Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia found that controlled crying decreased the amount of time it took for babies to fall asleep without resulting in any harmful long-term effects.
Lead researcher Michael Gradisar said it was natural for parents to worry about their babies crying at bedtime but avoiding the urge to cuddle them could prove more beneficial.
“We ran the numbers and found that those children who experienced delayed sleep or were allowed to cry longer ended up falling asleep faster. They were not waking up so much in the night either,” he said.
“The significant finding in this study was there were no elevated cortisol readings in the infants. They stayed within normal limit.”
The study included a randomised controlled trial that involved 43 infants past six months of age who displayed night-time sleep issues.
The infants were split into three groups: a graduated extinction group where babies were initially allowed to cry for varied increments of time; a bedtime fading group where the bedtime was extended; and a control group.
Researchers took saliva samples and measured the cortisol levels in each of the children. They found there were no increases in chronic stress levels during the 12 months.
Infant attachment to their parents was also recorded on video and parents were asked to report on their child’s emotions and behaviours.
“Initially all children were taking 20 minutes to fall asleep but after one week the children in the graduated extinction group and the bedtime fading group were falling asleep between 5-10 minutes and maintained that throughout the year. The control group still took 20 minutes to fall asleep,” Assoc Prof Gradisar said.
The potentially heart-wrenching decision of whether to comfort a crying baby at bed time or let him or her cry their way to sleep plagues most new parents.
“Obviously there still needs to be more research but we would encourage parents to try the bedtime fading technique because it’s definitely a gentler method.
The study titled Behavioural Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial will be published in the June edition of American Pediatrics.
South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders University, University of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.Jump to next article