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Modern Parenthood

Infant sleep training news: 'Cry it out' does no harm

Infant sleep training study suggests a gentle approach to the 'cry it out' scheduling method does no harm. But it's not likely to end the emotional debates among bleary parents.

By Correspondent / September 10, 2012

Babies lie in cots at a maternity ward in Singapore in this March 29, 2007 file photo.

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Ah, sleep training. Forget mommy wars and the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding. Forget, even, the presidential campaign and those questions about the role of government or the health care law. If you want to get new parents riled up and arguing – if, that is, they’re not too tired – drop the “cry it out: pro or con?” bomb and see what happens.

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Correspondent

is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..

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There’s a study published online in the journal “Pediatrics” today that shines some new light on this emotional debate.  (And let me tell you, debates get all sorts of emotional at 3 a.m. when you’re wondering how the toddler can be fast asleep in your arms and then snap suddenly awake as soon as you rest her in her crib.)

But before getting into these new findings, some context:

For those of you who do not have babies, or who have simply blocked out those first two years of bedtime battles and 2 a.m. sniffles, you might not recognize the desperate dominance of the “how the heck do I get this kid to sleep” question. But not only does this quandary have a direct impact on parents’ health, work, relationship, and quality of life (just try functioning with a daily fear of three-hour bedtime routines and multiple wake-ups during a too-short night’s sleep), it seems that everyone out there has an opinion about how to get baby sweetly into dreamland.

Grandma says to let the baby cry until he falls asleep – no point in teaching him that you’ll come back if he just cries longer. Your best friend counters that this “cry-it-out” technique is barbaric, and you should instead take baby into bed with you – after all, this is how its been done for centuries. Neighbors, child development experts and pediatricians suggest everything in between, from the graduated sleep training method (coming back to comfort a crying baby, but letting her cry at gradually longer intervals before intervening) to the “camping out” technique, where you sit in a chair while the baby goes to sleep, gradually moving it further and further away until you are out of the room and the little tot falls peacefully to sleep all by herself.

And then there’s that oh-so-helpful friend who says she doesn’t know what the fuss is about; her child figured out how to go to sleep easily and has been snoozing through the night ever since he was five months old.  (To this friend – please, stop sharing. Really.)

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