New grandmother says women and babies are at risk
FROM general nurse to midwife, lactation consultation to new grandmother, Julie Snee says her role remains the same: to nurture the mother.
"Even if the new mother's got just one person behind her, on her side, that's half the job done," she said.
"It can be her partner or parent, male or female; sometimes it's just a matter of someone asking whether she's comfortable or if they can get her anything."
A Rockhampton-based consultant, Ms Snee comes from a long line of nurses.
"When I was 15, my Dad said I had to choose whether I was going to continue with school and what I was going to be," she said.
She followed her mother into nursing which, she said, was a job which required empathy.
"You've got to treat each patient as if they were your own family," she said.
"During my training at the Rockhampton Base Hospital, in the late 80s, we would take turns "being" the unconscious patient or new mother so we could experience it for ourselves."
Ms Snee undertook specialist midwife training in Brisbane, following a stint at the Woorabinda hospital.
"It had such a big impact on me but I had no idea it would become my lifelong passion," she said.
"In those days, we weren't allowed to send a lady home unless she was absolutely confident breastfeeding and looking after her baby.
"With the hospital serving such a huge catchment area, we were sending women out to farms past Warwick.
"If we didn't think they were ready, then we'd keep them in for another day or two."
Now, as she extends her consultancy through Central Queensland, she said it was shameful how the government was withdrawing support for mothers and babies.
"It's mad that they're removing birth services from communities such as Theodore," she said.
"We're getting back to the days when women were packed into the horse and dray and shipped to the coast weeks before they're due.
"Bugger off if you can't afford it and, if your partner's working, then you've probably got to bring the other kids with you and look after them."
Ms Snee said it was a case of putting money ahead of the lives of women, children and those who looked after them.
"There's hardly any midwives out west; meanwhile, midwives everywhere are burnt out," she said.
"They're in the wards day and night, literally running from the beginning of one shift to the end, with nobody coming to relieve them."
Ms Snee said there were agencies to support new mothers but some people did not know about them and others were reluctant to ask for help.
"Everyone should know about the Breastfeeding Association; they've been amazing for 50 years," she said.
As a specialist, Ms Snee prefers to begin consulting with patients before the baby is born, with advice on expressing milk and collecting colostrum.
"I call breastfeeding the fourth stage of pregnancy," she said.
She offers a package which begins with a two-hour consultation at which the mother's partner and family are more than welcome.
Ms Snee said a lot of her work involved letting the new mother know that any difficulties with breastfeeding were not her fault.
"My kids need to rack up 100 hours of learning in order to be allowed to drive a car," she said.
"That's a better deal than for new parents, at a very tense and emotional time, some of whom have never been in a labour ward before."
And with levels of abuse rising in Australian households, Ms Snee said that some people did not have the experience of being nurtured themselves.
"It can be as simple as learning to ask the mother if she's comfortable, because she's not going to feed well if she's sitting on sutures," she said
"It might be helping with the attachment, or offering to get her something from the fridge."
Ms Snee fell pregnant with her own first child during midwifery training, and that daughter had her own first child five weeks ago.
"Having a granddaughter has intensified the need for me to take care of the mothers," she said.
In 2020, she will offer workshops throughout the Rockhampton libraries free of charge to breastfeeding parents.
"It's up to the support agents to nurture the mother, so the mother can take care of the child," she said.
You can find Julie Snee Lactation Consultant on Facebook.