It may be fine to let your baby cry until he or she falls asleep, according to a new study.
Writing in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Flinders University in Australia say that letting a baby “cry it out” — in other words, cry itself to sleep — will not cause long-term psychological damage.
The researchers came to the conclusion by studying 43 sets of parents with infants between the ages of 6 months and 16 months, all of whom had reported their child had problems sleeping.
The infants were put into three groups. The babies in one group were allowed to cry themselves to sleep using a method called “graduated extinction,” in which parents check in on a crying baby less frequently until the baby falls asleep.
Another group of parents used bedtime fading, meaning they allowed their babies to stay up later in the hope that they would fall asleep quickly once in bed. In this method, parents usually stay in the room with their babies until they fall asleep.
Yet another group did not practice either technique and were only given information about infant sleeping patterns.
Babies allowed to cry it out woke up less and fell asleep faster. The bedtime fading method group also appeared to fall asleep more quickly. The cry-it-out group fell asleep, on average, 15 minutes faster than the control group, while the bedtime fading group fell asleep 12 minutes faster.
"It looks like you've got two effective treatments that don't necessarily lead to negative outcomes," an associate professor at Flinders University told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The researchers were able to tell the level of stress in an infant by measuring a stress hormone called cortisol found in the saliva. They also used ankle bracelets to monitor the number of times the babies woke during the night.
A year after the study, the babies in the two groups showed no difference regarding attachment issues and behavioral problems.
This is not the first study to come to this conclusion.
According to the CBC, a 2012 study of 326 infants found that crying it out had no long-term negative effects after five years.