Baby-Led or Parent-Led Parenting

December 21, 2008

According to psychologist and writer Oliver James, parents tend to fall into one of two categories, those who let their infants call the shots and those who put themselves in charge. Scientific studies have checked the ramifications of these two methods.

The Study-Parenting Methods

British and Danish psychologists studied 3 groups of pregnant women. The first group intended to use the parent- led approach, including getting their babies into a crib as soon as possible, delaying their response to their babies' cries, scheduling their babies' feeds and scheduling their sleep. The second group planned on keeping their babies in the parent bed, feeding them whenever they cued and letting them set their own schedules. The third group of women fell in-between these two groups.

Follow up studies were done on all three groups when the babies were 10 days old, 5 weeks and 3 months.

The Findings-Best Parenting Methods

The parent-led group spent half as much time holding their babies as the baby-led group and was four times less likely to react to their babies crying or fussing.

The babies in the parent-led group fussed or cried 50% more than the babies in the baby-led group.

Four times as many mothers in the baby-led group were still breastfeeding at 3 months than the parent-led group. The American association of pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for at least a year. The world health organization recommends 2 years. Both organizations recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed until 6 months old.

At three months old - though not earlier - babies of the parent-led group slept significantly more hours at night without waking or crying than the babies of baby-led group.

Results for the third group fell in between the first two though they tended to be closer to those of the baby-led group.

Considering that research has already found that not responding to a baby's cries can have untold affects on his physical and mental health, Dr. James suggests putting off scheduling until the baby is older.

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