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Infant Sleep Study

  • This trial aimed to find out whether a short Maternal and Child Health program could improve babies' sleep and mothers' wellbeing. The project began in 2003 when infants were 4 months old. Parents filled out the last questionnaire when children turned 2 in 2005. The children were re-enrolled into the Kids Sleep Study in 2009 when they were 6 years old.

    695 babies and their mothers from six Melbourne local government areas took part. At 7 months of age, 328 mothers (47%) said their baby had a sleep problem.   Of these mothers, two-thirds reported clinical levels of depression symptoms. Mothers who reported an infant sleep problem were randomly allocated to 2 groups.   The "intervention" group was offered a brief program with their Maternal and Child Health nurse where they learned ways to manage their infants' sleep.   Intervention nurses were trained to deliver the program. Other families were allocated to the "usual care" group. They didn't have extra visits with their nurse but could attend their routine checkups as usual.

    The program was successful in reducing children's sleep problems up to 1 year of age and maternal depression up to 2 years. Based on the findings, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has since trained of all Victorian Maternal and Child Health Nurses in the program. The study findings have also been used in the 'Baby Sleep' pages of the Raising Children Website ( which provides information for parents about children from 0-8 years.

    The Infant Sleep Study follows a highly successful efficacy study (publications included below). In 2010, the Infant Sleep Study won a Victorian Government Early Years Award.

    Methodology:    Randomised controlled trial 
    Date:    Start: 2003
        Finish: 2006
    Funding:    State Government Department
        National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
        The Pratt Foundation

        Assoc Prof Harriet Hiscock

        Dr Jordana Bayer

        Prof Melissa Wake


    Hiscock H, Bayer J, Hampton A, Ukoumunne O, Wake M. Long-term mother and child mental health effects of a population-based infant sleep intervention: Cluster randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 2008;122:e621-e627

    Hiscock H, Bayer J, Hampton A, Ukoumunne O, Wake M. Improving infant sleep and maternal mental health: cluster randomised trial.Archives of Disease in Childhood 2007;92:952-958

    Bayer J, Hiscock H, Hampton A, Wake M. Sleep problems in young infants and maternal mental and physical health. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2007;43:66-73

    The Infant Sleep Study was preceded by a smaller efficacy trial, reported in the following publications

    Lam P, Hiscock H, Wake M. Outcome of infant sleep problems: a longitudinal study of sleep, behavior and maternal well-being. Pediatrics2003;111:e203-e207

    Hiscock H, Wake M. Randomised controlled trial of a behavioural infant sleep intervention to improve infant sleep and maternal mood. BMJ2002;324:1062-1067

    Hiscock H, Wake M. Infant Sleep Problems and Postnatal Depression: A Community Based Study. Pediatrics 2001;107:1317-1322


    Sleep through the ages. The Australasian Sleep Association Annual Meeting, 2009, Melbourne, Australia.

    Behavioural sleep disorders. Expert Session at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Annual Scientific Meeting, 2009, Sydney, Australia.

    Long-term outcomes of an infant sleep intervention. Tweddle Parenting Centre, Annual Meeting, 2008, Melbourne, Australia.

    Long-term sleep, behavior, and maternal mental health impacts of a population-based infant sleep intervention: Cluster randomised trial. Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, 2007, Toronto, Canada.

    Effect of a brief community-delivered intervention on infant sleep problems and maternal health: a cluster randomised trial. Rue Wright Memorial Award finalist. Royal Australian College of Physicians Congress, 2006, Cairns, Australia.

    Brief parenting intervention reduces infant sleep problems and improves maternal mental health: a cluster controlled trial. NIFTeY Conference, Prevention: invest now or pay later, 2006, Sydney, Australia.

    Infant sleep and maternal wellbeing - effects and cost-effectiveness of a brief, nurse-led intervention. Department of Human Services - Annual Maternal and Child Health Nurse Conference, 2006.

    The impact of an infant sleep intervention on early mental health. Early Childhood Evidence into Practice Conference: Queen Elizabeth Centre, 2006.


Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.