A Little Crying Won’t Hurt – So Rest Easy
There are quite a few parenting issues that strike a dividing line between parents holding opposing experiences and ideas. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, whether or not to circumcise, and the topic at hand – whether or not to allow your baby to cry it out as a means to get him to sleep.
I’d venture to guess that most parents don’t begin researching sleep training until around 4 am, when their sweet little angel is once again reaching top decibels despite the fact that mom and dad have to wake up in just a few hours. Desperation and exhaustion can often lead them to try things that they may have previously dismissed as unthinkable. I spent many nights attending to one – or two or three – crying little ones, but there were inevitably moments when I couldn't immediately attend to someone's needs. Despite my desire to avoid anything approaching cry it out as a training technique, there were times that the babies – and I – had to cry.
Well, the latest research suggests that if you find yourself in the situation of another exhausting night of tears or facing sleep training, that you won’t be permanently scarring your child for life (*if you wait until after 6 months of age AND if you use certain sleep training methods – there are plenty of other ways to scar them for life that we still suggest avoiding). Of course, it also seems there won’t be any lasting benefits, either.
According to a newly released study, “Using behavioral training to help babies fall asleep doesn't seem to harm them emotionally or developmentally years later, but it doesn't benefit them long-term either.” Researchers followed up with 225 families from an original group of 326. Of the follow-up group, 122 of the families had used some form of sleep training, while the other 103 had not.
Studying the children as six-year-olds, researchers found no difference when it came to emotions, conduct, stress, and closeness to their parents. Additionally, “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.”
Let’s be clear – this isn’t a permission slip granting permission to close the door on your screaming infant, with a cheerful, “See you in the morning, dear!” But for all those tired parents who attempted to comfort a crying baby, but encourage him to self-soothe – your child will be alright. And those, like myself, who spent sleepless nights comforting babies because you couldn’t bear the thought of letting them cry – your children will be alright, too. Hopefully we’ll all be alright.