Figtree Private Hospital opens region's first residential parenting centre

Baby steps: Little Vivien, 14 months, is one of the first to stay at the Illawarra Early Parenting Centre this week along with mum Kathleen. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Baby steps: Little Vivien, 14 months, is one of the first to stay at the Illawarra Early Parenting Centre this week along with mum Kathleen. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The region’s first residential early parenting centre has opened this week at Figtree Private Hospital.

The Illawarra Early Parenting Centre will provide postnatal support to families with children from two months, to two years.

In a first for the region, parents will be helped to establish sleep, settling and feeding routines during an intensive six day, five night inpatient program.

It’s the seventh such centre in Australia established by Ramsay Health Care, which operates the Figtree facility.

“Our maternity and child and family health staff have been talking about the need for such a service in the area for many years,” hospital CEO Paul McKenna said.

“There’s around 4000 births at Wollongong private and public hospitals each year, and those families facing challenges were forced to travel more than an hour away to similar services and could be on waiting lists for months.”

Nursing unit manager Claire Young said up to 20 families could be accommodated at the centre at a time, receiving a range of one-on-one and group support.

“It’s all about working in partnership with families to support them and empower them to put things into practise at home,” she said.

Figtree couple Tiffany and Gareth Walsh are among the first parents to participate, with six-month-old Maddison. “She’s a catnapper and it’s a battle to get her to sleep at night,” Mrs Walsh said. “We also have a three-year-old boy so it’s great to have this centre so close to home.”

The program provides assistance for a range of needs, including reflux and colic and postnatal depression.

Paediatricians, child and family health nurses, lactation consultants, psychologists and psychiatrists are among the specialists available at the centre.

Mr McKenna said demand was already high for the service, which had both short and long-term benefits for parents and children.

“Sleeping, feeding or other challenges can impact on the whole family,” he said.

“There’s strong evidence that short intensive inpatient stays have a profound impact on the development of children, that can lead into adolescence.”

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