The Nambucca Valley has just chalked up a new national first.
COVID may have delayed its launch, but on Monday the first lot of families were warmly welcomed to the very first Tresillian Residential Unit in regional Australia ... here in North Macksville.
The new service sits alongside the maternity unit in the new Macksville District Hospital, and provides a home away from home for those struggling with the unique challenges of parenting infants.
"The first group appeared very anxious walking through the door," Nursing Unit Manager Mel Tait said.
"But we try to create an inviting experience for families here - a bit like a big warm hug.
"And you could definitely see a look of relief on their faces after they were settled."
There are four suites available in the new Tresillian centre, each with an ensuite complete with baby bath, a parents' room with double bed, and a separate nursery for babies and toddlers.
There isn't an ounce of the sometimes-intimidating clinical hospital feel, and new families are welcomed with a personalised basket of linen. It all feels rather like a stay in a luxe hotel.
Ms Tait explained that families book in for a stay of five days and four nights. After the family arrives and settles in, their needs are assessed, and staff tailor a program with advice and tools for the families to try under supervision.
"But the experience is really led by the families themselves - we listen to what they need," she said.
"And the idea is that they become more and more independent throughout the week.
"It's really all about empowerment."
How the service helps
Parents who come to stay are usually needing help settling their babies to sleep. Others might be after some feeding advice, or help with toddler behaviours.
But the unit also has a duty of care to the parents and their emotional wellbeing.
Tresillian Chief Executive Officer Robert Mills said up to 30 per cent of parents attending the clinics have been found to be suffering some level of depression or anxiety, after staff check in with them using the standard Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) checklist.
Some parents have been struggling with isolation, and high levels of anxiety, so we really offer this wraparound support to the whole family and develop the bond between parent and baby.Director Clinical Service Integration Debbie Stockton
"By treating health holistically, addressing issues early, and helping to ensure a strong attachment, we are potentially stemming problems before they occur later on in childhood or even as teenagers or adults," Mr Mills said.
Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said the new unit will ensure people living in the region have quick and easy access to support.
Previously anyone on the Mid North Coast wishing to access a Tresillian Residential Unit was required to travel to Sydney.
But for one of the mums staying in the new Macksville unit this week, that would have added to the stress she was already under.
"Her daughter would scream if put in a car seat, so there was no way they could travel to Sydney. But travelling to Macksville from Port Macquarie was manageable," Ms Stockton said.
"She told us that having this here was a real godsend."
Mums will be referred to the Macksville Hospital clinic from all over the Mid North Coast. And dads too - with one dad and his bub booked in over the coming weeks.
Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor was there at the official ribbon cutting this morning. She said she was keen to work with Tresillian to roll out residential units in regional Australia.
"This means a lot to me because I know firsthand how hard it can be to be a new mum," she said.
"Having a new baby can bring a whole host of complex and unexpected challenges. This ground-breaking regional unit will change the lives of new parents who are struggling."
Has the maternity unit been shortchanged?
There has been some minor criticism of the new maternity unit at the hospital; mothers and newborns are now routinely discharged on the same day as birth, with no beds to cater for those mums who prefer to stay in hospital for a few days until they recover and their milk comes down.
Some local residents have expressed concern that the postpartum beds were sacrificed to make room for the new Tresillian Residential Unit.
But Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick has said the idea to incorporate Tresillian into the hospital has been around since at least 2015.
"We decided to move towards a Midwifery Group Practise care model, where midwives visit new mums in their homes," he said.
"It's the first of its kind on the Mid North Coast, and the Tresillian Residential Unit being here had no influence on that decision."
He said they would continue to incorporate feedback on the new system to develop the model to suit the needs of women in the community.
Parents can be referred to the Tresillian Residential Unit through their Child and Family Health Nurse, GP, psychologist, or via self-referral through the Tresillian Parent's Help Line.
There is currently an average wait of between two and four weeks to access the Unit after referral, but Nursing Unit Manager Mel Tait said there are other services to help in the interim, including the Tresillian Coffs Harbour Family Care Centre and the Tresillian2U mobile service - a purpose-built van which travels to five different locations to offer further personalised care and support.
Families seeking parenting support can call Tresillian's Parent's Help Line on 1300 272 736 Monday to Friday.
For more advice, tips and support visit www.tresillian.org.au