Just be aware that this method of sleep training can be time-consuming and requires a good deal of patience. The authors reported that children who had been sleep trained through any method in infancy slept better at 2 years of age than children who had not been sleep trained, and their mothers were less likely to be depressed. The researchers found no evidence that cortisol secretion levels were different between children who had been sleep-trained and those who had not. Some parents opt to wait until things calm down before embarking on a sleep-training method, but it's not necessary, says McGinn.
Don't try a formal sleep-training method before four months, until your baby is able to go longer between feedings and his circadian rhythm begins to develop. Babies who have more restful sleep have fewer developmental and behavioural problems, and have happier temperaments in general. With the swooning technique, continue with the method you used to help your baby fall asleep (such as rocking or breastfeeding), but decrease the amount of time you spend doing it until, in theory, you don't have to do it at all. For babies under seven months, Garden prefers an approach where you stay in the room and don't help them fall asleep too much.
During their first year of life, babies need about nine to 12 hours of sleep a day, in addition to regular naps. Several years later, researchers re-examined these children and found that there were no signs of emotional or behavioural problems in children who had been sleep-trained versus those who had not. At this stage, most babies are also ready to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own, explains Jennifer Garden, an occupational therapist who runs Sleepdreams in Vancouver. Now 11 months old, Greyson is a champion sleeper, having stopped feeding at night at seven months.
So, for conservation reasons, many of us resort to the common, if controversial, practice of sleep training, hoping to coax the baby to sleep on his own. As part of this follow-up, the researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which opponents of sleep training often cite as the mechanism by which crying affects developing brains. Although many of the parents I see in the clinic have endured terrible sleep for years, sleep training is a safe and effective tool to help babies learn to calm themselves at night. Multiple studies have shown sleep training to be safe and effective, with no studies showing it to be harmful.