When my kids were babies, I always joked that the parents with the least amount of patience had kids who were the best sleepers. My kids slept very well because after eight weeks of exhaustion, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to let them cry it out at bedtime. I followed the tenets of the baby sleep guide written by Boston Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Richard Ferber.
Still, I worried that the Ferber method might have done some lasting psychological harm.
Thankfully, new research indicates that teaching infants to fall asleep on their own doesn’t lead to behavioral problems or affect how attached kids are to their parents; it also, however, doesn’t have any long-term benefits, according to the study published last Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
The trial involved 326 Australian babies with sleep problems who were randomly selected to undergo sleep training at age seven months — where they learned to fall asleep on their own — or to continue along with their usual bedtime practices of being held or rocked until they fell asleep. By age 2, the babies who underwent training were still better sleepers and their mothers had less depression and overall fatigue.
By age 6, however, there weren’t any behavioral or mental health differences between the kids who had undergone sleep training and those who hadn’t.