New research shows that controversial sleep training method is not detrimental to newborns.
Being a new parent brings many challenges, the majority of which can never be predicted or prevented. Sorry, no matter how careful you are, you are bound to be pooped, peed, or vomited on. #thejoysofparenthood. But one hurdle that all parents brace themselves for, as it determines much of their own happiness and well-being, is: will my baby sleep through the night and/or what in the heck can I do to ensure that happens??
This loaded question has many answers that have been debated for years in the form of techniques that can be used to help "sleep train" a baby. Some methods are considered coddling by some and differing methods are deemed cruel by others. But a new Australian study may be the bearer of great news for parents who'd like to have both themselves and their babies sleep more. Aka ALL OF THEM.
A controversial but often effective method of sleep training is called "Crying It Out" (CIO) where the parents put the baby to sleep at an appropriate bedtime and give the baby the opportunity to fall asleep on their own. The crying part comes in when the baby wants comfort (such as rocking, singing, etc.) but is left alone, sometimes with optional short visits by parents, in order to encourage the babies to self-soothe themselves. This is a valuable skill to develop since all living creatures (especially newborns) occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and need to try to fall back asleep: cue the utilization of self-soothing. Many consider CIO potentially harmful to the psychological development of the children due to stress, but here's where Australia comes back into the picture.
As published in the Pediatrics journal this week, 43 sets of parents with babies between the ages of 6 - 16 months were part of the study and divided into 3 groups: the graduated extinction or CIO group, a bedtime fading group (where parents would stay in the room until the baby fell asleep), and a control group who was just given information on infant sleep. Long story short, the babies in the CIO group fell asleep the fastest, woke up the least and, importantly, did not have higher levels of cortisol that would indicate elevated stress levels.
While definitive information is always a nice result from a study, the purpose of finding such information is not necessarily to convince parents to only sleep train, but more to reassure parents that these methods are valid, effective, and not harmful if they seem to be best for their family and needs. To each their own, but hopefully, the Aussies just helped each family own some more sleep.
H/T: CNN.com, Huffingtonpost.com, NBC4i.com