ST JOHN of God Hospital Subiaco’s Parent Education Open House program – arguably the biggest of its kind in Australia – is celebrating a special milestone this year.
The program celebrated its 25th anniversary last week with a morning tea and guest speaker, relationship counsellor Fergus Matthews.
It offers support from early pregnancy to birth and the 12 months beyond with various services including pre- and postnatal classes, grandparent classes, parenting alone sessions, breastfeeding clinics and multiple birth groups.
Midwife Christine Jones has been involved in the program since its inception in 1986 and the manager of parent education for the past 14 years.
Ms Jones has developed programs to meet the changing needs of women and their families and in 2007 was awarded the WA Nurse and Midwife Award for educator of the year.
She said the friendly and informal environment of Open House allowed issues to be discussed and offered an opportunity to build friendships with other new parents.
“I have found that the main concerns for new mums haven’t changed over 25 years,” Ms Jones said.
“Extreme tiredness, babies crying, establishing breastfeeding, adjusting to life out of the paid workforce, surviving on one wage and feelings of isolation are all as concerning for new parents in 2011 as they were in 1986 when the program began.
“Today more women are returning to paid work sooner, which puts pressure on families and relationships.
Ms Jones said now parents could access information through mobile phones, the internet and Skype.
“In 25 years the world may have changed around us but babies’ needs and behaviours haven't,” she said.
After its humble beginnings with only around 10 mothers, the program now attracts more than 100 mothers each week.