A study has found that using 'behavioural training' to get babies to sleep – such as leaving them to cry, or practising 'controlled crying' doesn't harm them emotionally or developmentally long term.
The findings – which were published by an Australian research team in the journal Pediatrics, discovered that out of 225 six-year-olds, those who had undergone 'sleep training' as infants were no different in terms of emotional health from those who did not.
The study is a continuation of some earlier research published in 2007 which concluded that children and their mums and dads benefited when babies were taught to settle themselves to sleep via behavioral techniques.
Concerns have previously been raised by medics and parents that leaving a baby to cry, or using other techniques to get them to settle could have an effect on their emotional development, and their long term mental health and ability to deal with stress – as well as their relationships with their mum and dad!
The lead author of the latest report, Anna Price, said her team from The Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia wanted to see if the benefits were really long lasting and if there were any long term effects. She and her fellow researchers used the same children and parents they monitored for the 2007 study to answer their questions.
In the original study, 326 children who were problem sleepers underwent various sleep-encouraging techniques with the help of nurses.
At the end of the study, researchers found certain methods like 'controlled comforting' and 'camping out' (where a parents slowly leaves the room over a period of time)- improved the infant's sleep and mum's depression.
The researchers could not find any differences when it came to the children's emotions, conduct or stress, and in the mums and dads, they did not find a difference between those who had tried training and those who did not when it came to rates of anxiety and stress.
They also did not find any difference in the bond between parent and child in the two groups.
Dr. Umakanth Khatwa, the sleep lab director at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts, said the new study was 'excellent work.'
"I think they looked at this from all sides, and we needed this kind of long term study," he said.
Anna Price told Reuters Health that results show that sleep techniques are safe for children older than six months old, and that it addresses any fears about possible harm 'quite conclusively'.
What do you think?
Isn't it just the case that you're going to do whatever works best for your baby and for you, having read some of the research and talked to friends and family?
More on Parentdish:
Babies left to cry suffer long-term stress (the latest 'research' before this one)
Why women are bored of ridiculous research and guilt-making headlines