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Study: Sleep Training Does Not Cause Long-Term Harm

Raphaël Büchler

You haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in months, and you’re falling apart. Yet, you hesitate to let your baby cry it out because you’ve read it could damage his brain, or make him feel insecure, threatening your bond.

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If you’re considering a sleep training method like Ferberizing, this might help you make up your mind: a new study found that kids who were sleep-trained suffered no long-term consequences to their development or emotional health. The study followed 225 Australian kids from infancy to age 6, and found no difference between kids who were not sleep trained and those whose parents used methods like “controlled comforting,” where the baby is given the chance to self-soothe at increasing intervals (commonly referred to as “Ferberizing” after Dr. Richard Ferber), or “camping out,” where the parent sits with the child but lets them fall asleep on their own, lessening their presence in the room over time. (Important: the study did not include the extinction method, where parents close the door and don’t go back in.)

Plus: Which Sleep Method Is Right for You? Quiz

While early improvements to both mom and baby’s sleep were seen in the group that chose to sleep train, those differences faded by age 6. The overall lesson is that controlled comforting and camping out are safe and effective methods of getting your baby to sleep through the night, but choosing not to sleep-train won’t put kids at a disadvantage long-term either.

The study will be published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Did you sleep train? What method did you use? Leave a comment.