Don't lose sleep over letting your baby cry, says study
LEAVING your baby to cry does no harm, according to scientists.
Many parents instinctively rush to their baby's side when they hear it crying, but new research suggests they would be better off leaving it for a bit.
Using behavioural training to help babies fall asleep doesn't seem to harm them emotionally or developmentally years later, but it also doesn't benefit them long-term, according to an Australian study.
The study, which appeared in the journal 'Pediatrics', followed on a 2007 study by the same researchers that found babies and their parents benefited when the infants were taught to settle themselves to sleep.
But parents and doctors have expressed concern that the techniques could harm the children's emotional development, and that the techniques would have an impact on the children's relationship with their parents.
"We wanted to find out if the benefits were really long lasting and if there were any long-term effects," said lead author Anna Price, from The Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia.
Ms Price and her colleagues followed the same children and parents they had followed for the 2007 study.
In the original study, 326 children who had trouble sleeping were randomly assigned to different groups for their parents to try various sleep-encouraging techniques.
At the end of the study, researchers found the use of certain methods, such as "controlled comforting" and "camping out," improved the children's sleep problems and helped mothers with depression.
Controlled comforting is when a mother periodically responds to her child's cries, instead of the much-discussed "cry it out" approach. Camping out is when parents slowly ease out of a child's room.
For the new study, research-ers were able to follow up with 225 of the children from the original study. Of those, 122 had gone through the sleep training while the other 103 had not.
Overall, 9pc of the six-year-olds who went through training were having sleep problems compared with 7pc of those who did not go through training -- a difference so small that statistically, it could be due to chance.
The researchers also didn't find any differences when it came to the children's emotions, conduct or stress. And among parents, they didn't see a difference when it came to rates of depression, anxiety and stress.
Overall, there seemed to be no difference between the two groups in the degree of closeness between parent and child.