Babies Can ‘Cry It Out’ Before Falling Asleep — No Harm In Letting Infants Cry Themselves To Sleep, Claims New Study

Parents who are letting their babies “cry it out” aren’t harming their children. Infants who are left to cry themselves to sleep won’t suffer emotional, behavioral, or parental attachment problems in the future, claims a new study by Australian researchers.

The “Cry It Out” (CIO) technique does not produce any more signs of anxiety or stress in the infants as compared to traditional and “gentler” methods, indicated the study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics.

The sleep training method that involved allowing babies to cry themselves to sleep has always been strongly criticized for being a cruel or heartless approach. However, the new study indicates the method is effective and is not more harmful than the consoling technique. Moreover, letting babies cry themselves to sleep won’t cause any lasting or long-term emotional problems. To test their hypothesis, researchers in Australia worked with 43 sets of parents who had babies between six and 16 months of age. All the parents involved in the study had a very common problem: None of their babies slept well.

To conduct the experiment, the researchers taught a third of the parents how to allow their babies to continue crying, a method scientifically known as graduated extinction or the Ferber Method. Essentially, the parents were asked to put the baby to bed and leave the room within a minute. No matter how much or how long the baby cried, the parents were advised not to rush into the room. Parents were asked to slowly keep increasing the time before going back to comfort them.

Another third of the parents were asked to try the newer “bedtime fading” approach, which involved putting the infant to bed quite close to the time he or she usually fell asleep. Parents were allowed to stay in the room until the baby dozed off. The last group of parents wasn’t taught any sleep training techniques and was merely educated about the sleeping patterns of infants. This set of parents served as the control group for the study.

The researchers kept track of when the babies were sleeping during the night with an ankle monitor and also measured a stress hormone, called cortisol, in the babies’ saliva the next day, reported Today.

The results of the study were astounding. Within three months of the study, researchers found that babies in the cry-it-out group were falling asleep almost 15 minutes faster than babies in the control group, reported CNN. Moreover, the babies that were part of the bedtime fading group started falling asleep about 12 minutes earlier. Parents in the control group had to spend the longest amount of time to get their babies to sleep, and their infants spent the least amount of time sleeping.

What’s clearly surprising is that the cry-it-out method proved to be best in terms of total sleep time and instances of a baby awakening during the night as well. In other words, babies who were allowed to cry themselves to sleep not just fell asleep quickly but also slept more soundly and peacefully during the night than their counterparts in other groups.

Michael Gradisar, an associate professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia added that there are other associated benefits of the method.

“What our data probably do not capture is the peace of mind surrounding bedtime that we see when we work with families.”

The other, more obvious advantage is that the parents and babies are less likely to fall into what researchers call “a coercive behavior trap,” where a baby learns to coerce the parents and in turn gets rewarded, added Gradisar. While the study doesn’t claim the cry-it-out method is the best way, it does prove that it is in no way worse than any other technique of getting the baby to fall asleep, noted the researchers, reported PopSugar.

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