1. Babies
  2. Sleep
  3. Solving sleep problems

Sleep and settling help for babies and toddlers

6-42 months

If you’ve got baby sleep problems, you’re not alone. Lots of parents need help from professionals to sort out sleep and settling issues. Your child’s sleep problems will be much easier to manage with the support of a trusted child health professional.

Baby sleep and toddler sleep: who can help you

Caring for your baby can be hard work when baby’s not settling or sleeping well – and you’re not getting enough sleep either.

To get help with baby sleep problems, you can talk to:

Max was waking up five times a night and having 20-minute naps a couple of times in the day. He was tired and grumpy and so were we. Our child and family health nurse suggested calling an early parenting centre for help.
– Ingrid and Jonathan, parents of a six-month-old

How professionals can help with baby sleep and toddler sleep

First, the professional will talk with you to understand both the problem and your family’s needs. The professional will ask you about your baby, the history of the baby sleep problem, and what you’ve tried so far.

A good professional always finds out what you want for your child and your family – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to baby sleep problems.

The professional will then work with you to develop and put in place a baby sleep plan. A good plan covers:

A good sleep plan also covers what to do if the strategies in your baby sleep plan aren’t working.

The settling strategies in your baby’s sleep plan might seem to upset your baby for the first few nights. This will pass as she gets used to the changes. Before too long, you’ll have a more rested, contented baby. You’ll feel better too. If you’re concerned, contact the professional who gave you the sleep plan.

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 managing sleep and other problems. Check our local services or use My Neighbourhood to find your nearest centre.

Parent helplines
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 problems 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 more general help with caring for your baby or toddler, and they can often support 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 make sure your baby spends 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:

  • advice 
  • 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 nappy wash services 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 will be able to tell you more about local parenting centres.

We checked in to the five-day residential stay program. The staff said that Max was probably overtired and needed to learn to settle himself to sleep. They helped us develop a plan that we could use at home.
– Ingrid and Jonathan, parents of a six-month-old

Early parenting centres around Australia

Australian Capital Territory
Phone Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre on (02) 6207 9977 (Community Health Intake).

New South Wales
Phone:

Northern Territory
The Northern Territory doesn’t have parenting centres, but you can call Parentline on 1300 301 300 for support and advice on early parenting issues.

Queensland
Phone Ellen Barron Family Centre on (07) 3139 6500.

South Australia
Phone:

Tasmania
Phone:

Victoria
Phone:

Western Australia
Phone Ngala Family Resource Centre on (08) 9368 9368 (Perth callers) or 1800 111 546 (regional callers).

The early parenting centre held group sessions for parents. It was good to share our experience trying to settle Max and to hear other parents talk about settling their babies.
– Ingrid and Jonathan, parents of a six-month-old

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. Resist the temptation to give up or change things too early. Agree with the professional on how long you’ll try something before deciding that it isn’t working and trying something else. Do your best to stick to what you and the professional decided will work best for your baby, even if it seems hard.
  • Don’t be surprised if your baby goes back to old habits for a short time. If you’re consistent with the new approaches you’ve learned, you’ll soon have your baby in a steady, settled routine.
  • Keep any suggested strategies in writing. Reading them 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.
  • Try to organise back-up for when you get home. Find out who you can contact for help or emotional support. Most early parenting centres, for example, 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. If you don’t agree, this can put more stress on your family. It also means that the plan is less likely to work. 
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to take leave from work to go to the residential program with Ingrid and Max. But when I talked to my manager she was really supportive.
– Jonathan, father of a six-month-old

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Last updated or reviewed
22-09-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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