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Let Sleepless Babies Cry (For A While), If They Want To

When cranky babies won't sleep, is it OK to let them cry it out?

The short answer: Yes, within limits.

Many parents these days try to help their babies learn to sleep better by letting them cry a little.

One approach, sometimes called "Ferberizing" after the pediatrician who has popularized it, involves parents gradually lengthening how long they let their babies cry before soothing them. The other is sometimes called "camping out" and involves moving further away from the crib a night at a time until baby can get to sleep on her own.

These techniques, which were shown helpful for kids and their moms in an Australian study, don't appear to scar kids. The researchers evaluated the children who had been part of the original study five years later.

At age 6, there was no evidence of harm or, it must be said, long-term benefit for those kids whose parents used the sleep techniques.

Therefore, the researchers concluded, "parent can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering behavioral techniques such as controlled comforting and camping out for managing infant sleep."

The findings appear in the latest issue of Pediatrics. For more advice see HealthChildren.org, a website for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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