A woman sitting in an armchair holds a young baby.

When Roisin had her first baby, this service was a lifeline. Now there are fears it could be closed

When Roisin McNaney had her first baby seven weeks ago, she wished she had her own mother around. But Ms McNaney’s mother and the rest of her family are back in Ireland.

“I think you have this romantic notion of what it’s going to be like to have your first baby, and then when reality hits, it’s a very different experience,” she said.

She found support just around the corner in Kensington, in Melbourne’s inner north, at Midwives and Mothers Australia (MAMA).

But Melbourne City Council, which owns the building from which MAMA operates, has announced its intention to sell the building because it did not fit its strategic plan.

MAMA, which began 11 years ago as Melbourne’s first private midwifery service, offers a range of services including breastfeeding support, counselling, physical therapy and childcare.

MAMA offers a range of services to young mothers, including baby yoga.(ABC News: Mahnaz Angury)

It was a lifeline for Ms McNaney in caring for her baby, Meala.

“It’s very much a place where you can come and everyone will know your name and smile and wave at you.

“It’s like a big hug from your mother when you come here.”

The council recognized MAMA’s “vital work and valuable services” but said there is a free maternal and child health center nearby.

“Community consultations are currently being held on the proposal to sell four council properties and we are actively encouraging community feedback,” the council said in a statement.

MAMA director Jan Ireland said the service is very different from government-run maternal and child health services.

“I don’t think the city council knows what we’re doing here,” she said.

Two laughing women hugging.
Kelly Langford (L) and Jan Ireland (R) say the nearby National Health Service for Maternal Health cannot replace MAMA.(ABC News: Mahnaz Angury)

She said the clinic was set up in response to rising rates of postnatal depression and is needed now more than ever.

“When COVID emerged it was important that we stayed open. We’re first-line workers and we’ve been working around the clock,” she said.

Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital referred 151 patients to MAMA in the first six months of 2022 and made over 300 home visits, which the hospital could not afford.

Clinic closure would be “sad for many people”

Sarah Thijs has three children and has relied on MAMA for help and advice since birth.

“It just feels like they really care about you — it’s very holistic, everyone’s working together and everyone just wants to help you make the most of it.”

“You can still provide services anywhere, but it’s no longer that sense of community, which I think will be sad for a lot of people.”

A laughing woman looks at her smiling toddler.
Sarah Thijs says it would be unfortunate to lose the community MAMA offerings.(ABC News: Mahnaz Angury)

MAMA co-founder Kelly Langford said she doubted they could afford to start over from scratch if they had to relocate.

“It’s always about making enough to pay the bills but not charging too much so women don’t have access to our services,” she said.

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