It is so hard to listen to your baby cry . . . especially at night when you’re exhausted and desperate for sleep. Whether you’re soothing your child back to sleep or experimenting with different sleep training techniques, sleep disturbances in babies can be one of the most trying circumstances for parents. At the very least, sleep deprivation can cause increased irritability, impaired judgment, and poor work performance.
According to a 2012 article in Pediatrics (Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial), approximately 45% of mothers report sleep problems in their six to twelve month olds, which fully doubles the risk of depressive symptoms for these same mothers. Often, however, parents are reluctant to implement sleep-training strategies for fear of the psychological impact they may have on their children.
The authors of this article report that parents can let go of this concern. While they found no detrimental effects on children through six years of age whose parents had used best practice sleep training techniques (e.g. “controlled comforting” and “camping out”), they noted immediate benefits for children and parents, including better sleep, improved parental mental health, and better parent-child relationships. The authors believe that “teaching parents to regulate their children’s sleep behavior is a form of limit setting that, combined with parental warmth, constitutes the optimal, authoritative, parenting style for child outcomes.”
So, whether you choose to sleep train your baby or not, feel comfortable and confident in your decision; your emotional health and your ability to care lovingly for your children are essential for their overall well-being.