Parents feeling conflicted about how to get their babies to sleep may find some peace of mind in a new Australian study. Researchers found that letting tots cry it out won't harm them emotionally or damage their relationship with their parents.
In a study published online in Pediatrics on Monday, scientists followed up previous work that found babies and their parents benefited when children were taught to calm themselves through various behavioral techniques.
In the follow-up study, the scientists tracked 225 babies to see if sleep training had any long-lasting effects, damaging or otherwise. In the original study, the researchers found that two popular techniques -- "controlled comforting" and "camping out" -- worked well in helping babies who struggled with sleep while also reducing depression in moms.
Controlled comforting is a technique that involves parents periodically responding to their baby's cries, while camping out is when parents sit with their child as he or she learns to fall asleep, while slowly inching toward the door as baby drifts off.
According to the researchers, the findings didn't yield any differences when it came to the children's emotions, behavior, or stress when they were six years old. Plus researchers didn't notice a difference in the parent-child relationship in terms of depression, anxiety, or stress among children who were sleep-trained and those who weren't.
"It doesn't say that just because your child doesn't sleep as well as somebody else's then you need to do these things," Simon Newell, vice president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told WebMD UK. "It says, if you have a problem, and you react by bringing in one of these sleep programmes and it works, then jolly good -- you're not doing any harm in the long term."