New parents often dream of having a baby that sleeps soundly through the night, coos and gurgles happily in the morning and smiles in their car seat while you run errands. The only time their angel raises a fuss are in times of hunger and need of a new diaper.
In reality, newborns rarely sleep on a convenient schedule; they fuss at the most inopportune times and make you wonder if they will ever stop crying long enough for you to take a breath.
Sounds familiar, right? So, what do you do when you have a crying baby that needs to adjust to a proper sleep schedule? Do you let them cry it out?
It's a long debated topic that has people taking sides, but a new study published in the Pediatrics Journal supports parents who let their baby cry it out at night.
Researchers in Australia gathered 43 sets of parents who had a baby between 6 months and 16 months of age who had a hard time sleeping through the night.
The study separated the parents into three groups: graduated extinction, bedtime fading and the final group, who did not perform any sleep training at all.
The graduated extinction program focused on allowing the babies to cry it out. The parents put their child to bed and left the room within a minute of setting their child in the crib. If their baby cried, they were encouraged to wait longer and longer increments of time before comforting their baby.
The bedtime fading approach focused on parents putting their child in their cribs closer to the time they would usually fall asleep, and stay in the room until the child fell asleep.
The final group did not participate in any sleep training.
After three months of receiving training or no training, researchers found that babies who were allowed to cry it out fell asleep approximately 15 minutes faster than the babies that received zero sleep training. The bedtime fading group fell asleep 12 minutes faster than the babies that received zero sleep training,
Overall, researchers found lower stress levels amongst the babies that received some form of sleep training. Furthermore, a year after the training, the babies did not exhibit signs of high attachment to parents nor did their parents report any problems with their child.
While this study had a three-month trial period, there is good news for parents. A significant difference in their child's sleep schedule was detected in just a few weeks.
Although the study did recognize significant findings that support crying it out as an effective and safe form of sleep training, doctors and physicians recommend parents try to decode their baby's tears before they let them cry it out.
Below are a few ways parents can decode what those tears are trying to tell you:
Most babies need to be fed every few hours. A fussy baby may not stop crying until their need for food has been met.
Babies often search for items to suck on because it is a natural reflex. Having a pacifier or baby toy nearby may help eliminate fuss and provide enough comfort for your baby to fall back asleep.
I need a diaper change
Wet diapers can irritate your baby and trigger a meltdown of tears. Check your baby often to help eliminate the struggle.
I need to be active
A fussy baby late at night may be asking to be rocked and swayed to sleep. Walking through the house or a late night cruise in the car can help the baby soothe itself back to sleep.
Some babies have a simple desire to be snuggled and bundled before bed.
I am too hot or too cold
A baby that is experiencing waves of heat or cold air is likely to be extremely uncomfortable and fussy. Layer your baby's clothes to ensure they keep warm, or dress them in light clothes if you think they may be too warm.