A novelty study supports the idea that letting a baby cry himself to sleep is an effective method that does not cause long-term emotional damage to the child.
Australian researchers took 43 couples of parents with babies aged six to sixteen months who had problems sleeping. They split the set of parents in 3 groups: a control group, a “cry it out” group, and a “bedtime fading” group.
The researchers taught the parents in the “cry it out” group a scientific method of letting a baby cry himself to sleep called graduated extinction. Parents were told to leave the room one minute after putting the baby to sleep and wait progressively longer periods of time before coming to comfort them.
In the “bedtime fading” group, parents put the baby to sleep closer to the time they usually fell asleep and were allowed to stay in the room until the baby was completely asleep.
The control group was not taught how to gradually leave the baby cry himself to sleep or any other method.
Three months into the experiment, compared with the control group, the “bedtime fading” group showed a 12 minutes faster rate of falling asleep and the babies from the “cry it out” went 15 minutes faster to sleep.
These are significant findings, say the Flinders University in Adelaide, AU researchers, but what they “do not capture is the peace of mind surrounding bedtime” that specialists see when they conduct this type of experiments.
The “cry it out” group was not only “good at” falling asleep faster, but it also scored better than the rest at other measures like the number of awakening times during the night and the total time the babies slept.
The most important aspect of the research remains the fact that the children seemed to benefit from both the techniques taught in the experiment. The levels of cortisol during the training interventions were lower compared to the control group. One year later the child showed no signs of behavioral problems, nor did the parents report any.
Specialists advise sleep training for babies who are having problems sleeping before six months of age and putting the kids to sleep when they are drowsy.
Read more about the benefits of letting your baby cry himself to sleep in the journal Pediatrics.
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