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Nothing can bring tears more quickly to an exhausted mother's eyes than a 3 a.m. screaming wake-up call from her baby. But don't worry, Mama. A new study shows it's okay to go ahead and let the little weeper cry herself back to sleep. ScienceDaily reports the research, published in Developmental Psychology, suggests that for most infants, it's fine to roll over and just let them self-soothe themselves back to slumberland.
"By 6 months of age, most babies sleep through the night, awakening their mothers only about once per week," Temple University psychology professor and study author Marsha Weinraub tells the website. "If you measure them while they are sleeping, all babies -- like all adults -- move through a sleep cycle every 1-1/2 to 2 hours where they wake up and then return to sleep. Some of them do cry and call out when they awaken, and that is called 'not sleeping through the night.'"
And, so, to get them to sleep through the night, Weinraub says to let them cry themselves back to sleep. "When mothers tune in to these night time awakenings and/or if a baby is in the habit of falling asleep during breastfeeding, then he or she may not be learning to how to self-soothe, something that is critical for regular sleep," Weinraub says. "The best advice is to put infants to bed at a regular time every night, allow them to fall asleep on their own and resist the urge to respond right away to awakenings."
Of course, letting your baby cry it out is one of those loaded, divisive parenting topics (not to mention another way for moms to be judgey with each other). And older research suggested that crying it out might even damage a baby's emotional well-being. Then there's the fact that some of us -- including First Lady Michelle Obama -- just can't bear to listen to the wailing. (In fact, she admitted to iVillage that the President was the one who sleep-trained 5-month-old Malia, while she "shut the door and put pillows over my ears!")
I'm one of those moms who got the urge to race to the crib when the baby cried. My first baby was a power sleeper from the get-go, but my second wailed pretty much nightly for a year. And you know what? When I let her "cry it out" -- which, believe me, she did -- most of the time she put herself back to sleep.
As we all know, a sleeping baby means a sleeping mommy. And the thought of that? Well, it almost brings a tear to my eye.