Multiple methods can safely help babies get to sleep, study shows

September 10, 2012 by Maureen Salamon, Healthday Reporter
Multiple methods can safely help babies get to sleep, study shows
At age 6, no differences seen in attachment, behavior, sleep quality.

(HealthDay)—Getting some babies to sleep can test a parent's sanity, but bleary-eyed mothers and fathers can be reassured that popular sleep training techniques have no long-lasting positive or negative effects on children's sleep quality, mental and behavioral health, or parent-child attachment, a new study suggests.

Australian researchers, undertaking a five-year follow-up on the effects of training on children and parents, examined the after-effects of two common methods: "controlled comforting," in which parents respond to their infant's cry at increasing time intervals to facilitate self-settling; and "camping out," in which parents sit with the child as he or she independently learns to fall asleep, slowing removing their presence from the room.

Improvements to children's and mothers' , along with mothers' mental health, were still apparent as late as age 2 but faded by age 6.

"This helps parents make their own informed decisions about how to manage their baby's sleep," said study author Anna Price, a postdoctoral research fellow at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute at the Royal Children's Hospital in Parkville. "Based on earlier studies, we anticipated there would be no long-term negative effects but wanted to know whether the benefits to children's sleep and mothers' mental health extended past two years."

The study is published online Sept. 10 in advance of the October print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

, reported by about 45 percent of parents in the second half of their baby's first year, are a major risk factor for and a common and costly driver of health care visits during , according to the research.

Price and her team tracked 225 children from age 7 months—when their parents first reported sleep problems—to age 6 years. Participants were randomly placed into two groups, with one offered guidance on the "controlled comforting" and "camping out" sleep techniques at universal health care visits and the other group offered no training. (Those parents could, however, seek out sleep advice at independently run early- parenting centers.)

At the end of the study, no differences were observed in either set of families for any measure, including children's emotional and , sleep habits and stress levels, parent-child closeness and parental depression or anxiety.

Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said this is one of the first studies to show that there's no long-term, negative outcome to sleep training.

"One of the biggest concerns parents have when they consider doing sleep training is, 'Is it going to psychologically harm my child, or is it going to affect attachment?'" said Mindell.

Mindell, also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, noted that many websites aimed at parents offer frightening perspectives on the ramifications of sleep training that aren't at all based on scientific evidence.

"This study helps support to be able to take that step and do sleep training without worrying," she added. "All the interventions are different dimensions on a theme. It's all about taking steps, whether a leap or a tiny baby step ... to get to the magic moment of your child falling asleep in their own bed."

Explore further: Sleep disruption for breastfed babies is temporary

More information: The Nemours Foundation offers more about sleep and newborns .


Related Stories

Sleep disruption for breastfed babies is temporary

October 17, 2011
While breastfed babies initially awaken more during the night for feedings, their sleep patterns -- falling asleep, staying asleep and total sleep time -- stabilize in later infancy and become comparable to non-breastfed ...

Parents' conflicts affect adopted infants' sleep

August 2, 2011
When parents fight, infants are likely to lose sleep, researchers report. "We know that marital problems have an impact on child functioning, and we know that sleep is a big problem for parents," said Jenae M. Neiderhiser, ...

Pediatric epilepsy impacts sleep for the child and parents

May 17, 2012
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston have determined that pediatric epilepsy significantly impacts sleep patterns for the child and parents. According to the study available in Epilepsia, ...

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.