If there’s one topic that unites parents it is sleep.
And if there’s one topic that divides parents it’s the issue of sleep training.
The advice ranges from ‘let them cry it out’ to ‘let them grow out of it’ – and everything in between.
Certainly ‘crying it out’ advocates will tell you it works – but at what cost to the child’s emotional development? And waiting for them to grow out of it without any tears at bedtime certainly seems like a gentle approach but at what cost to the mental health of the child’s sleep-deprived mother?
Now, new research has suggested that the happy medium might be the techniques known as ‘controlled comforting’ and ‘camping out’.
In the world-first study conducted by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, these two behavioural sleep techniques were shown to provide a cost-effective way to help infants sleep better, reduce mothers’ depression levels, and were safe to use in the long-term.
The study tracked 225 children from infancy to six years to see whether participation in a sleep program had any long-term impact on children’s mental health, stress levels, the child-parent relationship, or maternal mental health.
Each of the children were reported to have sleep issues at seven months of age and half of them were given ‘sleep training’ – either controlled comforting (where parents respond to the child’s crying in increasing time intervals) or ‘camping out’ where the parents sit with the child as they learn to self-settle, gradually removing themselves from the room).
The study showed that the group who’d had sleep training reported improvements in sleep and to the mother’s mental health. The improvement were still evident at two years but by six years the ‘sleep trained’ children were similar to the group who hadn’t received any sleep training with regard to their mental and behavioral health, sleep quality, stress and relationship with their parents.