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Parenting Support Services for Baby Sleep, Settling & Post-Natal Depression – Illawarra & Wollongong

Whilst parenthood is an incredible journey, the self-doubt and sleep disturbances can be tough. Particularly if your baby seems relentlessly unsettled. Sleep deprivation and burnout can significantly reduce health and wellbeing. If left unaddressed, Mums (and Dads too!) may be at higher risk of post-natal depression (PND). PND is most likely to present within the first year of a baby’s birth (the perinatal period). Fortunately, there are numerous parenting support services throughout Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Illawarra.

These parenting support services can restore confidence in fine-tuning baby sleep and settling routines, and subsequently keeping mental, emotional and physical health in check. Here at Parents Guide Illawarra, we want you to know you don’t have to walk this weary path through parenting alone.

What is Post-Natal Depression?

According to Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA), approximately one in five women experience anxiety or depression during the perinatal period. Furthermore, it may impact up to one in 10 men – an important yet often neglected consideration. Symptoms can present to varying degrees, and suddenly slap you like a tonne of bricks or trickle in gradually.

Whilst experiences are unique, symptoms commonly include; negative changes to mood, behaviour and relationships, disturbing thoughts impacting ability to function, and general anxiety. Here are local services where you can access post natal support in Wollongong and Shellharbour:

Illawarra Early Parenting Centre

Illawarra Early Parenting Centre located at Figtree Private Hospital delivers residential and non-residential support for parents and their infants aged 28 days to two years. Improving sleep and settling and subsequently wellbeing and parent-baby bond are primary goals. Their services include in-home visits, day programs, group education and residential intensives. The facility boats newly renovated rooms and play areas.

Their group education is an opportunity to not only build confidence around your innate skills to care for your baby, but to do so within a social setting alongside others who may have similar experiences and feelings. This might very well lead to lifelong friendships and bridge the gaps of social disconnection we may feel during this transitional stage.

Useful add-ons are the 30-minute self-care group sessions, which provide space for parents to mindfully reconnect through yoga and stretching. Bookings for programs require a referral for your baby from a medical professional.

The residential program is an intensive five-night crash course on parenting – not to mention an opportunity to shut off external distractions and enjoy the break from domestic duties! In this setting, progress can be consistently monitored, and practical support offered by caring experts.

Bookings require completion of the Early Parent Centre Medical Referral by a medical professional and pre-admission assessment paperwork by the individual. Just bear in mind that being a private hospital, there are associated costs which are determined by your level of private health care cover. Read more info here.

FSA Health and Wellbeing

An initiative of Family Services Australia (FSA), FSA Health and Wellbeing is located in Shellharbour and offers psychological therapy to promote healthy individuals and families. FSA Acting Clinical Lead, Mathew Aquilina, identifies the strong link sleep disturbances has with reduced wellbeing. He states there can be numerous reasons for restless babies – some potentially difficult to detect.

“The transition to parenthood is often a challenging adjustment. One area that people are often woefully underprepared for is the variability in infant temperament, sleep needs, and the existence of underlying health concerns that can impact infant sleep, such as food allergies,” he says.

“Sleep deprivation in the perinatal period is a challenge that is frequently recognised as a significant stressor for parents, and can impact on their mental health, amount of relationship strain between parents, and bonding between parent and infant.”

“Support at this important time can create more opportunity for any parent to be better able to respond to their baby’s needs, understand their cues, and prevent the incidence of mental health issues for parents, and in doing so build a stronger attached that will be the building blocks for their child’s development across a range of important domains.”

FSA deliver support services that draw from an attachment-based approach from a clinical team fronted by a perinatal psychologist. Self-referrals can be made online. Although, referral from a medical professional may be required to access a Medicare rebate.

Karitane Shellharbour

In conjunction with Gidget Foundation, Karitane Shellharbour opened its doors in the Stocklands shopping complex Community Room in May 2021. This service is a non-residential parenting centre providing evidence-based guidance for newborns to five-year-olds from Karitane’s early childhood nurses. And, of course, weary Mums can access compassionate support to address both trials and tribulations of parenting for their own wellbeing too thanks to Gidget Foundation counsellors. Karitane also run a range of helpful pre-recorded and live parenting webinars, including numerous sessions on the joys (or current lack thereof!) of sleep and settling.

Karitane has been in operation since 1923, and hence is highly reputable and well-equipped with top-notch resources and staff. As a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation, they offer free of charge services which parents can self-refer to via their website. All that is required is that Mum and baby are both listed on a Medicare card. If you require additional support, staff can also chat to you about residential services at Campbelltown Hospital as well as virtual and community programs.

Additionally, Karitane offer a fabulous in-home support program run by trained volunteers, Volunteer Family Connect (VFC). This free service sends an angel into your home to offer help and hope during potential turbulence of parenthood. Support from these compassionate volunteers can help strengthen skills and confidence in parenting, alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve relationships. For further information on the VFC program at Karitane Shellharbour, contact Jamie Maynard on 0476 411 560 or [email protected].

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (LHD) Child and Family Health

Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD Child and Family Health can direct you to free support groups and services near your local area. They operate 26 child and family health centres, each run by registered nurses. The team can help you work through a number of parenting challenges you may face, including sleep and settling, and associated blues. Simply call your nearest Child and Family Health Centre .

Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD Child and Family Health can also connect you with other parents and carers of infants aged 0-6 months, providing parent networking groups facilitated by child and family nurses across the Illawarra Shoalhaven region. Additionally, they regularly offer free online parenting courses, including a workshop about sleep for babies up to the age of six months.

Alongside nurses, you can access counsellors at Family Care Centres, located in Woonona, Berkeley and Nowra. They can help you understand your baby’s sleep pattern (a game-changer in getting your own sleep pattern back on track!) and address anxiety and depression. This free service does require a referral from a medical professional, which could be your child and family health nurse. If you are concerned about your wellbeing, you can also contact the Access Referral Centre on 1300 792 755.

Binji and Boori – Aboriginal Maternal Infant Child Health (AMICH)

The team at Binji and Boori – Aboriginal Maternal Infant Child Health (AMICH) are part of the Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD, and operate from Port Kembla Hospital (Illawarra) and in a premises at Nowra (Shoalhaven). Their team of health workers, child and family health nurses, midwives, social workers, occupational therapist and speech pathologist offer free holistic, culturally safe support to people who identify as Aboriginal and their families who are expecting a baby and have children up to the age of five years.

Binji and Boori offer general post-natal health checks, including a specific focus on mental health and wellbeing. Their services include visits in the home or clinic and outreach from Aboriginal services, reaching as far south as Milton, Ulladulla, Jerrinja, Wreck Bay and Jervis Bay.

Both facilities are open Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm. Binji and Boori – Illawarra can be contacted on 02 4223 8660, and Shoalhaven on 02 4252 9790. Alternatively, email the team at [email protected].

Tresillian

Although a little further afield, Tresillian is a fabulous resource, offering appointment-based day services and five-day residential support programs. These programs offer guidance to parents and their child up to the age of three years on varied issues, including sleep and responsive settling, and health and wellbeing. Additionally, numerous free short courses on parenting are offered frequently, including sleep specific workshops.

Whilst Tresillian have 26 centres throughout New South Wales (NSW), Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, the closest locations to the Illawarra are Canterbury, Nepean and Wollstonecraft. You don’t have to live within a certain radius to be accepted into their holistic support services. The staff welcome families from far and wide – all you have to do is reach out.

As Tresillian is funded by NSW Health, cost associated with the day services are covered by Medicare. Residential stays are covered by Medicare or private health fund. If both parents stay, one is considered a boarder and will attract a small daily fee of approximately $56. Self-referrals can be made online by completing the ‘Book a Visit’ form. Parents can also be referred by their medical practitioner or child and family health nurse.

If, however, it feels tricky trying to be anywhere in person at present, Tresillian also offers help over the phone and online. They have adapted their residential program to conveniently enable its delivery in individual’s homes through their Virtual Residential Parenting Service. Additionally, their experienced staff can be contacted via 1300 272 736.

Virtual parenting advice and support at your fingertips

Alongside face-to-face support systems, there are loads of free online resources and apps that can help Mums and Dads navigate parental pressures, including:

  • Parent Line: telephone counselling for NSW-based parents, including sleep disturbances.
  • Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Services (Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD): this service, based in Wollongong, can provide women in the perinatal period with a mental health assessment, education on psychological wellbeing, short-term case management and referral for ongoing support. Reach out via toll free 1800 011 511 or 02 4254 1600.
  • Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA): this team of experts understand the difficulties adjusting to parenthood, particularly if your baby is unsettled and sleepless, and offers a safe space to have a confidential chat via 1300 726 306.
  • Pregnancy, Birth & Baby: free call on 1800 882 436 or video call for tonnes of parenting tips.
  • Ready to COPE: a free app developed by Centre of Perinatal Excellence to support parents through pregnancy, birth and first year of parenthood. Weekly updates cover a range of topics, including coping with the blues and burnout.
  • Red Nose: offers an advice line on 1300 998 698 should you have questions regarding recommendations for safe sleep and settling.
  • SMS4dads: this appkeeps Dads informed about all things regarding pregnancy and parenthood. It also checks in on wellbeing and can connect Dads with professional support.
  • SMS4DeadlyDads: free app for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dads, which sends text messages containing parenting tips, including how to get through tough times.

Parenthood, in all its glory, can be a tricky life transition that takes a toll on mind and body – particularly when powering through sleepless nights. Being aware of potential triggers and red flags relating to post-natal depression is crucial. Don’t sit at home in desperation trying to push through on your own, dreading the moment the sun goes down and another sleepless night awaits. There are so many empowering support systems surrounding you, who can restore your confidence in that you are the expert when it comes to keeping you and your baby healthy, happy – and well rested!

Finally, make the most of family life in our stunning Illawarra – Subscribe to the ultimate guide to family living weekly email by Parents Guide. Say NO to bored kids and get inspired! Click and sign up for our Parents Newsletter here. Get all the local inspo!

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