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Parental fatigue is not taken seriously, and there are significant consequences

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The risks of fatigue caused by shift work are well recognised, but the same cannot be said for mothers.

Experts say parental fatigue isn’t being taken seriously and it can have serious implications for parents and their children.

Jane Fisher, Finkel Professor of Global Health at Monash University, said there are serious risks associated with sleep deprivation among new parents.

“Their concentration and their capacity to react quickly to danger signals was significantly impaired,” she told 3AW’s Kate and Quarters.

“This pertains particularly to driving… but also dealing with things in the kitchen, and also in care of the baby,” she said.

Ms Finkel called for more educational emphasis on sleep for new parents, which she said can be “transformative for the baby and the parents”.

“We have a huge emphasis at the moment on feeding, so parents are given enormous education about breasts, milk and attachment and lactation,” she said.

“But this other fundamental aspect of infant care, which is soothing, settling, establishing sustainable routines of daily care and helping a baby into an appropriate routine, is not talked about very much at all.”

Parental sleep deprivation can also have a significant impact on the mental health of parents.

“Severe fatigue can mimic depression, and in my opinion we need to attend to the fatigue first and then reassess whether low mood persists or it begins to recover,” Ms Fisher said.

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