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
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
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
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.
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