Tweddle Babies Unite After 79 Years

Tweddle Babies Unite After 79 Years

By Kerrie Gottliebsen

It was October, 79 years ago when Lorraine Carroll and Jim Hevey were last at Tweddle. Both babies were struggling premmies with feeding complications. Jim was 11 weeks premature and not expected to live past the night of his birth. It was Lorraine’s second admission to the Tweddle Baby hospital as a 5-month old baby.

Last week Tweddle was privileged to host a reunion. Both Jim and Lorraine had both been at Tweddle during the Spring of 1939. Jim was admitted to Tweddle weighing 2 pound 5 ounces and was discharged three and a half months later weighing nearly eight pounds.

Lorraine, who is now a grandmother of 6, recently contacted Tweddle with a 1939 newspaper article promoting a ‘Bridge Party fundraiser’ that featured her in the arms of Mrs Brunning, elected president of the committee for the fundraiser. The article also promoted the Truby King methods of Infant welfare that were taught and practised at Tweddle.

Jim Hevey contacted Tweddle in 2014, offering to write an historical tribute to Tweddle for its 95th birthday. The four-month project uncovered many interesting stories and provided an opportunity to research, document and showcase the incredible history of Tweddle, its staff, board, philanthropic supporters, governance and visiting dignitaries.

During conversations with Jim and Lorraine, poignant reflections on how tough it was for so many in the early days of Tweddle were brought home.

Lorraine and Jim shared fascinating stories on how their families visited Tweddle during their admission to the Baby Hospital. Lorraine’s dad spoke of making frequent trips to the hospital, riding from Kensington to Footscray on a bike to deliver expressed breast milk.

Early on, Jim’s mum visited him daily for weeks and received support with breastfeeding. Jim was originally fed expressed breast milk by a teaspoon.

The 1920’s were a tough time to be a baby making Jim and Carroll’s stories even more remarkable. At the beginning of Federation in 1901 the Australian infant mortality rate per 1000 live births – the number of babies who died before their first birthday – was 120 for boys and 100 for girls.

Larger families and extreme poverty meant pressure to wean babies early and breastfeeding was neither encouraged, nor popular which meant greater exposure of babies to cows’ milk, transported and stored in unhygienic and unrefrigerated conditions. Between 1911 and 1916 in the summer months of December to April almost 1700 babies died of diarrhoeal disease in Victoria (Sheard 2007).

The arrival of the Plunket system and the eventual establishment of Tweddle nearly a century ago, is understood to be based on the result of the general review of health procedures and the growing awareness of germs causing disease as a result of unsanitary conditions in homes and industrial areas.

Dr. (Sir) Frederic Truby King’s speciality was child health and his vision was to help mothers and save babies who were dying from malnutrition and disease. He believed that scientifically formulated methods on nutrition and infant care were the key to reducing the death rate among babies and children.

By 1926, the infant mortality rate had been reduced by half and there had been a dramatic decline in deaths from gastrointestinal diseases. Many families today can thank Mr Joseph Tweddle and his foundation medical team lead by Dr J W Springthorpe and Sister Maude Primrose, without which we would not be continuing to support babies, toddlers and parents across Victoria today.

Jim Hevey’s tribute ‘Tweddle: 95 Years of Community Service 1920-2015’ is available to purchase from Tweddle as a fundraiser for $25. Please contact Tweddle to order a copy.


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