Controlled Crying – Sleep Training Method for Your Baby

Controlled Crying - Sleep Training Method for Your Baby

Babies usually wake up at night to feed or experience the passing sleep blip due to illness, change of routine or teething. But sometimes some babies tend to indulge in persistent, long-term wailing for no apparent reason. This tendency of theirs to stay awake at night, crying can prove very exhausting for the parents preventing them from getting their rest and sleep. Many experts believe that such babies probably develop incorrect sleep associations and controlled crying can be one of the possible ways to deal with the situation. Some mothers find this technique useful while others are not convinced to opt for it.

What is Controlled Crying?

Some babies are not good sleepers and find it tough to sleep through the night. They develop a habit of staying awake at night to seek constant comfort. It is natural for a mother to want to comfort her crying baby but if done for an extended period it can get hard to break the routine. In such situations, controlled crying can be a viable option to train the baby to sleep independently. It is a sleep training technique that aims at teaching a baby to self-settle in the night to improve the quality of his naps.

The purpose of the controlled crying technique is not to pat, stroke or re-position the baby while crying as this can inadvertently encourage the crying behaviour. Instead, it involves checking on the crying baby at regular intervals to reassure him of his caregiver’s presence. Gradually the controlled crying intervals which are the duration of time between every visit may be extended until the baby falls asleep.

At What Age Can You Try Controlled Crying Sleep Training for Your Child?

Experts generally advocate controlled crying after 6 months of age. It is not advisable to use controlled crying for babies below the age of 6 months. A 3-month-old baby cannot be expected to soothe himself to sleep. If your baby still requires his night feeds it makes sense to wait. But it is more of a personal choice. Parents must consider their reasons for adopting the controlled crying method.

How to Use the Controlled Crying Technique

Here is a step by step guide to the method of controlled crying:

  • Ensure that your baby is properly fed, burped and has a fresh nappy on before putting him in the cot.
  • Make certain that the room temperature is comfortable enough for the baby.
  • Shower your baby with lots of kisses and cuddle him. Dim the lights and comfort him by talking in soothing tones until his eyes begin to close.
  • Tuck him well and leave the room.
  • In case your baby starts crying the moment you leave, allow him to cry for a minute or two before reappearing by his side.
  • Try comforting him by talking gently or patting him on his back. But don’t gather him in your arms or brighten the lights.
  • Wait for him to settle down again which may take a few minutes.
  • Again, leave the room. If your baby starts crying again, lengthen the duration by letting him cry for 3 to 4 minutes before going back in. Repeat the calming gestures to reassure him.
  • Every time your baby cries stretch the crying interval by a few minutes but do not let it exceed 10 minutes.
  • With a bit of luck, your baby may get the message and will gradually fall asleep.
  • Replicate the whole exercise every day for a week before you expect to see some positive results.

Mother soothing her baby at night

Controlled Crying vs Cry it Out

People may misinterpret controlled crying to mean leaving their baby to cry for extensive durations until he eventually drifts off to sleep. But this is a wrong notion. Controlled crying means you let your baby cry for an established time length normally short before offering him assurance and comfort. Doing so may help set a regular sleep pattern for the baby who otherwise has trouble following one. Allowing a baby to cry it out to sleep is not just cruel but can also lead to possible health issues for the baby.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Controlled Crying Sleep Method?

The use of the controlled crying technique to help babies sleep better is a controversial topic and often debated by experts. You need to contemplate and weigh the pros and cons of this method before making a decision.

1. Pros

Some of the pros of this system can be:

  • It may help you to create a fixed sleep order for your child by teaching him to settle down at night by himself.
  • Controlled crying can promote healthy sleep associations by preventing a baby from associating a particular thing with his falling asleep. For example, in case you rock your baby to sleep, he may start relating that gesture to his sleep and expect it every time he feels sleepy. But with controlled crying, your baby won’t expect any such thing even if he wakes up at night.
  • Experts believe that sleep training babies like this can help them sleep consistently. A baby who sleeps better generally remains happier while awake.

2. Cons

Some of the cons of the method can be:

  • Some experts feel that controlled crying can cause the child to develop certain psychological issues later on in life as babies intuitively require to be looked after.
  • Leaving a child to cry, even for short durations, during his initial development years can emotionally scar him and result in behavioural problems in adulthood.
  • If a baby stays awake at night, it may be because he requires some pain relief, food or comfort, and not just because he wishes to cause trouble. So, parents should carefully investigate the matter instead of ignoring it altogether.

Mother soothing her crying baby

How Long Does this Method Take to Work

Every baby is different. So, the time extent for this method to work can vary for each baby. Usually, it takes about three days for babies to absorb a new system of parenting. But in some cases, the positive effects of controlled crying can take up to a week to manifest.

Tips to Make Controlled Crying Work

Certain useful tips for making controlled crying work can be:

  • Be patient. Implementing this method can be quite challenging as your baby will resist strongly before accepting your way.
  • Make sure you are consistent and practise it every night. Don’t let it be a one-night thing.
  • Repeating controlled crying each night can be quite taxing. It is advised you seek your partner’s help to share the pressure and strain of the entire exercise.
  • In case leaving your baby to cry for 2 minutes seems difficult, begin with shorter timings. Just ensure that you steadily increase the time intervals with every attempt.
  • Remember, if you can train your child to sleep well at night, he will stay happy and cheerful during the hours he is awake.

Alternatives to Controlled Crying

Some alternatives to the controlled crying method can be:

  • You can try the pickup and put down method which comprises of picking up the baby when he starts crying and putting him down after he seems calm enough.
  • Gradual retreat method can be another option. This method involves making a slow retreat from the baby’s room in small stages until he drifts to sleep and stays asleep.

It would be incorrect to say that controlled crying is the most appropriate method to sleep train your baby. It is always sensible to discuss any concerns that you may have with your doctor in detail before deciding in this regard.

Also Read: How to Make Baby Sleep at Night