A new dad's use of sensory modulation: “One approach to settle an unsettled baby at night”

By David Edwards

  Having been a new parent, I know how hard it is to settle a baby at night who does not settle after feeding and is noticeably distressed.

As a new dad, I found this scenario to be extremely difficult to handle, especially when you are battling to stay awake due to sleep deprivation.

I would often give up attempting to settle our baby and put the experience into the “too hard” category, often relying on my partner to do the settling.

It took me some time to learn some valuable lessons about the benefits of persisting with feeling uncomfortable and embracing the experience of attempting to settle our baby during crying and screaming episodes.

I want to share what worked for me.

It was hard to take our baby for a walk outside at night for many obvious reasons.

During crying and screaming sessions I found it difficult to manage agitation levels, especially when dealing with interrupted sleep.

What I began doing was putting in headphones with the intention to block out some of the crying, but also to change how I was feeling by listening to calming and/or inspiring music.

Focusing on the sound of the music allowed me to focus on something else other than our baby crying.

I found this helped calm my body and mind and allowed me to focus on the task of settling our baby.

I strongly believe my body became more relaxed and our baby sensed this.

I found that an hour of settling eventually turned into 30 minutes of settling and I would often lose track of time, in a good way. I became less fixated on how long it was taking to settle our baby which helped me better manage my feelings.

I began to grow in confidence in my ability to settle our baby and began to embrace the opportunity to bond with them during a time that was clearly distressing for them and us.

I cannot begin to describe how incredibly valuable this type of bonding with our baby had on my adjustment to fatherhood in the early days. I was truly present in the moment and helped reinforce how important my role as a daddy was.

This approach helped me build patience and endurance in tackling the uncertain and tough parts of new parenthood.

Sometimes mum is the only answer for an unsettled baby, but on many occasions they are not. It took a while to learn that lesson. Saying no to the temptation to hand baby over to mum is really hard but is deeply rewarding.

Listening to music helped me reflect on my feelings and influence them, rather than just reacting to them.

This approach will not work for everyone. One parent will have a particular sensory preference that will be different to another. Whatever works for you, whether that be listening to music or rocking in a chair or hammock, I hope my story provides encouragement to those new parents out there to explore the benefits of sensory modulation.

About the Guest Author:

David Edwards is a Community Champion with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) and is passionate about advocating for new dad’s health during the adjustment to fatherhood during the perinatal period.

PANDA awareness week in 2018 is between 11 November 2018 to 17 November 2018.

National support service Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) would like expecting and new parents and the people who care about them to know that help and support is out there.

If you or anyone you know if struggling with perinatal anxiety or depression, postnatal psychosis or the transition to parenthood, call PANDA’s free National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline (1300 726 306). The service offers counselling, information and referral services with ongoing telephone support for families throughout Australia. The helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7.30pm AEST.

Visit www.panda.org.au for more information and useful resources.