New research shows success may depend on your attitude -- and your child
Having a baby who sleeps through the night is the gold ring for new parents. And many try sleep-training methods based on controlled crying — Ferberizing or “crying it out,” as parents call it — in hopes of ending their babies’ night waking. Some parents succeed in grabbing that gold ring, but for many others it remains elusive. Now, for the first time, research is suggesting why — and which parents are most likely to make sleep training work.
This story began a year ago. I was wading through some journals researching yet another Today’s Parent article about night waking. It struck me that although there were mountains of studies designed to show what parents should do to teach babies to sleep through the night, I couldn’t find any that looked at what that experience was like for parents.
I contacted Lynn Loutzenhiser, a psychologist at the University of Regina, with an interest in parents’ experiences around sleep, to ask if she knew of any such studies. She hadn’t found any either. I said, “Well, somebody should do one.” Next thing you know I’m a researcher, helping Lynn design a study about parents’ best efforts at treating sleep problems in infants and toddlers on their own.
We asked parents about night waking and their use of techniques that involved leaving their babies alone, possibly crying, to teach them to sleep through the night. But we asked more — questions that, to my knowledge, have never been asked before. How long did you stick with controlled crying? How many times did you try it? Did it work? Was it stressful? We also asked what parents thought of the teach-your-baby-to-sleep advice they get from books, magazines and other media.
We received more than 900 responses, from parents of babies and toddlers aged six to 24 months, including some Today’s Parent readers who learned about the survey in this magazine. We have some very cool data to share with you. I’d say the experts who tout the virtues of controlled crying oughta listen up too.