The study, "Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial," tracked 225 children from infancy through age 6 to determine if a behavioral sleep program had long-lasting effects on children's mental health, stress levels, the child-parent relationship, or maternal mental health.
Parents who reported sleep problems in their 7-month-old infant were eligible for the study. Half were offered a sleep program which involved using positive bedtime routines plus one of two behavioral techniques: "controlled comforting," in which parents respond to their infant's cry at increasing time intervals to allow the child to self-settle; and "camping out," in which parents sit with the child as the child learns to independently fall asleep, slowly removing their presence from the child's room, the researchers said.
The study, published in the October print issue of Pediatrics, found improvements to children's and mothers' sleep and mothers' mental health were still evident as late as age 2, then faded by age 6,
At this later age, children who had been offered the sleep program as babies were similar to the control group in their mental and behavioral health, sleep quality, stress and relationship with their parents, the study said.
The same applied to mothers' mental health and parenting style.
The authors concluded: "The sleep techniques are cost-effective and safe to use. Parents and health professionals can feel confident using behavioral techniques for managing infant sleep."