Why you might need help with baby sleep and toddler sleep
Babies and children need sleep to grow and develop well. Good sleep is also important for their health and immunity.
So if your baby isn’t settling or sleeping well, your baby might not be getting the sleep they need for health and development.
You’re probably not getting enough sleep either. You need sleep for your health and wellbeing. And your child is more likely to grow, develop and thrive when you’re physically, emotionally and mentally well.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get help for your baby’s sleep, if you need it.
Who can help you with baby sleep and toddler sleep
To get help with your baby’s sleep, you can talk to:
- child and family health nurses
- paediatricians, particularly those who specialise in child and baby sleep
- some child and family psychologists.
How professionals can help with baby sleep and toddler sleep
First, the professional will talk with you to understand your concerns and your family’s needs. A good professional always finds out what your goals are for your child and your family – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
The professional will ask you about your baby, your baby’s sleep, and the things you’ve tried so far. It can help to keep a diary of your baby’s sleep patterns and bring this when you see the professional.
The professional will then work with you to develop a baby sleep plan. They should help you put the plan into action and give you a copy of the plan so you can refer to it at home.
A good plan suits your baby’s needs and your family’s circumstances and cultural beliefs. It should cover:
- good bedtime and sleep habits
- positive bedtime routines
- settling strategies that you’re comfortable using
- things to try if the strategies in your baby sleep plan aren’t working.
Many babies or toddlers cry when they’re getting used to a new or different way of going to sleep. This is likely to pass as your baby gets used to the changes. But if you’re concerned, contact the professional who helped you develop the sleep plan. They’ll be able to give you extra support or put you in touch with another specialist or service.
Where to get help with baby sleep and toddler sleep
Child and family health centres
Your local child and family health centre is a good place to start. Your child and family health nurse can give you information and advice on your baby’s sleep and other early childhood concerns. Check our local services guides to find your nearest centre.
Parenting helplines around Australia can help – and some are available after hours if you need help straight away. They can give you ideas about how to handle baby sleep concerns and tell you where to get help in your local area. Some helplines specialise in helping parents with babies and young children.
Early parenting centres
Early parenting centres – sometimes called ‘sleep schools’ – can help you learn to manage your baby’s sleep better. They can also give you help with settling, feeding and play routines for your baby or toddler, as well as supporting you with personal issues too.
Staff at early parenting centres understand what you and your baby are going through. They’re used to dealing with all kinds of feeding and settling problems. Different centres operate differently, but they’ll all work with you to develop a routine that encourages your baby to spend more time sleeping and less time crying.
When you call a centre, someone will speak to you about your needs and let you know what they can offer. This might be:
- referral to a parent education session
- a day-stay program
- a residential program.
If you go into a residential program, you’ll stay in a family unit with beds, a cot and everything you need, including in-house support. There might be a waiting list at some centres.
Most government parenting centres are free, because Medicare covers the cost. You might have to pay extra for things like nappies and meals.
Private centres offer the same service, but Medicare doesn’t cover the full cost. If you have private health insurance, you might be able to get some money back from your fund.
Your child and family health centre can tell you more about local parenting centres.
GP or paediatrician
Some babies and children are very difficult to settle and to get to sleep, no matter what you try. If this sounds like your situation, your baby might also benefit from seeing a paediatrician, particularly one who specialises in sleep and settling in babies and children. You could start by talking to your GP. They can refer you to a paediatrician and also check for any health or developmental concerns.
Early parenting centres around Australia
Australian Capital Territory
Phone Tresillian Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre on 1300 272 736.
New South Wales
- Karitane on (02) 9794 2350 or 1300 227 464 (Karitane Careline)
- Tresillian Family Care Centres on 1300 272 736.
The Northern Territory doesn’t have parenting centres, but the Ellen Barron Family Centre in Queensland offers services to the Northern Territory. You can phone it on (07) 3139 6500.
You can also call Parentline on 1300 301 300 for support and advice on early parenting issues.
Phone the Ellen Barron Family Centre on (07) 3139 6500.
- Torrens House on 1300 733 606 (Child and Family Health Service)
- Women’s and Children’s Health Network on (08) 8161 7000.
Phone Tasmanian Government Department of Health – Parenting Centres on 1300 064 544.
- O’Connell Family Centre on (03) 8416 7600
- QEC on (03) 9549 2777
- Tweddle Child and Family Health Service on (03) 9689 1577.
Phone Ngala Family Resource Centre on (08) 9368 9368 (Perth callers) or 1800 111 546 (regional callers).
Working on baby and toddler sleep problems at home
The child health professionals you talk to at early parenting centres, child and family health centres, and helplines will have plenty of strategies for you to try at home. As you start putting these strategies into practice, it can help to keep the following points in mind:
- Be patient. It takes time to get used to new routines, and your baby might cry more or be more difficult to settle initially. Make a plan with the professional for how long you’ll try something before deciding that it isn’t working and trying something else.
- Be consistent. Do your best to stick to the plan for your baby. Your baby will adapt better to changes in their sleep and settling habits if you’re consistent.
- Keep your baby’s sleep plan handy. Reading your baby’s sleep plan again will remind you of what you need to do. When things aren’t working, you can double-check to see whether you’re following the strategies correctly. It’s OK to contact your professional again if you need help.
- Try to organise back-up when you start new strategies. Find out who you can contact for help or emotional support. For example, most early parenting centres provide a telephone number for follow-up concerns. They have staff who can answer your questions.
- Talk with your partner, if you have one, and make sure you agree on the plan. It’s less stressful for your family, and the plan is more likely to work when you and your partner agree.
It can help to have support from friends or family when you’re trying to change your baby’s sleep and settling habits. Support might be a friend to listen to you or a family member who can be with your baby while you take a break and catch up on rest. Our support networks activity helps you work out where to get support, who can support you and how to expand your support network.