Is it OK to let Babies Cry?
And when should you be worried about their sleep patterns? Expert reveals all...
It’s a subject that plagues many a new parent but new research has found letting babies cry themselves to sleep may not cause the attachment issues many worry about. Parents of babies with sleeping problems can now rest a little easier, with doctors proving controlled crying can actually improve sleeping patterns of new families.
Letting babies cry out could actually provide bedtime-resistant infants with a better rest, according to a leading sleep expert.
Associate Professor Michael Gradisar, from Flinders University, found that various controlled crying methods have no detrimental effects on either the baby or parent.
He said: “It’s natural for parents to worry about having their babies cry at bedtime. “While it’s well documented that sleep deprivation can cause family distress, including maternal depression, we’re hoping these results will add another element to how parents view their responses and how they manage their own and their babies’ sleep behaviour.” The study involved using two common sleep training techniques on 43 babies, age six to 16 months, with nighttime sleep troubles. One group used controlled crying - or graduated extinction - which is designed to let babies get to sleep on their own.
Parents in the controlled-crying group had to wait for a few minutes before responding when their babies cried. They were allowed to comfort, but not pick up, the baby. A second method tested bedtime fading, which involves parents gradually delaying bed-time in an attempt to help them fall asleep easier. This group delayed bedtime by 15 minutes at first and could increase it if they were still having problems. There was also a control group, who were simply given information on healthy sleeping habits. After three months, the researchers found, babies in both of these sleep-training groups were falling asleep an average 10 to 13 minutes faster.
Meanwhile, there was little difference in the control group.
Babies in the controlled-crying group slept better during the night, waking up less an average once or twice compared with three times at the start of the study. Stress levels for mothers dropped in the first month and there was no sign it caused stress to the babies, Professor Gradisar said.
Saliva samples showed levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol also fell slightly in babies.
There were no significant differences in emotional, behavioural problems or attachment issues at a follow-up, a year later. Professor Gradisar said: “Combination of using bedtime fading first, then moving on to graduated extinction could be another good approach. “We hope parents of children 6-16 months can become more aware of bedtime fading which helps babies fall asleep at the start of the night.”
Parents of babies with sleeping difficulties can now rest easier after doctors proved controlled crying can help improve their sleeping patterns.
No significant differences were found in emotional and behavioural problems or attachment styles after a 12-month follow-up.