No Long-Term Effects Seen for Letting Infants Cry Before Sleep

Five-year follow-up shows no differences in child-parent relationship, child behavior, parent stress

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Infant sleep training techniques employed to reduce the short- to medium-term burden of infant sleep problems do not have lasting effects, according to a study published online Sept. 10 in Pediatrics.

Anna M.H. Price, Ph.D., from the Royal Children's Hospital in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues conducted a five-year follow-up of a population-based cluster-randomized trial involving 326 children with parent-reported sleep problems at age 7 months. Children were allocated to intervention (173 children) or usual care; intervention consisted of behavioral techniques delivered over one to three individual nurse consultations at age 8 to 10 months.

A total of 69 percent of families participated. The researchers found no significant differences between intervention and control families for any outcome in children's emotional and conduct behavior scores, including sleep problems (9 versus 7 percent; P = 0.2), sleep habits score, parent- and child-reported psychosocial functioning, or chronic stress (29 versus 22 percent; P = 0.4 for chronic stress). There were also no significant differences in child-parent closeness and conflict, including global relationship and disinhibited attachment. There was no difference seen in parent anxiety, depression, and stress scores or authoritative parenting (63 versus 59 percent; P = 0.5 for authoritative parenting).

"The six-year-old findings indicate that there were no marked long-term (at least to five years' post-intervention) harms or benefits," the authors write. "We therefore conclude that parents can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering, behavioral techniques such as controlled comforting and camping out for managing infant sleep."

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