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Controversial book claims it’s better to let babies cry themselves to sleep

It may be one of your first difficult parenting decisions, how or if you plan to sleep train your infant child.

The process of sleep training is important, it’s argued, as it teaches your child to start sleeping through the night and staying asleep. But when it comes to how to sleep train or even if you should sleep train, many experts are divided.

Should you comfort your child as soon as they start crying during sleep training, should you wait for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, should you allow co-sleeping, or should you just let your infant cry it out and learn to fall back asleep on their own?

Emily Oster, an economics professor and mother of two, has raised a lot of controversy with her new book Cribsheet in which she suggests that babies sleep better after being left to “cry it out.” during sleep training.

Oster has since faced wave after wave of social media backlash for her book with some wondering why an economics expert has opted to weigh in on parenting.

For two years, Oster reviewed and analyzed thousands of studies and academic papers that focused on sleep training and its benefits and risks.

In Cribsheet, Oster says that these studies show that controlled crying doesn’t negatively impact infants, and babies actually sleep better and are happier after controlled crying sleep training.

“In studies where parents were encouraged to use this technique, and others were not, they found – on average – after the sleep training, babies sleep better,” Oster told the Daily Mail. “Many studies found parents reported their babies are happier after the sleep training than before.”

Many are not unconvinced though, with other parenting book authors stating that controlled crying can do lasting psychological damage.

“Being responded to is a need and the responses of a parent tend to mean a lot more to a person than attention from other sources,” Philippa Perry, bestselling author The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did), told the Financial Times. “If parents habitually fail to respond to a child’s cries, there’s a danger of heading down to them a distorted pattern of how to form attachments and maintain relationships.”

Oster, however, has pushed back against these statements saying there is no evidence to support such claims.

Ultimately, Cribsheet is not the tell-all answer to parenting, and no parenting book ever will be.

“The focus of the book is not just providing people with an answer, but also going through the data and trying to help make it clear why I reached these particular conclusions,” said Oster. “Like many other things in the book, the goal is really to provide people with evidence so they can make the best choices for them.”

Besides sleep training, Cribsheet also deals with popular parenting topics like breastfeeding and vaccinations.

Regardless of how parents plan to sleep train,  first and foremost new parents should be well versed in how to ensure their child sleeps safely. This includes making sure babies sleep on their backs and that sleep areas are not obstructed with pads, blankets, or stuffed animals that could present suffocation hazards.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/LeManna

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