Helping New Mothers and Newborns Sleep: An Innovative Sleep Support Program


Poster Presentation

Purpose for the Program

The goal of the Sleep Support program is to improve newborn/infant and maternal sleep opportunities by using a personalized education approach focused on evidence-based behavioral and environmental sleep hygiene adjustments.

Proposed Change

Families frequently voice frustration with newborn and infant sleep patterns, often holding unrealistic expectations or lack of understanding of expected sleep patterns during the day and night. Typical resources used for seeking sleep pattern information include the pediatric visit, popular books, and the Internet. The Sleep Support consultation offers parents an opportunity to speak by phone with a trained sleep counselor for targeted education. Anticipatory guidance, a supportive sleep plan that is designed in conjunction with family desires, and follow-up are provided.

Implementation, Outcomes, and Evaluation

New parents who were self-selected participated in the Sleep Support option. Once the consult request was initiated, families completed a detailed intake form outlining their infant's current sleep habits, patterns, routines, environmental factors, and any medical, clinical, or feeding issues. The intake form served as an initial screening tool: infants with snoring, sleep apnea, severe reflux, severe eczema, or other clinical factors that affect sleep were referred to the pediatrician for treatment or clearance.

The phone-based 45-minute consultation included the mother/parents and consultant. Other family members or caregivers involved in the infant's care were invited to participate. Information about the sleep environment, newborn/infant sleep and feeding patterns, sleep safety, and maternal sleep hygiene were reviewed. Appropriate suggestions were designed into a sleep plan in accordance with the mother's/parents’ situation and reasonable goals. A 15-minute follow-up call occurred within 1 to 2 weeks.

Continuous evaluation found that 90% of the participants felt the consultation provided increased understanding of infant sleep, sleep safety, environmental and behavioral sleep approaches, and consequently, had improved sleep for infant and mother. Evaluation methods included feedback during follow-up calls, survey scores, requests for additional consultations, referrals of family, and numerous unsolicited e-mails. Parents most often stated that the individualized approach was key to the success of the intervention.

Implications for Nursing Practice

Infant and maternal sleep is highly personalized. When areas for adjustment or improvement are identified and effective education provided, sleep health can be improved. Nurses are able to use their unique skills to assess and educate a family struggling with newborn/infant sleep and suggest individualized environmental and behavioral adjustments to improve overall sleep health.