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'Controlled Crying' Helps
Babies, Moms Get Sleep

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - "Controlled crying," a long-used tactic for teaching fussy babies to fall asleep on their own, may also ease the mother's depression, new study findings suggest.

Australian researchers found that teaching mothers controlled-crying techniques reduced their babies' sleep problems over 2 months. Moreover, it also appeared to help women who reported symptoms of depression, according to findings published in the May 4th issue of the British Medical Journal.

Controlled crying is a well-established technique pioneered by Dr. Richard Ferber, a leading US expert on child sleep problems.

"Parents leave their baby alone for increasing periods of time so that the baby learns to fall asleep...without a parent rocking or feeding them off to sleep," the study's lead author, Dr. Harriet Hiscock of Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, explained.

Parents take the controlled-crying process at their own pace, but typically, Hiscock said, a parent will leave the baby for 2 minutes, build to 4, then 6 and so on. When parents return to the baby's room, she noted, the visit should be "boring"--meaning, for example, no lights and no taking the baby out of the crib.

The technique is not for young infants, who normally wake for feedings overnight. And, Hiscock added, it is normal for most babies to take about 10 minutes to settle in to sleep.

Her study included infants aged 6 months to 1 year who had sleep problems such as waking nearly every night, waking more than three times a night and needing a parent with them to fall asleep. The 155 mothers in the study were screened for depression using a standard measure.

Some of the mothers learned the controlled-crying method and were given information on infant sleep behavior and managing sleep problems. Others received only information on normal infant sleep patterns.

After 2 months, mothers who learned controlled crying reported fewer or less severe sleeping problems with their babies, the report indicates. And women with depression symptoms at the start of the study also improved.

According to the researchers, the intervention they used--which involved three private consultations with mothers, 2 weeks apart--is inexpensive and less disruptive to families compared with other ways to treat postnatal depression.

They point out, however, that their findings may not apply to women with severe postnatal depression.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 2002;324:1062-1065.

Reference Source 89


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