There’s a lot to learn when you’re a new mum. From feeding to sleeping and helping your babies learn and grow from the environment around them. And all that learning comes with the slow recovery after pregnancy and childbirth. It can be a lot to take in.
In the remote community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Save the Children is working in collaboration with Thamarrur Youth Centre supporting new mums to come together, connect, and learn about the best ways they can support their babies.
Chelsea Keir works with the local indigenous program leader, Irene Chula, to build her early childhood education knowledge, capacity and confidence to deliver the mum’s group weekly sessions. Together, Chelsea and Irene also do home visits for those who can’t attend. In a remote community like Wadeye, parenting is made more difficult by the lack of resources and amenities, they say.
“Electricity isn’t always working or available out here. When we discuss starting the babies on solids, we talk about what can be cooked on the fire, and how to use the vegetables that we can buy at the shop.”
For the isolated mums who can’t travel to the group, Chelsea and Irene visits to make sure mums and babies are doing well, and to drop off care packages. “We take down nappies and little games which the mums can do with the babies. The activities have simple language and pictures to instruct the mums how to play developmental games with the children, how to look at them and engage in their space. Simple games like peek-a-boo will support the babies’ development and growth, and playing with Play-Do helps support muscle development.”
For the mums and babies who attend the weekly group, it’s an invaluable opportunity for the babies to play together, be exposed to different languages and learn how to crawl, walk and babble. “Although the babies are not talking yet, they do hear us, and they are listening. We prompt the mums to talk with the babies and speak to them while they're doing things. Whether it's speaking to them, narrating what they're doing, or just giving them that positive language when they are doing something; some parents can feel a bit shy and daunted at times. But, in a group situation where we can have up to eight mums, and everybody is doing that, it builds their confidence and knocks down that they're not just sitting there acting silly. It’s working well, and they can see the response from their children.”
Save the Children’s Chelsea Keir with Jamie-lee Thardim, baby Ivan Thardim and local program leader, Irene Chula. Photo: Save the Children
Connecting and encouraging new mums is also important, says Irene and Chelsea and this is one of the primary areas that she has worked with Irene on developing. “The mums group supports not only the babies but the new parents, advising them on family support, positive parenting strategies and child protection. The facility we use weekly is the local youth center which is great as we have use of a kitchenette. Which means while the babies are playing, some of the mums can step out with the program leader and prepare the food for the babies there. They're becoming pretty hands on and they really enjoy being a part of that.”
Save the Children is working with Thamarrurr Youth to run the Mums and Bubs group. Local program leader Irene provides community insight to social complexities and any barriers families may face, which is highly important in order to support mothers and families to create the best outcomes. Photo: Save the Children
Building community connectionsBuilding relationships within the community is critical in Wadeye, says Chelsea, where remoteness can be a real barrier to everyday things like going to school. “Through our collaboration with Thamarrur Youth Centre we’re strengthening relationships with community members, so they can feel connected and engaged. Together, we understand that there are difficulties, and we can support them."
In the sessions that we deliver we talk to mothers and grandmothers about building a strong community together.
“We all here and working together for the children and children's wellbeing. We talk about child wellbeing, what it means to have a healthy child, and how to promote that with attending the health clinic, making good food, and educating them about daily hygiene.”
With constant support for the families in Wadeye, Chelsea is confident they are growing a strong community, enabling children to feel safe and protected, and giving every chance to the young ones.