Grandma says to let the baby cry until he falls asleep – no point in teaching him that you’ll come back if he just cries longer. Your best friend counters that this “cry-it-out” technique is barbaric, and you should instead take baby into bed with you – after all, this is how its been done for centuries. Neighbors, child development experts and pediatricians suggest everything in between, from the graduated sleep training method (coming back to comfort a crying baby, but letting her cry at gradually longer intervals before intervening) to the “camping out” technique, where you sit in a chair while the baby goes to sleep, gradually moving it further and further away until you are out of the room and the little tot falls peacefully to sleep all by herself.
And then there’s that oh-so-helpful friend who says she doesn’t know what the fuss is about; her child figured out how to go to sleep easily and has been snoozing through the night ever since he was five months old. (To this friend – please, stop sharing. Really.)
Meanwhile, everybody points to research showing that their way is the best, and that other techniques lead to deep emotional, psychological, and potentially even physical problems in children. (Or parents.)
Oh, and if you do this wrong your kid will hate you.
But today, a group of Australian researchers are helping us tired parents out. They published their findings from a longitudinal study of 326 children who were reported by their parents to have sleep problems at 7 months.
The good news: gentle sleep training, at least, does not have a negative impact on children. And, in the short term, sleep training can work to ease difficult bedtimes and night times.
In this study, half of the children were assigned a group where their parents were taught about soothing bedtime routines and two moderate “sleep training” techniques: controlled comforting, where you let babies cry for short amounts of time and respond at increasingly longer intervals, and that “camping out” method. Parents in this group could pick which sleep technique they wanted to use.