Sleep Intervention Is Okay For Babies
September 11, 2012

No Negative Effects From Sleep Intervention In Babies

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Scientists from Australia recently found that there are particular techniques that can work in short-term sleep training that won´t later cause any psychological harm to babies.

The study, published in Pediatrics, looked at the effects of sleep training babies. While the methods of allowing babies to cry out during limited periods of time can allow them to sleep on their own, it can also help parents sleep better. The researchers conducted a five-year follow-up study of a randomized trial with 326 children whose parents reported sleep issues for their babies who were seven months of age. Reuters reports that the original study, completed in 2007, explored the effects of behavioral techniques self-taught by babies.

"We wanted to find out if the benefits were really long lasting and if there were any long term effects," lead author Anna Price, a researcher from The Royal Children's Hospital in Australia, told Reuters.

Of the 326 children, some were given sleep intervention and the rest were offered usual care. Intervention included behavioral techniques done with individual nurses when the babies were between eight to ten months of age. The follow-up study included 225 participants of the original study.

The team of investigators utilized two types of sleep-training in the current study. In one method, controlled comforting, parents responded to their baby´s crying out at longer intervals so that the child would learn to quiet down without the parents´ arrival. With the second method, camping out, the baby sleeps while the parents sit next to the crib. Day after day, the parents move slowly out of the room by pushing the chair they sit in farther and farther away from the crib and out of the room; eventually, the parents are completely out of the room and the child has acclimated to sleeping without the parents.

In the research findings, the scientists did not find any significant differences between the two groups. They looked at emotional and behavioral scores, which included scores on chronic stress, sleep habits, sleep problems, and self-reported psychosocial function by parents. The scientists discovered that there were no changes in the relationship between children and parents as well as the level of parental anxiety. On the other hand, children in the control group displayed increased emotional and behavioral problems when compared to the group that underwent sleep intervention.

According to TIME Magazine, the researchers found that the sleep training does not affect the child´s ability to manage stress nor relates to a limited relationship between the baby and family members. The scientists concluded that the study shows the importance in developing parent education on the various methods of sleep training and increasing the amount of training for medical experts on sleep training.

"The six-year-old findings indicate that there were no marked long-term (at least to five years' post-intervention) harms or benefits," wrote the authors in the report. "We therefore conclude that parents can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering, behavioral techniques such as controlled comforting and camping out for managing infant sleep."