Waiting lists for mums like Ash-Lee Wenman and Levi can be up to four months.
PREGNANT women worried motherhood will be a waking nightmare are booking into sleep schools before their babies are even born.
Waiting lists at some Melbourne sleep schools are now stretching to four months.
“Pregnant women are buying a cot, a bassinet, a car seat, a pram, a breast pump — and booking in for sleep school,” author, midwife and maternal and child health nurse Cath Curtin said.
“Mothers are so fixated about the birth … and then they go home and it’s like ‘Now what do I do?’
“My concern is that we have lost touch in teaching parents how to parent. It starts in hospital, where mums only stay for four days which is not long enough to be really taught what to do,” she said.
Ms Curtin said babies commonly don’t settle because their bellies aren’t full.
“You can’t overfeed babies, because Mother Nature is too sensible,” Ms Curtin said.
“But there has to be a balance between food intake and energy expended, to help the baby sleep.”
Ash-Lee Wenman and Levi have been attending sleep school.
A range of public and private early parenting centres include sleep education, often known as sleep schools.
Victoria has three public early parenting centres: Mercy Health O’Connell Family Centre, the Queen Elizabeth Centre, and Tweedle Child and Family Services.
A former midwife, Leanne Clothier, said waiting lists were often three to four months.
The manager of Masada Private Hospital’s mother-baby unit, Patsy Thean, said her present waiting list was eight weeks.
Ms Thean said women try to book in before their baby is born, but she discourages it.
“Not every baby will have a problem, so you have to wait for a couple of months first,” Ms Thean said.
“It’s quite distressing if a new parent doesn’t know it’s normal for a baby to cry a total of three hours in a 24-hour time period. There are a lot of education classes out there for parents to prepare for the birth, but not much talk about what to do when the baby comes,” she said.
Babies commonly don’t settle because their stomachs aren’t full.
Frankston mother Ash-Lee Wenman, 18, was at her wits’ end when she booked herself and five-month-old son Levi into the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Noble Park.
Levi was waking up on the hour every night and would only nap briefly during the day. He also refused to sleep in any other position than on his belly, when experts advise that babies sleep on their backs.
On the first night at the sleep school, he was sleeping on his back and slept for longer. Now, he is sleeping for several hours before waking.
“I felt like a bad mother,” Ms Wenman said.
“Now I’ve realised that I didn’t have him in enough of a routine.”
A senior counsellor at Perinatal, Anxiety and Depression Australia, Suzanne Hurley, said there are many reasons for the popularity of sleep schools.
“Many new parents don’t have the skills,” she said. “Many of the mothers who call us haven’t even held a baby before having one.
“Also, if you’re having a baby later … and used to being able to manage everything in your life, it’s hard to accept babies don’t run to schedule.
“(Those mums’) whole identity comes crashing down with an unsettled baby.”