Researchers Find that Self-Soothing is Best for Babies

babiestogetDealing with a crying baby can be one of the more heart-breaking factors of family wellness. You want to go and comfort your child but then you don’t want to have to do it every time they get a bit teary, so what do you do? A new study says that you should avoid comforting your baby when he or she is crying at night, because this is crucial to their overall wellbeing.

According to developmental psychologist Marsha Weinraub, a Professor from Philadelphia’s Temple University who undertook the study, self-soothing is critical for babies’ wellness as it helps them to learn how to regulate their own sleep. This is based on a study of the sleeping habits of more than 1200 babies between the ages of six to 36 months. Weinraub also asked parents of the infants to document their child’s awakenings at six, 15, 24 and 36 months.

Based on the results of the study, Weinraub separated the babies’ sleeping patterns into one of two separate groups: sleepers (those who slept through the night during their development) and transitional sleepers (those who did not). According to previous research, most babies learn to sleep through the night by the time they reach their  six-month developmental mark, only waking their mothers once in a week. However, not all infants follow this developmental guide.

Just like you, your baby shifts through a new cycle of sleep every one-and-a-half to two hours, and when he or she is between cycles, they could momentarily wake before falling back to sleep again. The babies who were allocated to the transitional sleeper category woke up at least seven nights a week, but this dropped to just two nights per week by the age of 15 months and then to once a week at 24 months.

Weinraub found that transitional sleepers were more likely to be boys, and to have been breastfed. These babies also tended to have higher scores on tests regarding irritability, distractibility and having a difficult temperament. Further, the mothers of these babies were more likely to have incidences of postpartum depression. Hence, Weinraub advised, ‘The best advice is to put infants to bed at a regular time every night, allow them to fall asleep on their own and resist the urge to respond right away to awakenings.’

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