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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Ball, Helen L., Douglas, Pamela S., Kulasinghe, Kavindri, Whittingham, Koa & Hill, Peter (2018). The Possums Infant Sleep Program: parents' perspectives on a novel parent-infant sleep intervention in Australia. Sleep Health 4(6): 519-526.

Author(s) from Durham


To evaluate parental perspectives on the acceptability and usefulness of a ‘cued-care’ approach to infant sleep implemented in an Australian primary care setting. The Possums Infant Sleep Program aims to empower parents to better understand their infant's sleep and their responses to it, and optimize healthy function of the infant's biological sleep regulators to protect against excessive night-waking.

The evaluation was undertaken by an independent infant sleep researcher, with no previous involvement in the Possums program. Parents' experiences of the sleep intervention were captured using a mixed methods approach involving (a) group discussions of sleep issues between parents and clinic staff, (b) discussions with parents who volunteered to provide face-to-face feedback, and (c) an online survey designed in light of the information gained from a and b. A one-year audit of clinic registrations provided contextual data.

Sixty-four clinic clients fully (45) or partially (19) provided answers to survey questions. Respondents were primarily mothers, mean age 34, with a postgraduate qualification and high family income. Their term infants were predominantly breastfed and attended the clinic for feeding and/or sleeping difficulties across the first year of life. Almost all embraced the Possums approach, describing it as challenging and life changing. Audit data confirmed the survey sample reflected the general clinic population.

The Possums Infant Sleep Program was acceptable to parents, and highly valued. Recipients reported reduced stress, less concern about perceived sleep problems (frequent night-waking, short-day-time naps, delayed sleep onset), and better quality of life.