Scientific advice on picking crying babies up or leaving them to cry themselves to sleep has been changing from time to time. So, the debate, mostly between young exhausted parents and loving grandparents, rages without much scientific support. A new study conducted by a group of scientists from Temple University offers some support to the belief that leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep is better for the babies, as it teaches them to self-soothe.
Learning how to sleep
Researchers based their study on the premise that learning how to self-soothe is very important for children’s development of good sleeping patterns. They believe that this practice is beneficial for huge majority of healthy babies. So, their advice to parents who wake up at night to the crying baby is to leave the baby to cry a little and to learn how to fall asleep again without interference from the parents. If a mother (or a father) reacts to these awakenings at night, babies might never learn how to self-soothe. The same happens if the baby commonly falls asleep while being breastfed. Self-soothing is a very important skill for regular, uninterrupted sleep.
Why some babies wake up at night and others do not?
Researchers found that there are two kinds of babies/toddlers when it comes to sleep patterns:
Sleepers – babies that sleep without waking up at night, or waking up once a week at the most.
Transitional Sleepers – babies that wake up at night seven or more nights per week.
All babies – just like all adults – go through a sleep cycle at the intervals of one and half to two hours. They wake up and then go back to sleep. Some babies cry when they wake up, others do not.
In general, most babies learn to sleep throughout the night by the time they are six months old. Often, babies with “difficult temperaments”have more problems sleeping throughout the night. Scientists suggest that parents should look for help if their babies continue having problems with sleep after they are 18 months old.
The findings of the research were based on the questionnaires completed by parents of more than 1,200 babies.
Depressed moms affect babies’ sleep pattern
A study by a group of Australian researchers found a strong link between mothers who were depressed during, and even before pregnancy, neural development and disrupted sleep pattern of their infants. Lack of sleep, caused by poor sleep of the baby, makes things even worse.
To help babies develop good sleep patterns, scientists suggest developing careful routines. Putting babies to sleep at the same time every night, letting them fall asleep on their own and resisting the need to answer to any little cry goes a long way towards establishing good, uninterrupted sleep habit for babies, and their parents.