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Behavioral Management of Sleep Problems in Infants Under 6 Months – What Works?

Crichton, Georgina E. PhD; Symon, Brian MD, MBBS

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: February/March 2016 - Volume 37 - Issue 2 - p 164–171
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000257
Review Article

Objective: Crying and unsettled behavior in infancy is common. Prolonged disturbed infant sleep can have significant negative effects on the development of the child, and on the psychological well-being of the mother. Compared to studies examining the effects of behavioral sleep programs such as extinction-based techniques in infants over 6 months of age, fewer studies have looked at such strategies in infants under 6 months of age. The aim of this article is to summarize the literature examining the effects of behavioral techniques on infant sleep outcomes in the first 6 months of life and provide evidence based recommendations for the management of infant sleep disturbance.

Method: An electronic search of the literature was performed to identify studies which examined the effects of a behavioral intervention aimed at improving sleep in infants under 6 months of age.

Results: Eleven studies were identified, of which 8 demonstrated improvements in infant sleep outcomes subsequent to the implementation of an educational behavioral program.

Conclusion: Education directed to parents about the use of simple, prescriptive, behavioral techniques is effective in improving infant sleep. Long term follow-up studies have failed to find any negative effects on the child, either from a psychological or physical perspective.

*Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA), Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia;

Kensington Park Medical Practice, Kensington Park, South Australia, Australia;

Faculty of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia.

Address for reprints: Georgina E. Crichton, PhD, Kensington Park Medical Practice, 84 Shipsters Road, Kensington Park, South Australia 5068, Australia; e-mail: georgina.crichton@unisa.edu.au.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received July 13, 2015

Accepted December 01, 2015

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.