Good news for sleep-deprived parents of newborns
It’s 1AM and your newborn baby girl or boy is up again, crying their eyes out because that’s what newborns tend to do. You and your spouse have been trying to get sleep all night to no avail, and you’re trying every technique you can think of just to get your baby to sleep for more than an hour or two. By the time the sun comes up, you’re just as cranky as the baby.
Parents, we’ve all been there before. Raising a baby is a monumental achievement that demands most of your time, including time that you would have otherwise spent sleeping soundly. Having a baby with irregular sleeping patterns and a penchant for crying all night is nothing new, and there are a number of tried methods designed specifically to address this sleep-depriving problem.
But which strategy will best help your baby adopt a normal sleeping schedule? It’s a pointed question that will surely draw a variety of responses from any parents asked about it. There’s the “camping out” strategy, which involves a parent sitting in their baby’s room while they resist sleeping, making your presence known but not going so far as handling the baby. There’s the “controlled comforting” method, whereby parents slowly reduce to amount of time they spend comforting their baby when they’re crying during bedtime. And then there’s the more extreme method called “extinction,” where you just let your baby cry during the night and let them fall asleep on their own.
It should be noted that I’m not endorsing or approving any of these methods personally, they are just some of the more popular strategies discussed by parents and pediatricians alike.
A number of these methods were the subject of a study done in Australia in 2007 and then a follow-up study, the results of which were just published in the journal Pediatrics. The main strategies observed in this strategy were camping and controlled comforting; extinction was not studied. The main goal of this study—which observed various strategies among some 326 children from 7 months old through their toddler years—was to see the efficacy of each approach, and whether they affected a child’s mentality and health later in life.
There were huge questions expected to be answered with this study. Some felt that sleep-aid strategies that call for little intervention from the parents would result in developmental issues later on in the child’s life. Would neglecting to comfort a baby when they can’t sleep make them a depressed or anxious individual? Would comforting a baby during its sleep troubles have a completely different effect?
The results of the studies out of Australia answer some of these cases. Methods such as camping and controlled comforting didn’t appear to have any negative impact on the children as they grew up. T results don’t mean that parents around the world should start employing extreme extinction-like methods to correct their children’s sleeping patterns. But it should make you feel less guilty the next time your baby cries in the wee hours of the morning and you resolve not to comfort them through the night.
Amelia Wood is a freelance health and science blogger writing for medicalbillingandcoding.org. When she’s not writing about the latest health and wellness headlines, Amelia is probably biking on some wilderness trail or writing short stories in her spare time. Feel free to send a comment or two her way!