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Podcast: Where is my village? (Season 1 Episode 8)

Talking about support for mothers

You may have heard the expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and you may be wondering how to find this village. In this episode, Emma, Inez and Jessica talk about the importance of finding support as a new parent and what helped them adjust to life with a new baby.

An image of three women. The middle one is holding a baby.

Podcast episode

Companion blog post

You have probably heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and you may be thinking, ‘Sounds great, but where's my village?’ Some first-time mums are lucky enough to have a ready-made village. They feel supported by a network of family, friends and health professionals willing and able to lend a hand and provide help. But this is not the case for all new mums and, for many, motherhood can feel isolating and overwhelming. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve even held a newborn, and our families live a long way away, or they just aren't available to help. Or you may have people around you but you don't feel like you are quite getting the support you need. It's not always obvious to those around us how they can best support us. This is especially true if they've never had a baby themselves or if it has been a long time since their babies were little. Often it turns out that friends and family would have loved to help, but they didn't know what you needed, or how to offer help. And maybe you didn't know what you needed or how to ask.

Podcast information

Show notes
Talking about support for mothers

You may have heard the expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and you may be wondering how to find this village. In this episode, Emma, Inez and Jessica talk about the importance of finding support as a new parent and what helped them adjust to life with a new baby.

Information discussed in this episode:



This episode is presented by Emma Pennell, Inez Hanson and Jessica Leonard. Special thanks to Nguyen Dao.

Show notes by Emma Pennell. Transcription by Madina Hajher. Produced by Belinda Chambers, Sky Mykyta, Jessica Leonard and Eleanor Kippen.

Episode transcript

[Music intro]

JESSICA: I definitely have real friendships from ABA to the point where a lot of my closest friends are people who have since resigned as volunteers and gone onto the next phase of their life. So, they’re not involved with ABA anymore. But they are still some of my closest friends, so it’s really brought me a village that I will keep beyond babyhood.

JESSICA: Welcome to Breastfeeding … with ABA, a podcast brought to you by volunteers from the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Breastfeeding … with ABA is a podcast about breastfeeding, made by parents for parents. In this episode we’ll be talking about the importance of support as a new parent, and what help does to adjust to life with a new baby.

SKY: We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are recording and on which you are listening to this podcast. We pay our respects to elders, past, present and emerging and to any Aboriginal people who are listening today. We also acknowledge Aboriginal women who have breastfed their babies and raised families on this country for thousands of years.

JESSICA: Each episode you’ll hear from volunteers from around Australia. 

My name’s Jessica. I’m a breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian breastfeeding association. I have two children; I have a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.

EMMA: I’m Emma, I’m a breastfeeding counsellor with the ABA as well, and I have two children, an 11-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl.

INEZ: And my name’s Inez. I’m a breastfeeding counsellor from Brisbane and I’m also a maternal and child health nurse and a mental health nurse and I’ve got three children, my son who’s 21, an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.

JESSICA: Having your first baby is a huge adjustment. It’s different for everyone, but Emma, Inez and I all experienced feelings of isolation.

[Music ends]

EMMA: When I had my first baby, I was oh, the first of my friendship group to have a baby so, didn’t really have a lot of people around me experience a baby. My brother had a child who’s just 6 months older than my oldest so at least I, I sort of had that connection. But his baby was really the only baby I was around much. I think I would have felt really isolated if I hadn’t rocked up to that first ABA meeting when my son was 3 weeks old.

INEZ: Okay, so I had my first baby in the late 90s and we’d just moved to Brisbane, we’d been living in Brisbane for about 5 years, we’d moved up from Sydney. So, we had no family here, only work friends, and you know it was pretty intimate, oh, I guess the internet was around, but it wasn’t, as you know, the commonplace as it is now. And it was pretty common back then for people in Brisbane then not to have family around because at that time about a 1000 people a week were moving up here from Sydney and Melbourne. So, yeah, so what I found when I was running ABA meetings was there was a lot of new parents with no family locally.

JESSICA: A lot of the time it did feel really isolating, just that I was going through this thing that I didn’t have anyone around me who had recently gone through and who knew what that was like. Something that Emma, Inez and I all have in common is that we’ve found support from other parents, both in parents’ groups set up by our local maternal and health nurses, and through the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

INEZ: I joined the ABA after I had my second baby, the reason why I didn’t join when I had my first was because I found a mothers’ group through the maternal and child health nurse really, really early on, so I never really got around to joining. But after I had my second I really wanted to become a breastfeeding counsellor because I was so sick of all the conflicting information about breastfeeding and I really wanted to support mums in their journey with breastfeeding. So, I rang up the local group leader and I said look I’m interested in training how to become a breastfeeding counsellor, she said, ‘Well you’ve got to join and you’ve got to come to meetings’ so, I went to my first meeting and everyone was just really lovely, friendly, down to earth, it was really casual. What I liked about my ABA meeting was that there were mums there with kids of all different ages. So, it was sort of like you could talk to the mum who had an older child who’d been through what you’re going through now whereas in my mothers’ group it was fantastic but all our babies were the same age. It was a really positive experience and the discussion was really interesting and yeah I really enjoyed it.

EMMA: Yeah, I actually joined when I was pregnant to attend a breastfeeding education class because I was a bit worried about this whole breastfeeding business, I knew I wanted to do it, but I had no real idea about how it works so, I joined so I could go to a breastfeeding education class and I got so much out of that, that really left me quite confident that it was something that I should be able to do, but I also knew where to get help and support with it which is great. I remember feeling quite nervous because it was a group of strangers that I hadn’t met before so that was worrying me, but everyone was so lovely and welcoming and ooh-ing and aah-ing over my little baby, as you’d expect, and I know that’s what I tend to do now when new babies rock up to ABA meetings. I really felt so welcomed and part of something right from the beginning, so I just kept coming back.

JESSICA: I definitely have real friendships from ABA to the point where a lot of my closest friends are people who have since resigned as volunteers and gone onto the next phase of their life. So, they’re not involved with ABA anymore. But they are still some of my closest friends, so it’s really brought me a village that I will keep beyond babyhood.

INEZ: What’s really amazing is when your children go to high school and there’s kids that used to go to your ABA meetings (laughs) so, you know the mums and yeah, the village just keep going and going and going (laughs).

JESSICA: Because Inez is a health professional as well as an ABA volunteer, she knows that finding people to support you is important as a new parent.

INEZ: What springs to mind with my professional as a maternal and child health nurse is that we know that isolation and lack of support is a contributing factor to postnatal depression and anxiety so, I really figured it’s so vital that we do form that village and ensure that we’ve got support in place.

JESSICA: What about how you felt when you had a new baby? Did things feel normal?

INEZ: No, it didn’t feel normal (laughs). I’m laughing because I remember when I was at work and I was about to go on maternity leave and my boss at the time who was a father of three, and he said, ‘Being a parent will be the hardest job you’ll ever do’. And I had no idea what he was talking about because I thought it was going to be lovely and rosy and I was going to have all this time in the world and my house was going to look immaculate, I was going to have time to cook gourmet meals and paint the spare bedroom yeah. So, I was in for a bit of a rude shock [laughs]. I didn’t actually feel normal until my eldest was around 16 or 18 months old and I returned to work and I actually felt like a normal member of society because I think for me being at home with a baby, it did affect my self-esteem because I felt like I wasn’t contributing to society because I was no longer earning a wage. Isn’t that strange? But I think it’s actually a common thing, you know. We sort of attach our self-worth to a paid job because we’re doing one of the most valuable unpaid jobs that we sort of just don’t feel worthwhile, so I didn’t actually feel normal until I went back to work [laughs].

JESSICA: Emma, what about you? Did life feel normal after you had your first baby?

EMMA: No, not at all (laughs). So not normal, and yeah it did feel like I may have fallen down a rabbit hole and come out into a weird universe. Nothing felt quite the same as it did before. It just becomes a new normal after a while. I think is the thing, like, you don’t go back to the normal you had before you had a baby, but you find a new normal.

JESSICA: what other support did you have?

INEZ: For me it was that initial mothers’ group that I went to at the suggestion of the maternal and child health nurse. I think our babies were all like 9 or 10 weeks old when we all first met and I think there might have been 8 of us, and this is like 21 years ago. And we’re still in contact today. I actually minded a couple of the babies when their mums went back to work, so we did a lot of you know baby-sitting swaps and even the babies within the mothers’ group some of them are best friends now and siblings of those babies are also best friends so yeah, it was a really positive experience.

EMMA: I also had a lot of support from my mother-in-law especially. She was a really great support, she came around to visit at least twice a week. She always brought a cake [laughs], she would come in and make a cup of tea for both of us and we’d have cake and she’d cuddle the baby while I would have a shower or something like that. Yeah, I always remember one day her showing up at the door and I was just so frazzled and all I wanted was a shower, I had a really unsettled baby and she showed up at the door and I just said, ‘Here, take the baby! I’m getting in the shower!’ I did eventually have to ask her to stop bringing cake though because it got to the point that I was just eating cake all the time and I felt like I was never going to lose that baby weight if I kept eating cake [laughs] at that rate.

[Music in background]

JESSICA: We’re going to take a quick break now to hear from Nguyen, a breastfeeding counsellor who will tell us why she volunteers with ABA.

NGUYEN: Hi my name is Nguyen, and I am an ABA volunteer from Victoria. You are listening to Breastfeeding … with ABA. I got involved in ABA since 2010 as a new mother. I got postnatal depression after my first was born due to many worries that any new mum can experience such as, how do I know if I have enough milk for my baby? Why is my baby crying? Why is my baby still wants to be fed a lot? What should I do to increase my supply? And at a regular check-up the local maternal and child health nurse recommended ABA to me and suggested if I wanted to do ABA training to become an ABA breastfeeding counsellor to help mothers like me that had more challenges due to the language barrier. So, I signed up as a volunteer and then a trainee and finally I became the first qualified breastfeeding counsellor who speaks Vietnamese. I got involved with ABA because it is an opportunity for me to recognise my potential and my skills that are helping in supporting others. It gives me the confidence in myself and that I am useful. What I love about ABA is that I have received support and encouragement, the empathy and understanding. The skills I have learnt from ABA are extremely useful in my professional work and my personal life. When, I talk on the phone in the helpline to support mums I feel I’m listening to myself 10 years ago when I had my first baby. ABA gives me the opportunity to help other mums and their families to have the confidence or at least to be listened to and supported. 

JESSICA: The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a registered training organisation that offers volunteer traineeships. Volunteers have the opportunity to complete a certificate IV in Breastfeeding Education. For more information visit: or click the episode notes. RTO number 21659. Let’s go back to the episode. 

JESSICA: Inez, can you talk a little bit about the support that maternal and child health nurses can provide? 

[Music fades]

INEZ: Your local maternal and child health nurse centre or clinic is a valuable source of support. We are there to support new parents with tracking the baby’s growth and development and helping with feeding, but also helping with adjustment to parenting. So, I actually take great pride in checking in with my mums, if they’re well supported, seeing how they’re going, all that kind of stuff and yeah, and we also do screen for postnatal depression and anxiety as well so, if anybody’s feeling down or overly anxious and feeling overwhelmed, your local maternal and child health nurse is a good first port of call as well as your GP.

JESSICA: I know something that I always encourage people to do is just be really honest on those mental health screenings. We’ve spoken to so many mums who’ve said that they didn’t really tell the truth on how they were feeling and maybe they regretted that later on.

EMMA: That was me, I totally lied when they screened me, I was really worried about being judged. Which is a totally unrealistic thing to be feeling but yeah, that’s where I was. I think that it’s kind of connected to that feeling like the world didn’t feel normal to me. So, I just felt, I didn’t know what a normal reaction was. And yeah, I so wish I had been honest in those screenings now, I probably could have used more support, but I didn’t get it because I didn’t let anyone know I needed it.

JESSICA: Digital support can be just as important as face-to-face support, especially now. The internet and digital support have evolved so much, even in the last 6 months, I think. For me in you know 2006, 2007, it was all about discussion forums. ABA used to have one and that, for me, was a really important kind of digital village and the people who I met on there over a decade ago now are still very close friends. One in particular, a person that I met on there was in my local ABA group and is now one of my closest friends and our teenage daughters are still best friends. They get their photos taken with Santa together every year since they were 3. And yeah, they’re teenagers now and I’m hoping they’ll do that until they’re well and truly into adulthood and it’s very cute. So for me that I felt so isolated that reaching out to someone online was easier. Emma do you want to sort of speak to that a little bit as well? Because I know obviously that you had a similar kind of experience.

EMMA: Yeah, so you know, I first met you on the ABA forum, Jessica, so like, we’ve known each other for a really long time thanks to that. That internet connection as well. Yeah, I didn’t find any online communities like the ABA forum until after my son was over a year old because I’d gone back to work part-time at that stage and I wasn’t able to get to my local ABA meetings anymore. And I yeah, just happened to find on the ABA website a link to the forum and I thought, ‘Oh, that might be good’ so I popped in there and found this whole community. And I think there really was that kind of feeling of connection and village in that community. It was beautiful. So yeah, I spent quite a lot of time in those days connecting with people in that community and then I also had some good friends that I made through that that I’m still in touch with today even though that forum hasn’t been active for quite some time and yeah it was ages, years and years and years since I last even had a look for it. And from there I guess I moved onto Facebook groups, so it was a Facebook group that kind of spun out from that ABA forum and I connected with other groups of parents through Facebook groups since then as well that aren’t necessarily ABA connected but more with, I guess where I’m at in parenting now so, a lot of groups with parents with other primary school aged children and similar parenting values that I found which can be really supportive and useful. But we also have our ABA groups which are really nice as well.

JESSICA: And I think the forum that Emma and I were both involved in when our children were much younger has now been overtaken by that kind of, Facebook thing, which is great, and I know that we now have Breastfeeding with ABA the Facebook group which is the companion group to this podcast. And when I kind of look through there I really do get that same sort of feeling of a community of people supporting each other online that I used to when I was on that discussion forum that doesn’t really exist anymore. So, that’s really fantastic to have that around for mums now and it’s really just, you know, we took, it’s a phrase we used a lot, that ‘meeting mums where they’re at’. If mums are on Facebook, that’s where the support that we offer each other should be, which is great.

I really want to finish the podcast with this because I know because I know that we all kind of touched briefly on the fact that life was difficult when we had our first new baby, so, we all now have children who are not babies and of varying ages from you know, Emma having primary school aged children, I’ve got one in primary school one in high school and Inez I know that you’ve got children in upper high school and completed high school so it’s a wide range so, what’s life like now compared to having a new baby, Inez?

INEZ: Oh, I feel like I’m in the real reward stage now. I know people say that you know having teenagers, oh you know you wait until they’re teenagers, but I really like the teenage phase. They became more independent they could help out with cooking meals and they’ll empty the dishwasher and things like that. You know, they still need to be reminded and nagged a few times [laughs] but I really enjoyed it, yeah, and I could sort of start getting my own independence again too, I really enjoyed it, yeah, it’s really good. But I’ve been used to my new normal for 21 years so yeah, I’m kind of used to it.

EMMA: Yeah, look definitely things are heaps different from having a baby. My kids are at an age now where they are taking on more responsibilities which is great. They’re still not completely independent. They need a lot of help with these responsibilities especially my youngest who’s 8. But yeah, my eldest will be starting high school next year and he’s definitely interested in you know, taking on more responsibilities and doing things like walking to the shops to buy milk for me and that sort of thing. He loves those little bits of independence and responsibility that he’s able to have now that he’s older. And yeah, life just feels more normal now, I feel like more like myself again, more able to connect with my other interests outside of motherhood as well as yeah, I still really enjoy, though, my connection with ABA which is why I’m still here even though my babies are not babies anymore.

JESSICA: I’ve definitely experienced a similar kind of thing, my kids have grown older they’ve got more independence. I don’t need to monitor every little part about their lives. I definitely have found that as they’ve grown older. It’s not necessarily that things get easier, it’s that the challenges change, that I’m no longer in the phase of extreme sleep deprivation. I always say that really extreme sleep deprivation, it feels like you’re looking through under water that you can’t even focus on one single thing. That was the normal reality for me for a really long time after having babies and you know, now having a teenager and a primary school aged child that isn’t really the only time I have that happen is if I decide I want to go out on the town and have a fun evening while they’re with their dad, it’s a very different thing to experience one night of sleep deprivation after fun than it is constant, neverending sleep deprivation. But the challenges are still there they’re just very different, you know, there are challenges to having children at school and teenage hormones and things like that can be difficult. But if you have a new baby, you’re not going to be dealing with those new baby challenges forever, it does change, it does get easier.

[Music fades in]

EMMA: Absolutely, and I think for me being still involved with ABA and I’m the group leader of my local group now and I sometimes have a moment now where I just notice that I’ve sort of taken on that role now that I remember the ones with older children and the breastfeeding counsellors from my early days with ABA had where I’m there to support the newer mums now. And that’s really nice to be in that role now, being the one who’s there to support more than those being supported.

JESSICA: For more information and links please check the episode notes.

For breastfeeding information or to access LiveChat with a qualified volunteer, visit

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