Importance of Play

I was once again invited to speak to the Berowra ABA group. This time we discussed the value of play and what exactly this looked like. As a mother myself, I do remember looking at my children when they were infants and thinking “what on Earth do I do with you” and “how do I play with you” and “what do I need to do this”. If only I knew what I know now!

Play is important for many reasons. It shows our children we are interested in them – especially when your child leads. It helps language development including conversation ie turn taking in play extends to turn taking in conversation. It means our attention in focused on our children in that moment – making them the centre of our universe – which is important for a secure relationship. It also helps build physical and cognitive capabilities.

Play doesn’t need to be a structured activity – something planned and with an aim. Play can actually occur just in the moment…..when we blow raspberries on a babies tummy when changing nappies, nursery rhymes, reading books, playing with toys on the floor during tummy time, splashing in the bath ….. play often happens in the moment without you realising it is occurring.

So don’t be so worried about the type of play or providing things to play with and just recognise when you do it and enjoy your child moment to moment.


Transition to motherhood

This week I spoke at the Hornsby-Berowra group of the Australian Breastfeeding Association about transition to motherhood. Two things that stood out for me was the consistency of the feelings of the group members and their openness and willingness to share their experiences.

Lots of new mothers feel that they don’t quite know themselves going from being a ‘single entity’ and making decisions with only yourself in mind to having to think of another, and often placing the baby first. And changing from being confident to ‘know what you are doing’, be it work, social life or family relationships – to a situation where you feel that not quite knowing if what you are doing is right.

This mismatch between expectation and reality can, in many women, create feelings of anxiety and depression; but acknowledging this, adopting strategies; including but not limited to, Mindfulness, can make a difference in the way that you feel.

It was wonderful to be asked to share, what I feel to be important information, with this group of women.


Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week

This week, 17th – 23rd of November 2013, is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week. Perinatal may be an unfamiliar term for some people but it refers to the period from conception through to 12 months after the birth of a baby. The perinatal period is considered to be a time of transition in life, which is wonderful and exciting but where families are also challenged and vulnerable to stress. The community often associates perinatal depression and anxiety with women but the truth is men may also suffer from it.

As parents or parents-to-be it is really important that you look after yourself so that you are able to care for someone else, your baby. Over this week consider how you have been feeling recently. Have you felt any of the following:
*Loss of enjoyment in activities you would usually enjoy
*Loss of self-esteem and confidence
*Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control or unable to cope
*Irritability or anger
*Fear of being alone
*Withdrawing from family or friends
*Loss of appetite
*Broken sleep (other than the baby waking you)
*Sense of hopelessness or feeling of failure
*Suicidal thoughts or ideas
*Anxiety symptoms (acing heart, changes to breathing, worrying thoughts, sick stomach)
*Fears for baby’s or partners’s safety or wellbeing.

The presence of perinatal depression or anxiety impacts not only you but also your relationship with others – placing a strain on your relationship with your partner and interfering with the developing relationship with your baby (bonding and attachment). For many woman the first week after having a baby will feel like they are on an emotional roller-coaster but if this persists longer assistance should be sought.

If you feel like you may be suffering from perinatal depression or anxiety or just finding things difficult please speak to your family doctor, birth support team (including your midwife), Maternal and Child Health Nurse or a psychologist (give me a call if you are nearby) – if you don’t get help, ask again or ask someone else.

In addition to speaking to a health professional you could do the following:
*Share your concerns with your partner or a trusted friend or family member
*Try to eat healthy meals, exercise, nap when your baby allows you to, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
*Take any offer of assistance – housework, cooking meals, doing the shopping or minding your baby while you sleep.
*Go easy on yourself and don’t overdo things – housework can always wait.
*If you are working (and this applies especially to men) don’t drown yourself in work.
*Don’t compare yourself to others – people will often only show you what they want you to see.
*Don’t read baby advice books – often give conflicting advice and may not suit you and your baby – read your baby not a book.
*Don’t rely on doctor Google – this is not something you need to go through alone.

Finally, if you are concerned someone else may be suffering then share this website, provide practical assistance, spend time and listen to them without judgement or needing to offer advice.

With this being Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week let’s not allow any parent to not be heard and to not be helped when help is sought.


PBB Health Centre

I’m excited to report that a long time collaborator of mine and Registered Midwife, Jane Palmer, has opened PBB Health Centre in North Parramatta. On Mondays I can be found there working as the ‘in-house’ psychologist. Of course on the other days I practice at my rooms in Wahroonga and can even do home visits if that’s more convenient for you.

If you find North Parramatta more convenient then check out the PBB Health Centre website http://www.pbbhealthcentre.com.au/. Bookings can be made by phoning me or via PBB Health. GP’s can use ATAPS via WentWest Medicare Local. 


Rhona Barker has been in private practice in Wahroonga since 2009. Rhona doesn’t believe that any one psychological approach fits all but instead endeavours to discover with the client what works best for them.

Rhona accepts referrals via patient delivered letter or fax but preferably via Argus.



Certificate of Mental Health (Perinatal and Infant)

I’m about to commence some further formal education at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry. I have enrolled in the Certificate of Mental Health (Perinatal and Infant) which can lead to a Diploma and the Masters course should it prove valuable. This won’t effect the usual hours of the practice. I chose this course because it focuses on the area I have the most interest – Perinatal and Infant Psychology. I’m excited to be learning new information about a topic I am very passionate about.


Perinatal Mental Health Conference

On Saturday I attended the perinatal mental health conference and was inspired once again to pursue further training in infant lead approaches to be used when treating PND. Babies and small children have so much to communicate to us if given the time and space to do so. This time and space allows the bond between parents and babies to grow resulting in secure attachment which is so important to take their relationship into the future.