Day care may prevent certain children from establishing a healthy relationship with their parents, a new study suggests.
"But the other side of that is that they're more likely to have good outcomes if they have more positive supportive environments," Troutman told LiveScience.
"So it's not just that having them in day care is a risk, but also that irritable babies really benefit from spending time with family members."
For the study, Troutman assessed 48 1-month-old infants for their level of irritability between 1999 and 2002. During the first year of the babies' lives, mothers were interviewed at four follow-up visits and asked who had taken care of the infant over the past week and for how long.
It's possible that irritable infants are more sensitive to their surroundings than non-irritable infants. So when the fussy babies spend time in day care, where caregivers may not be able to attend to every cry, they are more prone to negative consequences.
"In a day care setting, it's hard to respond to six babies, and the irritable crying baby might not get as much attention or support in day care," Troutman said.
Should irritable babies go to day care?
Since the results are based on just one study of a small group of infants, Troutman cautions drawing general advice from the findings. But if parents have the resources available, she would recommend irritable infants spend more time at home with family rather than in day care.
Troutman notes her study did not take into account the quality of care babies received at their day care centers. It's possible the findings simply reflect the negative consequence of poor-quality day care rather than day care in general.
Past research has suggested infants who spent time in high-quality day care had scored higher on measures of cognitive and academic achievement at 15 years old than babies in low-quality care.
This article was reprinted with permission from LiveScience.