Controlled Crying - what is it?

A baby which has mastered self-settling is the Holy Grail for most parents, yet the technique of controlled crying is often seen as a last resort - many find it tough going for both themselves and the child. So what is it and how does it work?

Controlled crying has both its fans and critics. It’s a technique for training young children to fall asleep on their own, whereby you leave your child to cry for gradually increasing periods of time before being comforted. Some parents swear by it; others find the very idea of it impossible.

If you fancy giving it a try, here are the basic rules.

Work out what your child's cries mean Before you start, it’s important to work this out. Is your child crying for comfort and attention, or is it a cry of distress or pain? A small child looking for comfort will pause between cries, as if waiting for you to come into the room. The crying may sound more angry than the distressing, relentless sobbing of a baby in pain.

How to start When your child wakes at night, wait for a moment and listen to the cries to make sure they’re not ones of distress. If you feel confident they are comfort cries, wait for two minutes, then enter the room, rub your child’s back and soothe with gentle noises. Keep the room dark, don’t make eye contact and don’t lift them up. Once the child is calm and comforted, but not yet asleep, leave the room.

What happens next? When the child wakes again, repeat the process, this time waiting for four minutes before entering the room. Double the period each subsequent time they wake up.

You should see some improvement within one week, but be prepared to continue the technique for up to three weeks if necessary.

Does this sound like something you could try? For more tips, our sleep expert Maryanne Taylor of The Sleep Works has this advice.

Have you tried controlled crying? Did it work for you? Please visit our Facebook page to leave your comments.

Related links

  • When Your Baby Cries: This checklist will help you find out what’s wrong with your baby and give some tried and tested ways to quieten him down.
  • The Newborn Baby: The love and attention babies receive in their first few months of life plays a vital part in determining how their brains and bodies develop.
  • Sleep Separation Technique: As seen on the show, ‘Sleep Separation’ helps your child to get to sleep by herself, so you can get some proper rest.
  • Bedtime Routine: As seen on the show, the Bedtime Routine ensures your child gets enough sleep, while you get time to yourself…
  • When Controlled Crying Doesn't Work: Experts from the Millpond Sleep Clinic answer your questions.
  • Forum: Share advice on this and other parenting topics in our discussion forum.

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