Sept 11 Using behavioral training to help babies
fall asleep doesn't seem to harm them emotionally or
developmentally years later, but it also doesn't benefit them
long-term either, according to an Australian study.
The study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics,
followed on a 2007 study by the same researchers that found
babies and their parents benefited when the infants were taught
to settle themselves to sleep with behavioral techniques.
But parents and doctors have expressed concern that the
techniques could harm the children's emotional development, and
thus their later mental health and ability to handle stress.
There were also concerns over whether the techniques would
have an impact on the children's relationship with their
"We wanted to find out if the benefits were really long
lasting and if there were any long term effects," said lead
author Anna Price, from The Royal Children's Hospital in
Price and her colleagues followed the same children and
parents they had followed for the 2007 study.
In the original study, 326 children who had trouble sleeping
were randomly assigned to different groups for their parents to
try various sleep-encouraging techniques with the help of
At the end of the study, researchers found the use of
certain methods, such as "controlled comforting" and "camping
out," improved the children's sleep problems and helped mothers
Controlled comforting is when a mother periodically responds
to her child's cries, instead of the much-discussed "cry it out"
approach. Camping out is when parents slowly ease out of a
child's room, which eventually teaches the baby to sleep without
a parent there.
For the new study, researchers were able to follow up with
225 of the children from the original study. Of those, 122 had
gone through the sleep training while the other 103 had not.
Overall, 9 percent of the 6-year-olds who went through
training were having sleep problems compared with 7 percent of
those who did not go through training - a difference so small
that statistically, it could be due to chance.
The researchers also didn't find any differences when it
came to the children's emotions, conduct or stress.
Among parents, the researchers didn't see a difference
between those who had tried training their infants and those who
did not when it came to rates of depression, anxiety and stress.
Moreover, there didn't seem to be any difference between the
two groups in the degree of closeness between children and their
(Reporting from New York by Andrew Seaman at Reuters Health,
editing by Elaine Lies and Chris Gallagher)