Your baby might never get nappy rash, but if they do there are many nappy rash creams on the market. Some parents like to use a barrier cream as nappy rash preventative after each nappy change (talk to your pharmacist or health care professional about the best option for your baby).

Other nappy change products to consider: Wipes warmer, nappy bin, soaking bucket

TIP: Nappy changes can be tough on your hands, so get a good quality hand moisturiser to help keep your skin in good shape after all that hand washing. Hand sanitiser is also a good idea to have on-hand in your nappy bag for nappy changes on-the-go.

First aid
For peace of mind, some first aid items are a good idea to have on-hand when you bring baby home. Saline solution, baby paracetamol (ensuring it is only used according to directions) and a baby thermometer are good products to have handy in the early months.

Baby clothes

Of cute, tiny baby clothes! It is tempting to go overboard, but your baby will not need too much. Remember, baby clothes will be one of the most popular gifts or hand-me-downs you are likely to get from family friends, so to start off with, buy what you think you will need for the early weeks.


Must haves

Several onesies

Remember, even in the warmer months, hospitals can be quite cool due to air-conditioning, so get some long sleeved, as well as short sleeved in the Summer months. 0000 is a common size for a newborn but get a couple of 000 if you are expecting a big baby.


Get a sun hat for the warmer months or beanie for the cooler months.


Tiny socks can double up as mittens in the early days to stop a baby from scratching themselves. Buy a few pairs – one sock can easily fall off and go missing.

Nice to have

Fancy outfit

Cute little outfits, such as tiny dresses, suits or little tracksuits look adorable on a new baby, but they are not necessary. However, you might like to buy a special outfit for taking baby home from the hospital.