Five months ago I gave birth to the girl I now consider to be my entire universe.
Shortly after I came home from the hospital, I went to my local health clinic and joined the parents’ group.
At each meeting, we had a round robin where we all shared any challenges, wins or advice. Each mum or dad would usually end his or her piece with “is that normal?”. The parents’ group is a great council for reassurance from other new parents.
It was soon established that the sleeping patterns and habits formed by my little cherub were not ‘normal’. Apparently, taking two hours to settle a screaming baby who will only sleep on the boob, is actually considered problematic.
The nurse suggested sleep school and told us about a local facility – it was called the Ellen Barron Family Clinic. I had never heard of such a place. For those just as clueless as I was, it is a government-funded facility to assist parents with babies and toddlers who have difficulties feeding and sleeping.
So I filled out the appropriate paper work and my referral was submitted. It didn’t take long to hear from the staff. Everything was in order and we were given a date of admission and some information on what to expect.
We packed our bags (a task far more laborious with a three-month-old baby in tow) and set off to the family centre.
Truth be told, I was expecting below-par living quarters in an overcrowded space with mean nurses and midwives implying that I’m a bad mother.
I was way off the mark. The admin staff that greeted us were lovely and welcoming, alleviating my initial apprehension. A midwife came to collect us and show us to our room. We had a very comfortable room with adjoining nursery and en suite.
With nurses on hand at all times, there was always support whenever I needed it. A midwife asked me a series of questions on arrival to ascertain what my challenges were and put a plan in place for the duration of my stay.
What followed after these questions was a conversation that went a little bit like this:
Nurse: You are aware of the tired signs that baby’s present?
Me: Yes of course (I had absolutely no idea)
Nurse: Usually when you see baby kicking and making fists, that’s a clear tired sign.
Me: uh huh, yep, yes. (When my baby was kicking and making fists, I thought she was getting excited and wanted to play)
Nurse: And you know that babies her age need to sleep every hour to an hour and a half?
Me: Yes, yes, I am aware.
At that stage I had to maintain all control to not look completely floored and dumbfounded. I had no idea that baby girl was supposed to sleep so often and I was horrified at the fact that I didn’t know.
One thing new mothers do very well is guilt and castigation. We are so quick to blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong and we are exceptionally hard on ourselves.
So before we even had the opportunity to unpack, I had already made a huge breakthrough. What followed was five days of tips and tricks on how to settle my baby using a number of different techniques.
While I had been given handouts and watched DVDs at the clinic, it is an all-together different experience when you have trained professionals around the clock helping you and watching you with your baby. The amazing midwives offered, not only support, but encouragement that led to the most powerful attribute a new mum can have, confidence.
They gave me the confidence I so desperately needed to be able to look after my little girl.
One of the nurses made a very good point. It is becoming more commonplace that we are moving away from our home cities, our families and our support systems. I made the move to Brisbane leaving all my loved ones in Sydney. That can make things more challenging when you’re trying to figure out how to be the best mum you can be.
We are very fortunate to live in a country with amazing health services. While it can be daunting and you may feel alone (sleep deprivation plays a big role in the exacerbation of emotions) there is always help.
You can find a baby sleep clinic near you in the Bub Hub directory.
Image credit: dml5050/123RF Stock Photo