A new study shows that allowing babies to cry for a time before comforting them at night is not psychologically harmful and may even reduce their stress levels. Putting them to bed slightly later may also help them if they have difficulty sleeping.

These two techniques scientists measured over time are known as graduated extinction and bedtime fading, and they have been commonly practiced for quite some time. The new study affirms that they are both effective and harmless techniques. Dr. Marcel Deray, one of the study's authors, says that "12 months [after parents use these techniques], the babies are perfectly fine," according to study measurements.

With graduated extinction, parents slowly increase the amount of time they wait before responding to their babies' cries at night. When they respond, they do not pick up the infant. With bedtime fading, parents put their babies to sleep initially fifteen minutes later than they would normally, and they may push bedtime back by another fifteen minutes if needed.

These techniques may be warranted if babies are not sleeping through the night by the end of the six-month-old to nine-month-old period, as may a consult with a pediatrician to rule out underlying medical issues, according to Dr. Deray.

To read the full study summary, visit the MedlinePlus website.