Gold Coast mother of two Leanne Fletcher found herself in tears daily during what was meant to be one the happiest times of her life.
The 33 year old had given birth to her second child and was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, with seven week old baby Emeila refusing to settle or sleep.
While having dealt with broken sleep with her first child, now three year old Nathaniel – Leanne felt prepared to do it all again but this time around, things were very different.
“Obviously with a newborn and a toddler, I knew things were going to be a lot more tiring and intense than my first time around,” she said.
“You expect the broken sleep and challenging days, but Emeila just wasn’t settling at all. Every day my husband and I would say, things will get better tomorrow – but it seemed as if we were on a downward spiral and things were getting harder.
“Emeila was unsettled day and night, she refused to sleep anywhere and on a good night for us, we’d have been lucky to have two hours sleep.
“After seven weeks, I was dealing with extreme exhaustion and just knew I couldn’t keep up anymore, so I went to my GP in tears just feeling so helpless.
“My doctor, Dr Nora Cadman, recommended we seek professional assistance to help Emeila sleep and to feel supported as a family – so after liaising with our paediatrician, Dr Stephen Withers, she recommended Gold Coast Private’s Sleep and Settle program.”
Leanne says ‘that drive’ to the hospital was a moment she’ll never forget.
“I felt so nervous driving to Gold Coast Private Hospital as I was so worried they would think I’m a bad mum for not being able to settle my own baby or cope with the lack of sleep,” she said.
“But the moment we walked through the doors, it was like an instant weight had lifted off my shoulders – the staff were so welcoming and warm and I just knew we were in the right place.
“For the first day, the nurses took care of Emeila while I got some much needed rest, then they observed our family’s routine and lifestyle to work out what we could do to help her settle more easily.
“We worked as a family to implement a routine that suited us and also learnt a lot more about reading Emeila’s body language so we could pick up on when she was getting tired, verbal sleep cues and swaddling her in a way that she felt safe and secure.”
In three days, Leanne says she couldn’t believe the difference – not only in baby Emeila, but in their family dynamic.
“The first few days were definitely challenging, but by day three I could see things turning around and the fogginess we felt as a family was clearing,” she said.
“Not only were the nurses helping teach us how to settle Emeila with success, they were settling us as a family and a feeling of confidence was surfacing once again.
“There was certainly an element of extra comfort being within the Paediatric ward.
“The Sleep and Settle program at Gold Coast Private was life changing for us. Not only is our baby sleeping and thriving, so is our toddler and we feel more calm and confident as parents.”
Gold Coast Private Paediatric Care Manager, Emma Gerrard, says the new Sleep and Settle program is modelled from the infant sleep program developed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, then tailored to suit the values, goals and expectations of each family.
Designed to assist babies up to 12 month of age, she said it is an arm of support for families struggling to establish a routine.
“There are a lot of parents struggling with newborns and infants who have trouble settling and sleeping but help is available and it is important that families seek it,” she said.
“Demand for sleep services is increasing and while there are a growing number of private consultants, there are few programs within a hospital setting that are covered by health insurance”.
“We created the Gold Coast Private Sleep and Settle program to offer families education and support from a team of qualified nurses in our Paediatric Care Centre.
“Our team, most of whom are parents themselves, have been specially trained through the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute infant sleep program to use responsive comforting techniques”.
“Families who take part in the program can feel confident they are learning from trained professionals using evidence-based practices backed by one of the Country’s most respected healthcare facilities.”
Mrs Gerrard says while some sleepless nights are expected with a baby in the house, it isn’t normal for infants to be consistently unsettled.
“Parenting is tiring. We all know there’s broken sleep when newborns need feeds during the night – but when a baby is not enjoying solid windows of sleep, it can be exhausting and overwhelming for parents and it is important they seek help,” she said.
“Our Paediatric Care Centre provides a warm and welcoming space for frazzled and fatigued parents to come for a three day stay and learn proven settle and sleep techniques in a supported environment” she said.
“We take a holistic approach and work with each family to customise a routine that is right for their circumstances and aligns with their values and goals.
“Parents have the added comfort of knowing they’re in a professional space with paediatric nurses, ensuring they go home with the skills and confidence to implement a routine that suits their family.”
Mrs Gerrard says it’s rewarding to see babies finally establish good day sleeps and have solid hours of night sleep, and witness families regain their confidence.
“It’s very gratifying to see parents leave feeling more calm and confident as a family,” she said.
“What we educate them on in the ward must be carried on at home and when we speak with them at around the two week mark, it’s very fulfilling to hear of their life-changing experiences.”
The Gold Coast Private Sleep and Settle Program can be accessed via a referral from a Paediatrician or GP. The cost of the program is generally covered by private health insurance but it is also open to uninsured patients for a fee. During the program, one parent stays with the child in a private room with all meals
For further information, visit: http://www.goldcoastprivate.com.au/internal-page/sleep-and-settle-program.