Tweddle World Mental Health Day

Cots, Cuddles & Confidence

Cots, Cuddles & Confidence

By Kerrie Gottliebsen

Many parents come to Tweddle programs exhausted due to their baby or child’s unsettled behaviour and poor sleeping patterns. They often feel confused due to the conflicting advice they may have received from websites, books, family and friends. Here, Tweddle’s General Manager, Professional Development, Education & Research Ms Beverley Allen talks about Tweddle’s approach to settling and why some people still call Tweddle a sleep school, when we’re Early Parenting educators.

“When families arrive we take time to find out what has been happening. We recognise that every family and child are unique so it is important to develop plans that are suitable for the individual baby or child and that fit into the daily routine of the family. We discuss the child’s daily patterns as we know that what occurs in the day impacts on sleep patterns.”

“It can be challenging for parents to know what an age appropriate routine or rhythm for their baby or child is.  They change so rapidly during the first years of life. We encourage all parents to observe their baby or child closely. We acknowledge that they are the experts in their child temperament.”

“We join the parents in watching their child’s body language, facial expression, sounds and vocalisations. These are a child’s first language and ways of communicating and we call these baby or child cues. It is often easy to recognize strong cues such as smiling, vocalizations and crying.”

“It can be harder to see the milder cues such as a frown or a hand movement. When we look at these cues we observe how the cues are fitting together to try to work out what the baby needs. We call these a cluster of cues. An example of this might be the baby touching their ear, frowning, eyes looking glazed and then yawning. The cluster of cues can be individual for each child and recognizing them enables the parent to respond and settle their child before they get overtired.”

“We spend time with parents showing them baby and child photo cards of different cues. On the back of the cards there is a traffic light system which guides parents in ways to respond to cues. When to interact with their child and when to give them a break or change what they are doing. We discuss the cues their child shows to let them know that they need cuddles and comfort, feeding cues and play cues. Parents often tell us that they have gained confidence by recognizing their child’s hunger, tired and play cues.”

“We share knowledge about sleep and the importance of a bedtime rhythm for daytime naps and night settling. This may be different for each baby or child, however, it will include a change of pace from play to a slow wind down pace.”

“We encourage parents to try and lower the stimulation in the area they are settling. This can take time and we support parents to think about how they can free up time to settle their child. It is important that the baby or child has a safe space to sleep in and we recommend all parents follow the safe sleep set up of the cot or toddler bed. We discuss a bedtime routine that includes a story or singing and a repetitive sleep message. This maybe “shh shh sleep time” or something similar.”

“Settling techniques vary depending on the age of a baby or child.  We recommend using a light wrap for babies up to the age of 3 months as they still have their startle reflex. When wrapping we ensure the baby is in comfortable light clothing. We usually try to leave one hand out so they can suck on their hand to learn to self sooth.”

“We try to put the baby in the cot before they are deeply asleep. We may keep a hand on them and gently pat the top of their leg. This should be a slow rhythmic pat. If a parent is feeling frustrated or upset we don’t recommend patting.”

“Young babies will often settle in their parent’s arms and this is okay. For older babies, we spend time settling in their cots using the sleep message and patting. We recommend picking your baby up for reassurance if they become distressed, helping them to calm with cuddles and then trying to settle them again. We try to stay in the bedroom area so that we can continue to give the sleep message and comfort the baby. We only leave the room if the baby is quiet or not distressed. Some babies play or sing themselves to sleep.”

“For children we slow the pace down to help them transition from play to going to sleep.  We increase the length of the bedtime routine to about 5-10 minutes and give a clear sleep time message.”

“We encourage the parent to sit by the bed for a moment to sooth the child with a head stroke or other soothing form of touch and then leave the room. If the child becomes distressed the parent returns to the room, soothes the child and repeats the message.”

“For some children who become distressed before the parent leaves the room we suggest the parent sit by the cot and gives the sleep message. For some children learning to self sooth takes time. It can take several weeks for some children to learn. We all learn by repetition and feeling safe and secure. Babies and children who sleep well are happier and have more energy to learn new things.”

“The first three years of a baby’s life have an enormous impact on how they will learn and grow throughout their lifetime, with more than one million new neural connections forming every second.”

“Tweddle knows what’s at stake: When babies have nurturing relationships, early learning experiences, and good nutrition, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.”

“But when babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should. This leads to life-long developmental, educational, social, and health challenges.”

While at Tweddle, families are empowered with a toolkit of evidence based resources and parenting and relationship skills they can use for life – provided by a team of highly educated clinicians.

At the foundation of a child’s mental health are strong, supportive relationships.

 

 


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