Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Mummy's little helpers: Child Health Nurses & Blue Books

Ah, Lovelies! My heart is heavy at the moment. Someone I care about is gravely ill. I'm waiting for *that* phonecall. Cancer is cruel. But our everyday life still has to plod on. Regardless. To distract myself, I thought I’d post about our visit to the Child Health Nurse this morning. Yes, it’s rather prosaic but still important in keeping this planet humming along. This will be the first of an ongoing, occasional series of posts entitled ‘Mummy’s little helpers’* about the things which help my life run a little smoother on Planet Baby. How does that sound? It’s not meant to be *earnest* but rather, a slightly more humorous take on some of the mundane events on Planet Baby. Are you up for it? Okay, let’s go.

The Child Health Nurses

This morning, India, Sam and I visited our friendly Child Health Nurse, Rae (Joshie was playing at a friend’s house). It’s a ritual I have undertaken quite regularly for the past 5 years. And by that, I mean most months. That’s a lot of visits! Before we moved to Planet Baby, I had absolutely no idea how valuable a supportive child health nurse can be to a newly-minted mother. Especially A Certain Mother with perfectionist tendencies . Er, make that a perfectionist, full stop! I soon realised that these angels of mercy and The Blue Book would be my best friends as an L-plater mother. Those women have saved my sanity, many times over, with their calm, patient and useful advice. They’re worth their weight in gold. 

What’s The Blue Book?
Yes, I've covered the pixie's details, to protect the innocent!
Given the three pixies were all born in Sydney, they received Blue Books upon their births. I think most of the other Australian states and territories have an equivalent. In New South Wales, it’s billed as ‘your baby’s personal health record for their entire life’. Hmm, my first thought on reading that was “That sounds like something I should keep in a safe place!”. And I have, interstate moves notwithstanding. Those books are precious on PB.

The Blue Book contains:

* information about development, health checks and services from birth to school age;

* a guide to when to bring your child to routine health checks to check their development is on track. In New South Wales, this includes screening of all babies for hearing problems;

* pages to record all illnesses and attendances at doctors and specialists;

* the schedule for all recommended immunisations which is completed by those administering them and a copy of which is required before attending daycare or school; and

* the infamous ‘growth charts’.

What are the growth charts?
I can hear Planetarian mothers everywhere sighing. Yep, that’s one huge collective SIGH! Growth charts are explained here. Basically, they help you track your child’s growth in length (they’re measured lying down until they’re 2), weight and head circumference. There’s a huge variation in what’s considered ‘normal’ so they’re *meant* to be used as a guide and not as a measure of whether your child is ‘succeeding’ or ‘failing’.

My experience of the growth charts
Feeding newborn Joshua some precious EBM
So that’s the *theory* of the growth charts, lovely Planetarians. However, I was staggered to discover as a first-time mother that many other mothers saw them as tools for comparison or a measure for judging whether their baby was the most advanced. And they somehow felt the *need* to report their child’s measurements in public. Fortunately, the mums in my mothers’ group weren’t like that, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. But I encountered other mothers in social settings who were obsessed about their babies’ ‘stats’.
That wasn’t exactly *helpful* for an older first-time, perfectionist mother like me. I vividly recall attending Joshua’s 6 week check-up and discovering that he was on the 10th percentile for height. Horrified, I turned to the ever-patient-and-unflappable Chris and pleaded “But what have I done wrong? I’ve been breastfeeding him around the clock. What more can I do?” Her response? “Well, Jane, you have two options. Firstly, you could give him growth hormones.  Or secondly, you could put him on a stretching rack.” Completely deadpan. It took me a few seconds to realise she was joking! See what a greenhorn I was?!  Now I understand that the pixies’ measurements at 6 weeks are not an indicator of how they’ll turn out as adults!

Since then, I’ve learnt to appreciate them as a general guide to the pixies’ health. As long as they’re ‘tracking’ (yes, that’s the jargon used) on *around about* the same percentile, then everything’s fine. Only if their growth rapidly declines or increases should I be concerned. And the funny thing? It’s taken Sam’s arrival for me to really understand the truism ‘Every child’s an individual’. Joshua and India developed at very similar rates but Sammy’s taken his own path. And that’s fine by me. And Rae, too. Which is my bottom line.

The progress notes
Ah, the good old progress notes! You would be amazed at how lengthy and detailed the pixies’ are. And that’s not just due to my ‘Nervous Nellie’ alter ego . Seriously, we’ve been through so much with them all, health-wise. They faithfully record all the pixies’ ailments, treatments, medication and operations over the past 5 years.

My experience of the progress notes

Before we arrived on PB, I had no idea we would have to deal with (in no particular order or pixie):

* Painful breastfeeding and breast refusal;

* Settling troubles requiring a 5 day residential stay at Tresillian (other angels of mercy!);

* A flattened head and torticollis requiring numerous physio appointments;

* Sleep problems requiring an overnight ‘sleep study’ in hospital;

* Countless prescriptions of antibiotics;

* Many audiometry tests and countless specialists’ appointments;

* Four operations to reduce adenoids and insert grommets into ears;

* One dental operation;

* Two eye operations; and

* Diabolical sleep deprivation (particularly on my part!) requiring another 5 day residential stay at Tresillian.

That’s *only* a selection! All faithfully recorded in our trusty Blue Books. There is no way I could recall those details without them. So tell me, can you relate to any of this? Or have you lost your Blue Books or never written in them? And how have you found your Child Health Nurses? I’m all ears!
* Not to be confused with ‘Mother’s Little Helper’!


  1. Oh, I remember having a similar booklet when I was growing up! I think the doctor filled it out, though, and not the parents.

    Interesting, Jane, what you said about the baby 'stats' competition. I always figured that babies will find their way growing up faster than one think. Some of the smallest babies I've know have grown into the tallest women or men.

  2. Oh Jane, I can relate to so much! Tresillian, growth charts (hormones were seriously mentioned!) grommits, adnoids, speech concerns etc etc etc! I have stashed the boys away as I was worrying myself sick about their progress (thanks to some of those mothers you talk about). Now I just let it go, I still have drs appointments but 3mthly now not weekly. It is too easy to get caught up in the system and passed along to doctor to doctor. Hope you are not getting tooo stressed by it all xx

  3. Perfectly timed post for me Jane! I have a Red Book for my Wombat (from Qld). I have been monumentally slack in taking him for check-ups since we moved to Belgium... I know he is growing, and eating, and talking and moving, so I have been very lazy about taking him to appointments to confirm what I already know.. he is even sleeping better, would you believe? With my big girl, I loved taking her and I weighed her obsessively ... she was a little wee one. Poor second kid syndrome I guess, Tate's book will be quite empty. BUT, he is due his vaccines this week, so I must dig out the book and fill in the blanks... They haven't given us a Belgian one.

    Sorry to hear about your friend. x

  4. My blue book is an English red book, but sounds very similar. It came with us for our year in Aus, then back again to the UK and yet back again to Australia. Very valuable when prep school asked me what vaccinations my little one had received.
    Sorry to hear that someone you care about is so ill, live is a challenge sometimes...

  5. thats very sad that you are waiting for a call like that. i really like your blog though, its lovely.

  6. Ahhh .. the baby books. I remember when I got the first one (which was blue) I read through it like it was the bible. I remember talking with a friend once about head sizes and we giggled for hours when we wondered why we don't reveal our head sizes when we are adults. Like, imagine going to a party and saying 'Oh Hi, I'm Linda - my head size is 58cm - what's yours'. Only then did I realise that head size, length, weight etc were great from a medical perspective if the baby was - but for a first time mum it was just another thing to freak out about.

    I still have the boys boys (one blue, one yellow) that I can refer to about immunisation - but I never wrote in the sick stuff (meningitis in my 2nd when he was 3 months old, 3 x operations for grommets, broken limbs etc) as I guess I am in the 'bad mum' category for that.

    Oh, and I really wish you well this week (or next?) re: that phonecall. There is nothing more heartbreaking waiting is there. I too am 'waiting' this week (or next?) for the same phone call for a man that was a major part in our growing up. Our families were neighbours and pretty much joined at the hip - and this man was the funniest, wittiest, caring person. He has been sick for so long and I am hoping the call comes earlier rather than later - I know that sounds weird, but his poor wife and family (and my parents) are suffering watching him deteriorate so badly.

    Sorry, that was a rather long comment.

  7. We have absolutely nothing like this in the US - sounds like a great idea ;) XOL

  8. Morning beautiful, I love waking up to your posts. They always make me smile. I have already lost Lottie's blue book (sad I know). Found again now, but I'm waiting to go fir a visit when girls are back in school. A tantrum prone three year old in the mix is too much for me! Hope there is no
    bad news today. Thinking of you and your friend. Emma. xx

  9. Ah, for not fir... fingers too big for my mobile! Sorry. Emma.

  10. Oh, the horrid "growth chart"!!! One of mine FINALLY made it on the growth chart at 30 months, ringing in at 6% for weight. Oh, how we worked at getting on that line -- the anxiety, the fears that someone would think I was starving the poor dear - quite the contrary.

  11. Our books were yellow. I used to read over every word written and compare emerging and mastered skills to my own texts etc, (that was with our first) then we had 2 two more babies and I was lucky to be able to find the yellow books. In the end we abandoned visits as the health centre nurse drove me crazy. I should really sit down one day and add the visits to audiology, Ent's etc for future reference.

    My thoughts are with you Jane. I am glad you are distracting yourself. Take care. Deb

  12. Thinking about your gravely ill friend. No good at all ... growth books, just something else that would stress me out I think. I have four uncompleted 'Baby Milstone' books that I feel completely guilty about. I feel terrible about them ... so another book would do me in!

  13. So sorry to hear that you have a very ill dear one, Jane. My thoughts and prayers will be with you.

    By the way, your package should be arriving next week some time. :)

  14. Sorry to hear about your friend - news like that is never nice to wait for or receive.

    The "baby" book is a doctor's best friend, especially when the little one turns up sick in the emergency room with frazzled parents at 3am in the morning. Interesting I'm currently carrying around the German pregnancy version - the "Mutterpass", contains all my antenatal visit information, blood tests, ultrasounds etc etc

  15. So sorry about your friend.
    Hope you're holding up okay.

  16. I'm so sorry to hear about your loved one. That's just awful.

    Regarding the blue book. I'm the kinda mum that puts it in the drawers and forgets about it, until I need to drag it out for Vax.

    I can relate to the Tresilian and sleep studies though!

    I have done 3 x 5-day residential stays at Tresilian. When I have my third child I'm planning on booking straight into Tresilian ;). I've also done a sleep study (youngest has sleep apnoea and is having tonsils & adenoids out very soon).

  17. Snap with the adenoids and the tubes, while I've had 4 babies in 4 different countries my 2nd little traveler has had 4 ear operations in 3 different countries.

    I'm afraid 2 out of 4 blue books are meticulously filled out and the final 2 are a little shabby on the details. Eeeek! Thanks for the reminder. It's an amazing record of what you've been through with them isn't it.


  18. Ah Jane, I am sending this link to my uncle. He is a GP and goes on and on about how parents/carers neglect to bring in their Blue Books! He will love this entry! xx

  19. I am so sorry about your friend. *That* phonecall is truly heartbreaking. Loved your thoughts on the blue book. I have one in red (UK one) one in purple and one in yellow. The first one is diligently filled out, I can't say the same for the third ;)

  20. Welcome, sweet Anna! I know - it's mad, isn't it, the way parents fuss over such things. Of course, nutrition and exercise play huge roles in development but so do genetics.

    Ah, Simone, yet more we have in common ☺. Gee, the things we mums have to contend with. Your sons are so lucky to have you as their advocate.

    Hi Rhi Er, yes, there's also the 'third child syndrome', I've found. Whilst I have been maintaining his Blue Book, his Baby Book is a completely separate matter!

    Gosh, Linda, you have been through the mill with those health concerns. And scrap the 'bad mum' idea. We did a sterling job getting them through all that (I can't imagine how stressful having a newborn with meningitis must have been). Thanks for your concern as well. I'm sorry to hear you're in a similar boat.

    Oh, Emma, yes, I find the hardest part of those visits is always contending with the differing behaviour of the pixies whilst trying to concentrate on talking to the nurse and remembering the concerns I need to discuss.

    Emily, how stressful that must have been for you. I'm sure these books can be a double-edged sword sometimes.

    Deb, you make me chuckle. I did exactly the same with Joshua, a little with India and I haven't even thought of them with Sam. Thanks for your kindness.

    Ah, Carmel, our three desperately-waiting-to-be-updated baby books are sitting in front of me...

    Clare, that sounds so Germanic to my ears - so matter-of-fact and utilitarian. It makes me smile.

    Corinne, those women truly are angels of mercy. Their compassion is superlative.

    Gosh, Kirsty, you've done well not to have lost those books with all your relocations.

    And Emma, you make me chuckle. I've never heard the other side's perspective on them ☺. J x

  21. Hi Sarah Thanks for stopping by. My, you do have a colour selection! I'm now following you. J x

  22. I love that our child health nurse took the time to do a footprint of both my children on their first visits, especially since I am not so good at keeping their 'other' baby books up to date. Our child health nurse is a real treausre!

  23. and in Queensland they are maroon books, don't you think it is odd that in both Qld and NSW they use the state of orign football colours .... and I'm not even a football person and I noticed that .... best le xox ps the whole comparision thing with other babes is really in poor taste ...

  24. Hi Melissa Thanks for stopping by! What a gorgeous keepsake. We've done them for all three pixies but haven't dated most of them. Hmm! And hold onto your nurse then - I'm so pleased for you. Oh, and I'm you newest follower ☺. J x

  25. Hey Le Yes, it's all a bit tribal and silly. And I think the ones doing the comparing were just insecure. J x

  26. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. You know I know how you are feeling right now. Here for you. x

  27. Thanks, Bron. You are gorgeous. J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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