A new study led by Michael Gradisar from Flinders University in Australia states that sleep training methods graduated extinction and bedtime fading can provide improved sleep with infants, with no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.
The purpose of this study was to conduct further research on an ongoing debate and concern for parents who wish to sleep train their child and worry of the consequences of using a method involving crying. The evaluation studied the effects of behavioral interventions on the sleep/wakefulness of infants, parent and infant stress, and later child emotional/behavioral problems, and parent-child attachment.
Methods used were graduated extinction (similar to a Ferber style interval check), bedtime fading (where baby’s bedtime would get pushed out later and later in the hopes that baby would fall asleep easier), and sleep education control (parents were directed to a website with sleep education but very little support or direction.) Monitoring of results were done by analyzing parent-reported sleep diaries and infant actigraphy. The baby’s stress was measured via morning and afternoon salivary cortisol sampling, and mothers’ self-reported mood and stress. Follow-up was conducted at 12-months after intervention.
The results were:
So is it okay to use a sleep training method that involves crying for my baby?
There are studies upon studies that are either against CIO or state that crying isn’t detrimental in emotional/behavioral problems, and parent-child attachment. This is an ongoing debate that will continue to live on. We have to understand that every study needs another study to validate its findings. Including this one, but we need these studies done. One study shouldn’t make or break your decision in the method you choose. Do your research and choose what is right for your family and make sure you are incorporating all the tools within the sleep training tool kit. The method you choose is only one of the tools.
Let’s look at further research through Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child that explains toxic stress can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.
Is this what these parents of this study did? No. How a child is raised has just as much if not more to do with their overall well-being then where they slept or how they fell asleep. We can’t forget that.
So I thought I’d share my own research findings. Mind you it’s a smaller group than this new study. There were only 3 participants. Okay thousands actually, if you count many of my clients that I’ve worked with over the past 8 years, but I kept this particular study small. The group is my 3 kids, and given that we have both an 8 and 5 year follow-up I think the results from my study are pretty accurate. Like Gradisar’s study participants, my kids turned out okay and still love me.
My 8-Year Case Study and Steps I Took For My Research:
Whether you’ve done CIO or bed-share, feed on demand or schedule each bottle, I bet most of you can check off most of these points as well because you’re not a donkey of a parent. That’s what we do as parents! I didn’t write this article to show you another study that says ignore your gut and do this instead. This isn’t me telling you that you also need to attempt some type of extinction sleep training in order to do the best for your child. Because know what else I teach my kids? That there are choices in life and you need to always choose what’s best for you.
This is me telling you that I didn’t need a study to tell me that my kids are going to be okay even though I practiced CIO because they ARE okay.
And totally well-rested to boot.
I provide free child and family sleep support on my Facebook page. I invite you to join our sleep community as I work towards Good Night Sleep Site's mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site and visit me on Instagram and Twitter. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime