HOW TO GET YOUR BABY TO SLEEP

$5m bill to help par­ents, and ba­bies, get rested

Sunday Herald Sun - - NEWS - JACKIE SINNERTON

AUS­TRALIAN tax­pay­ers are sub­si­dis­ing par­ents who can’t get their chil­dren to sleep by more than $5 mil­lion a year.

A surge in sleep-de­prived par­ents seek­ing pro­fes­sional baby sleep ex­perts has meant a dou­bling in Medi­care re­bates for the ser­vices in the past 10 years. Up to 40 per cent of ba­bies and chil­dren strug­gle with sleep.

The mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar Medi­care pay­outs are only the tip of the ice­berg, with a fed­eral health de­part­ment spokesman say­ing there is such a wide range of pro­fes­sional pae­di­atric sleep ser­vices it is not pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine the ac­tual out­lay in ben­e­fits.

Sleep depri­va­tion has be­come a pub­lic health prob­lem, and GPs, pae­di­a­tri­cians and child health nurses are re­fer­ring des­per­ate par­ents to qual­i­fied spe­cial­ists — most of whom have wait­ing lists.

Pri­vate health providers are also of­fer­ing cover for sleep fixes.

Child sleep ex­perts say their ser­vices help pre­vent di­vorces, ease anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, and al­low par­ents and child bet­ter well­be­ing.

Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion chief Dr Michael Gannon says sleep depri­va­tion is a real health is­sue and can be a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor in most post­na­tal de­pres­sion cases.

“As we spend one third of our lives in bed, it is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate that par­ents would seek out ev­i­dence­based help for bet­ter sleep and bet­ter health,” Dr Gannon said.

Ac­cred­ited sleep spe­cial­ist Amanda Bude said to­day’s par­ents did not have the tribe of sup­port­ers around them as past gen­er­a­tions had. Many were work­ing, had to main­tain stress­ful jobs and were time poor.

“When you think that nearly half of new par­ents in 2017 are hav­ing prob­lems get­ting their child to en­joy good sleep, it’s no won­der sleep ser­vices are in­un­dated with calls,” Ms Bude said.

“I would imag­ine there are even more peo­ple who would love to ask for help, but they are weighed down by the 1950s idea that they should be able to cope them­selves.

“There are so many mixed mes­sages that par­ents are not only ex­hausted but fright­ened and con­fused. Should they try con­trolled cry­ing? Should they breast­feed the baby to sleep? Does the child have to sleep in the cot? Is cat­nap­ping a bad thing?”

But not all sleep ex­perts are the same. Baby sleep trainers are not the same as qual­i­fied sleep spe­cial­ists.

Ms Bude is adamant that there is no place for let­ting a child cry it out.

“Baby sleep trainers may try to ‘fix’ a child with a one-size-fits-all ap­proach like con­trolled cry­ing and re­spon­sive set­tling. There is a per­cep­tion that the child is ‘bro­ken’.

“A sleep spe­cial­ist will as­sess the en­vi­ron­men­tal, phys­i­cal, emo­tional, so­cial, de­vel­op­men­tal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and med­i­cal ar­eas of the fam­ily to see what might be un­der­ly­ing rea­sons for sleep and cir­ca­dian rhythm dis­tur­bances,” Ms Bude said.

Elna and Dale How called in Ms Bude to help them get baby Liam, 11 months, into a good sleep rou­tine ahead of Ms How’s re­turn to work.

“Ad­vice on baby sleep is so con­flict­ing and tired mums have nei­ther the time nor the en­ergy to fully re­search tech­niques,” Ms How said.

They did not want to try the cry-itout ap­proach and pre­ferred Ms Bude’s “gen­tle ap­proach”.

“We are al­ready see­ing a dif­fer­ence in Liam, but for me the peace of mind that Amanda is be­hind us is in­valu­able,” Ms How said.

The av­er­age cost of a qual­i­fied spe­cial­ist is $300 and up­wards for a two-week sup­port pack­age.

Baby Liam (left and top) and par­ents Elna and Dale get help from sleep spe­cial­ist Amanda Bude. Pic­tures: JAMIE HAN­SON

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