While it may be stressful—or at least guilt-inducing—for new parents, letting a baby cry it out before bed may actually be less stressful for the infant, according to a new study published this week in Pediatrics. Researchers studied 43 babies from 6-16 months of age whose parents said they were having sleep problems, CNN reports. According to CBC, one-third of the parents were told to use graduated extinction, also known as the Ferber method. They let their babies cry for longer and longer periods alone at bedtime before coming in to offer comfort. Another third were told to use bedtime fading, in which a baby's bedtime is moved later and later to make the infant sleepier. The final third of parents didn't do any kind of sleep training.
The study found babies who were put to bed using bedtime fading fell asleep about 12 minutes faster than babies in the control group. And babies in the graduated extinction group fell asleep nearly 15 minutes faster while sleeping longer and not waking up as often. Researchers didn't see any increased long-term stress, increased behavioral problems, or differences in parental attachment in any of the babies in the sleep training groups. "It looks like you've got two effective treatments that don't necessarily lead to negative outcomes,” the study's lead author tells CBC. However, the New York Times notes the study also didn't show that there were any negative effects of not sleep-training babies. So families should, as ever, do what works best for them. (Here's why adults have trouble sleeping in new places.)