This is the part of our series on 'The baby fog', which covers major challenges new parents might want to be aware of ahead of time.
When several challenges occur in a row (or at the same time!) when you’ve got a young baby, it can seem that life is in relentless disarray. Illness, feeding issues, growth spurts and wonder weeks can all make you feel that your child will never have a good night’s sleep – and for families with more than one child, this feeling of instability can often be intensified.
In these cases, outside help may be needed. The main form of government-funded support in New South Wales is the Tresillian sleep school system, but different states and territories have different organisations to support parents. Parents need a referral from their early childhood health nurse or doctor to access the support, which can include outreach, day stay and residential services.
Kristy Busuttil, an early childhood education expert, explains, “Tresillian offer day stays initially and then residential care and support if needed, and they can both be rewarding, life-changing experiences.”
When Rachel’s daughter Bethany was sick as a young baby, it threw her sleep patterns into disarray. “I was unprepared for Bethany and I being sick, and also what to expect regarding the sleep needs of babies. We went to Tresillian before Bethany got a UTI [at seven weeks], but because of her health issues we had to go back at six months,” she says. “But afterwards we had a beautiful baby who slept through the night from 6 months.”
The only problem with sleep school? The average waiting list in a metropolitan area can be twelve weeks or more, depending on your location. And as Kristy points out, “Waiting weeks for an appointment to see services such as Tresillian can seem like a lifetime to a sleep deprived parent.”
The alternative to waiting for sleep school is to hire a sleep coach/mothercraft nurse. They visit homes for day or night stays (or both if required), to teach parents sleep training techniques and identify any issues that may be contributing to sleep problems.
Sarah, a mum of young boys, visited Tresillian with her eldest son, but knew it wouldn’t fit in with her family’s lifestyle when her younger child had sleep troubles. “Sleep school wasn’t an option, as we had more children and things that needed to be done in the mornings. We hired a private mothercraft nurse to come to our house. It was the best $500 I’ve ever spent because I learnt how to settle Ben back down when he wakes.”
Mothercraft nurses are usually available within one or two weeks of you making a booking, which can make them more desirable than sleep school. Depending on how long you need them for, they can charge several hundred dollars a day, so setting aside some money for this before the baby is born is ideal. Keep in mind, however, that Tresilian sleep school is available to almost everyone.
During the most turbulent times it’s normal for parents to feel resentful, unhappy and anxious to move into the next stage as quickly as possible. They might think that they want fewer children than they’d originally planned, or even that they don’t want any more children at all.
For this reason, any major decisions – especially those relating to long-term birth control, such as Implanon and vasectomies – should made with a lot of thought and consideration. Besides, there’s no way of knowing how any future children will affect family life, or if they would have any eating, sleeping or behavioural issues.
“Take each day as it comes,” Kristy says. “Remembering the good old days when you could sleep in until midday or obsessing over how tired you are will just make you more stressed.”
“Parents can’t be expected to know all the information they’ll need for their baby’s first year – we all learn as we go.”
Parents can’t be expected to know all the information they’ll need for their baby’s first year – we all learn as we go