Childrearing

So Infant Sleep Training Is Kind Of A Bust

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infant sleep trainingYou can now add infant sleep training to the list of “Paramount Childrearing Practices” that is ultimately debunked in five years. Right on the schedule, infant sleep training has reached the end of its optimum 5-year cycle following a noted 2007 study. But for those of you who bought into the parenting practice, sounds like you didn’t jack up your kids either. Everybody wins!

Reuters reports that a 2007 study of parents and babies determined that behavioral sleep training, in which infants were taught to “settle” themselves, did a good service to families. But Australian researchers have since tracked down 225 of the kids in that original study. And now at six years old, these kids have a lot more light to shine on infant sleep training.

Anna Price, the study’s lead author from The Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, says that she and her team wanted to discover the long-term effects — if any — of infant sleep training. Turns out infant sleep training doesn’t establish much of a “foundation for sleep training down the road” as previously stipulated.

In the 2007 study, 326 children who had experienced problems sleeping were assigned to different groups. Their parents¬† would then attempt different “sleep-encouraging techniques” along with nurses. At the time, researchers found that some techniques definitely proved to have immediate results:

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 parent periodically responds to their child’s cries – instead of the frowned upon approach of letting the child “cry it out.” Camping out, on the other hand, is when parents slowly ease out of a child’s room, which eventually teaches the baby to sleep without a parent there.

In this new research however, it appears that whatever worked then isn’t working now:

For the new study, the researchers 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, nine percent of the six year olds who went through training were having sleep problems compared to seven percent of those who did not go through training – a difference so small that statistically, it could be due to chance.

Despite whatever “chance” results, the real gems of this study come in the form of benign long-term effects. Your baby may not be a diligent sleeper come kindergarten, but at least infant sleep training won’t “harm the children’s emotional development, and thus their later mental health and ability to handle stress,” like some doctors have posited:

Among parents, the researchers didn’t see a difference between those who had tried training their infants and those who did not when it came to rates of depression, anxiety and stress.

Moreover, there didn’t seem to be any difference between the two groups in the degree of closeness between children and their parents.

No harm, no foul. Your kid isn’t going to be a serial killer because you neglected to sleep train him. Consider another ridiculous “mommy wars” talking point squashed.

(photo: Viktor Gladkov/ Shutterstock)

2 Comments

  1. Guerrilla Mom

    September 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Yes! I accidentally did something right!

    • Koa Beck

      September 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Go, you!

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