Letting babies cry for a while may benefit both parents and infants
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Leaving babies to cry for a short time rather than immediately comforting them may be a secret to longer sleep for both babies and parents, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests certain techniques that mothers and fathers can follow to teach their babies settle themselves.
These include 'controlled crying', where the parent waits a certain length of time before soothing the child.
In the beginning, it may be every two minutes on the first night, increasing to five minutes for the second, ten for the third and so on, until the baby learns to settle itself.
Another method the researchers found effective was 'camping out', where the parent sits in the child's room while they 'teach' themselves to fall back to sleep.
In doing so, the team from the University of Melbourne found that both parents and babies end up sleeping longer.
This means parents are less stressed and, in particular, reduces the mother's chance of suffering post-natal depression.
The researchers also said leaving babies to cry for a short time does no long-term damage to their mental health or behaviour.
"For parents who are looking for help, techniques like controlled comforting and camping out work and are safe to use, so families and health professionals can really feel comfortable using them," lead author Dr Anna Price said.
The study followed 326 Australian children from the ages of seven months to 6-years-old.
Just over half their parents had been taught the sleep techniques of controlled crying and camping out.
When the children were six, the researchers carried out a number of tests to look at their behaviour, their sleeping patterns and relationship with their parents.
Those who had been left to cry were less likely to have behavioural problems, with some 12 per cent having issues compared with 16 per cent of those who had been comforted.
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