Does the Possums Sleep Program actually work?

Sleep training, at its core, is about creating a structured regimen that encourages babies to self-soothe and sleep independently. Traditionally, it involved techniques like delaying responses to an infant’s cues or establishing strict feed-play-sleep cycles.

The downside? Such methods can inadvertently stress both baby and parents. Traditional approaches often ignored the fact that infants naturally have varying sleep patterns, leading to misinterpretations of baby cues and undue stress for new parents.

Watch: The four simple steps on how we can properly sleep again. Post continues after video.

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Introduction to the Possums Sleep Program

Enter the Possums Sleep Program – a groundbreaking approach that sees night-waking in infants as completely normal. Unlike traditional methods which are behaviour-centric, Possums pivots around two biological sleep regulators: the circadian clock and the sleep/wake homeostat. It prioritises rich sensory input and flexible sleeping schedules, shunning outdated ideas of overstimulation. Instead of trying to 'fix' baby sleep patterns, it aligns with them, leading to happier babies and more rested parents.


The role of the circadian clock in sleep training

The circadian clock plays a pivotal role in regulating our daily routines, including sleep. Infants, too, have this internal clock, but it’s still developing.

Disruptions to the circadian rhythm, such as irregular daytime naps, can lead to frequent night wakings. Possums Sleep Program emphasises setting consistent wake-up times, immersing the baby in daylight and engaging activities, thereby helping to set their internal clock right. By understanding and respecting the circadian rhythm, parents can work alongside nature, rather than against it.

Sensory stimulation, overstimulation, and their effects on baby's sleep

Contrary to popular belief, babies need a rich dose of sensory stimulation. It's not about avoiding overstimulation, but about providing the right kind of stimuli.

A walk outdoors or a change in environment can be more beneficial than pushing a grizzly baby into a forced nap. The Possums approach promotes understanding infant cues, ensuring they get adequate sensory input without overwhelming them. It's about striking that perfect balance for optimal sleep.

Decoding sleep pressure and its connection to sleep training

Sleep pressure is the increasing urge to sleep as one stays awake. In babies, understanding sleep pressure is crucial. Instead of rigid bedtimes, the Possums Sleep Program suggests waiting till the sleep pressure is palpably high, letting babies sleep when they're naturally inclined. This way, night sleep aligns better with family patterns, and instances of excessive night waking reduce.

How exactly to do the Possum Sleep Method

The Possum Sleep Method is a gentle, responsive parenting approach to help babies sleep better. It's based on the idea of responding to a baby's needs and cues, rather than letting them "cry it out." This method is particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand. Here are the steps involved in the Possum Sleep Method:


1. Understanding baby's sleep cycles.

Be aware of the baby's sleep cycles. Babies have different sleep cycles than adults; understanding these can help parents respond appropriately. Avoid overstimulating the baby before bedtime, and create a calm and quiet environment.

2. Respond to Baby's cues.

Pay attention to the baby’s cues. If they are showing signs of tiredness, help them to sleep. Don’t force the baby to sleep at scheduled times; instead, follow the baby’s natural sleep patterns.

3. Create a sleep-inducing environment.

Make the room dark by using blackout curtains, if necessary. Ensure the environment is quiet and peaceful and maintain an appropriate room temperature.

4. Feeding.

Feed the baby responsively, not by the clock and respond to their hunger cues. Don’t force the baby to feed if they are not hungry.

5. Physical Contact.

Hold the baby in your arms, use a sling, or have skin-to-skin contact to help them feel secure. Avoid using sleep trainers or props and focus on natural ways to induce sleep.

6. Avoid overlooking Baby's needs.

Ensure the baby is not unwell - check if they are teething or have any other discomfort. Be responsive and comforting to address the baby’s emotional needs.

7. Parent's well-being.

Parents should also focus on their well-being. You can take turns with your partner to respond to the baby at night. And seek support from family and friends or consider hiring a professional if needed.


8. Patience.

Understand that every baby is different - be patient and give the method some time to show results. And be ready to adjust your approach as per the baby’s changing needs and developmental stages.

9. Consult a professional.

If you are unsure or facing difficulties, consider seeking help from a professional who is experienced in the Possum Sleep Method.

Remember, the Possums Sleep Method is about being responsive and attentive to the baby’s needs, promoting a secure attachment, and fostering a positive sleep association. It avoids the "cry it out" approach and instead focuses on understanding and responding to the baby's cues and needs.

Real-Life Success with the Possums Sleep Program

Jillian Nogueira's story exemplifies the success and appeal of the Possums Sleep Program. Disenchanted with conventional sleep training methods that felt out of sync with her mothering instincts, Jillian turned to Possums. The framework, rooted in evidence-based practices, felt right. She shared, "It's about understanding there's no fixed bedtime. As a family, we now sleep in sync, and it feels natural."

By embracing this innovative program, countless families like Jillian's are discovering a more harmonious, intuitive path to nurturing their babies' sleep patterns. With Possums, sleep isn't just a routine—it's a journey of understanding and connection.

Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.

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