maternity care
Labour & birth

Maternity care and the public health nurse

Public health nurses in Ireland are employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide a range of healthcare services free of charge in the community. They are usually based in your local health centre and are assigned to cover specific geographical areas.

If you have had your baby in hospital in Ireland, you will be contacted by the Public Health Nurse (PHN), who will visit you shortly after you come home. They will have been informed of your baby’s birth, the type of birth and any problems you may have experienced during your stay in hospital. The PHN will normally visit your house within 24-72 hours to check how you and your baby are getting along and the number of subsequent visits she makes will depend on how well things are progressing with you and your baby. A PHN is qualified in nursing and has also completed specialist training in Public Health Nursing.

The PHN plays a major role in the care of a woman and her baby in the postnatal period following discharge from hospital and through the pre-school years.

Public health nurses can:

  • Offer advice and support based on their extensive experience of babies and children.
  • Help with any difficulties you are having with feeding your baby and run a breastfeeding support group at your local health centre.
  • Check your baby’s general condition, take weight, etc. and observe for any signs of jaundice.
  • Guide you on weaning your baby onto solid food.
  • Run checks on your baby’s development including eyesight and hearing, motor development, speech development and general growth.
  • Perform postnatal checks on you.
  • Offer advice regarding your baby’s immunisation schedule.

How often are checks carried out?

The checks are generally carried out at three months, seven to nine months,18 to 24 months and three to four years. You will receive a reminder call from your PHN. If you do not, call your local health centre to make an appointment. The checks are not mandatory. The PHN is also a good first point of contact should you have any concerns about your baby’s development.

Your PHN is there to support you and will answer any other queries you may have about your own wellbeing or your baby’s. For more information on the role of the Public Health Nurse contact your local HSE office.


You will be automatically contacted by your Public Health Nurse following the birth of your baby. Contact information for your local health centre is available at or in your public telephone directory.

More like this:

Outlining your birth references
The ultimate hospital bag checklist
Missing being pregnant after giving birth


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….