A new study has revealed that letting babies cry themselves to sleep is not damaging. Instead, it will help them sleep sooner.
New parents have always wondered whether it is a good idea to comfort crying babies immediately or instead, to allow them to cry it out and fall asleep. Now, a study published in Pediatrics says the second option may not be as bad as it first appears.
For their study, Australian researchers involved 43 sets of parents whose babies, aged 6 to 16 months, had problems sleeping. Participants were divided into three groups. The first group of parents, about one-third of the total, was told to follow the method known as “graduated extinction,” the scientific term for allowing your child to cry before eventually falling asleep. The parents were instructed to put their child to bed and leave the room within one minute. If the child cried, they were asked to wait for increasingly longer periods before going back in to comfort them.
The second group of parents was taught a new technique called bedtime fading. They were asked to put their child to bed at a time closer to his or her bedtime. They were allowed to stay in the room until the child fell asleep.
The rest of the parents formed the control group. They were not taught any sleep training but were instead offered information about infant sleep.
Three months later, measurements showed that children in the first group, who had been allowed to cry themselves to sleep, were falling asleep 15 minutes faster than those in the control group. By comparison, babies whose parents were included in the second group fell asleep around 12 minutes faster. Overall, the babies of parents included in the first group scored better also when it came to the number of times they awoke during the night and the overall sleep duration.
Psychologists believe that when babies fall asleep sooner, this benefits family life in more ways than one. According to Marsha Weinraub, a professor of psychology at Philadelphia’s Temple University, every minute spent trying to make babies fall asleep that is saved brings a significant contribution.
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