Giving advice on how to raise children is always a touchy subject. It’s personal, and nobody wants to be told they are a bad parent if they happen do things differently than the person offering the advice. But ultimately, the goal is to have a healthy, happy child and sleep is a key ingredient for the health and happiness of both the parent and the child.
So, how do you get your child on a sleep schedule without doing emotional damage?
Is sleep training safe and effective?
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at certain sleep training methods for infants and found that they are safe for babies, improve their sleep and lower symptoms of maternal depression in the short-term.
Sleep training techniques such as “controlled comforting” and “camping out” were studied. Controlled comforting involves increasing the length of time intervals between responding to a child’s cries. The purpose is to give the child an opportunity to settle down on their own. “Camping out” means the parents sit with the child as they learn to fall asleep on their own, with the parents gradually removing themselves from the baby’s room.
Doctors and parents had some concerns about whether this type of training was harmful to a child’s emotional development and their ability to deal with stress as they grow up. But researchers found that the training actually improved the child’s and the mother’s sleep and mental health when the child was 2 years old.
However, the improvements wore off by the time the child was 6 years old. This shows that despite early improvements, there is no long-lasting effect positive or negative. Essentially, this means it’s up to you on whether you want to try these sleep techniques or employ a technique with more immediate attention, as any positive impact has faded by the time the child is 6 years old.
[SLIDESHOW: 5 Health Issues that Arise from Sleep Deprivation]
How do dads factor into baby’s sleep?
It turns out that dads who sleep in the same bed as their baby experience dips in testosterone levels. And this is a good thing, according to researchers who published a study in the journal PLoS ONE.
Researchers looked at 362 Filipino fathers of the same age, and took testosterone samples in 2005 and 2009. They found that the men who slept in the same bed as their child had a third less testosterone than before, compared to men who slept alone. The researchers noted that they aren’t sure if sleeping next to the baby caused the decline, or if men with lower testosterone preferred to cuddle more with their child. But, either way, they said less testosterone is better for the baby, because it makes men better parents. High levels of testosterone are linked to aggression, risk-taking and less sympathy towards infant cries. Researchers also noted that disruptions in a man’s sleep, such as a baby crying, cut testosterone production.