Monash Sleep and Settling Service, a gentle lullaby of support
It’s tough being a new parent.
But at 3am when you’re struggling to get the newest member of your family down for a sleep and, with sleep deprivation spots before your eyes, you’re staring blankly at the loungeroom walls or taking an unhealthy interest in overnight shopping channels on TV – it can be the loneliest job in the world.
There’s sobbing, there’s wailing, there’s tears and there’s gurgles of frustration – and not all of them are coming from the direction of the cot.
Maternal Child Health Team Leaders Sally and Lucinda said it’s a time when parents, new or experienced, can be at their most vulnerable – lacking their beauty sleep and judging themselves harshly when they don’t feel they are succeeding as parents from day one of their child’s life.
The Monash Sleep and Settling Day Stay Program has allowed the Monash Maternal and Child Health Service to provide guidance and tips about sleep and settling – but most importantly provide reassurance and support for parents doing it tough.
“The strategies are important,” Lucinda said. “And to learn that they are not alone.”
The Monash Sleep and Settling Day Stay Program is a warm, inviting space, set up with dedicated sleep rooms. The service is guided by evidence-based practice informed by the Sleeping and Settling model of care guide for Victorian maternal and child health services.
The day stay (9am – 4pm) program for children aged eight weeks to 12 months, provides family-centred care, operated by experienced Maternal and Child Health Nurses and an Early Parenting Sleep-Settling Practitioner.
And, with the notion that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, the program isn’t limited to the parents alone.
“Parents, grandmothers, grandfathers, all are welcome,” Sally said. “Anyone who is involved in the care of the child.”
“We look at the day in the life of the child, what’s going on with the child. We talk to the parents about strategies, we talk about solids and feeding – are they just hungry? – we look at family dynamics.”
“We talk about how to identify tired cues.”
And when those cues appear, and the sleep window opens …
“We encourage them to give it a go (put the baby to bed),” Sally said. “It takes time, you just have to be patient.
“We offer guidance and support, and then we follow them up after they leave to see how they are getting on. We have some beautiful feedback and there’s some great outcomes for families.”
Sally said, with four families using the service at any given time – all sharing a common goal of getting a little sleep stability in their lives - she’d noticed bonds forged and friendships made between clients.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “It’s a good family connection forming, and you see them go away with new friends and a new support network.”
It’s taken several years to build the service to its current position, this has been no overnight success story.
“We started the service ourselves about 15 years ago,” Lucinda said. “Initially, we had donations from the community. It had old couches and old chairs, and it was once a week.”
But belief in the program never wavered and gradually, as funding became available, the Monash team was able to expand and develop this outstanding service.
“(Now) we have four rooms where babies can sleep, operate three days a week and it’s about to be updated at the new Dorrington (Child and Family Hub),” Sally said.
As well as the on-site day stay program, MCH staff conduct a series of on-line English and Mandarin speaking sleep and settling information sessions. Different sessions cater for age groups varying from newborns to 6-12 months and toddlers, and allow MCH staff to give advice and support to clients in their own homes.
The sessions are interactive and, as well as receiving tips, advice and strategies, people can ask questions more specific to their own situations. The question-and-answer dynamic also gives MCH staff the chance to identify anyone who might be struggling and then get in touch with them to offer more hands-on support.
These sessions have proven to be extremely popular with around 250 families taking part last year.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
If you have concerns about your infant or child’s sleep, have a chat to your Maternal and Child Health Nurse at your next appointment. They’ll be able to book you in to one of the Sleep and Settling Talks specific to your child’s age.
Newborn and infant sleep information sessions run monthly, while toddler sessions are scheduled quarterly.
(Note: attendance at one of the Sleep and Settling Talks is required prior to attending the Monash Sleep and Settling Day Stay Program).
The MCH nurse will arrange a referral to the Monash Sleep and Settling Day Stay Program where required. Only parents who attend the Monash Council Maternal and Child Health service are eligible for this program.
Enquiries can be made through the MCH link on the Monash website: Maternal & Child Health | City of Monash or by phoning 9518 3662
MCH offers a range of services including Outreach, Lactation, Universal and Enhanced Maternal and Child Health.
OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES
EARLY PARENTING CENTRES
SAFE SLEEP SPACES