MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Getting some babies to sleep can test a parent's sanity, but bleary-eyed mothers and fathers can be reassured that popular sleep training techniques have no long-lasting positive or negative effects on children's sleep quality, mental and behavioral health, or parent-child attachment, a new study suggests.
Australian researchers, undertaking a five-year follow-up on the effects of infant sleep training on children and parents, examined the after-effects of two common methods: "controlled comforting," in which parents respond to their infant's cry at increasing time intervals to facilitate self-settling; and "camping out," in which parents sit with the child as he or she independently learns to fall asleep, slowing removing their presence from the room.
Improvements to children's and mothers' sleep, along with mothers' mental health, were still apparent as late as age 2 but faded by age 6.
"This helps parents make their own informed decisions about how to manage their baby's sleep," said study author Anna Price, a postdoctoral research fellow at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute at the Royal Children's Hospital in Parkville. "Based on earlier studies, we anticipated there would be no long-term negative effects but wanted to know whether the benefits to children's sleep and mothers' mental health extended past two years."
The study is published online Sept. 10 in advance of the October print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Sleep problems, reported by about 45 percent of parents in the second half of their baby's first year, are a major risk factor for maternal depression and a common and costly driver of health care visits during infancy, according to the research.
Price and her team tracked 225 children from age 7 months -- when their parents first reported sleep problems -- to age 6 years. Participants we
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