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Blubbing good for bubs’ sleep: study

Having a literal ‘cry baby’ may be favourable when it comes to sleep, Flinders University research has found.

The study, published in the American journal Pediatrics, showed that infants who wailed themselves to sleep generally slept better than those who weren’t left to their own devices.

“While it’s well documented that sleep deprivation can cause family distress, including maternal depression, we’re hoping these results will add another element to how parents view their responses and how they manage their own and their babies’ sleep behaviour,” said researcher Dr Michael Gradisar, a psychologist and sleep expert at Flinders.

Of the 43 babies studied, it was established that the seemingly harshest response to an infant’s tears produced the best results. Using ‘graduated extinction’, whereby parents ignore a baby’s cries entirely come bedtime, babies fell asleep an average of 13 minutes sooner and had fewer night-time awakenings than the control group.

When a technique called ‘bedtime fading’ was used, the infants, aged at least 6 months, nodded off an average of 10 minutes earlier, but subsequently awoke as frequently as the control group.

In bedtime fading, parents “gradually delay infants’ bedtime each night in the hope that sleepier babies will doze off more easily,” Gradisar explained.

An annual follow up test revealed the methods, which might naturally worry parents, Gradisar admitted, also had no adverse effects on infants’ behaviour or attachment styles.

Though more independent trials are required to validate the findings, these results are promising for tired, crying tots and their probably equally fatigued parents, who may wish to try “…using bedtime fading first, then moving on to graduated extinction,” Gradisar suggested.

For further information on graduated extinction and bedtime fading, you can visit the Flinders School of Psychology website.


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