Mother and Baby

Routine: How To Manage Controlled Crying

If you’ve decided to try the controlled crying technique with your baby, then we’re to help.

Let’s be honest. Using the controlled crying method can be seriously tough – it can be heart-breaking to listen to your baby crying her eyes out and it will probably make you feel like a horrendous mother. 

But the good news is that once it starts working (and you can usually see improvements within a week) your baby will know how to settle herself, leaving you to catch up on your sleep – probably making you a better parent during the day.

What is controlled crying?

Controlled crying is an appealing quick fix. It helps your baby settle herself without any significant harmful or long-term effects, experts and researchers have found.

Dr Richard Ferber proposed ‘controlled crying’ back in the 80s, as a way to teach a baby to fall asleep on her own. The method encourages your baby to settle herself – so it is a bit of a tough love process but means that she won’t be relying on you to soothe her whenever she wakes.

Controlled crying is an appealing quick fix. It helps your baby settle herself without any significant harmful or long-term effects

But wait until your baby’s six months old until you try this out because young babies often wake needing to be fed.

How to use the controlled crying method

As much as you want to rush to console your baby when she’s crying, following the controlled method means exerting some serious self-control and leaving her to cry on her own for a few minutes.

Try to pass this time by rewarding yourself with a giant scoop of ice cream (after all, if you’re avoiding one temptation then it’s only fair you get another) before you give in and go and see your baby. She’ll have got herself all worked up but resist the temptation to pick her up and cuddle her, and instead speak lovingly and softly to her so that she knows everything is OK.

Stay just a few minutes and tear yourself away before she falls asleep. Then repeat this process – extending the time that you leave her alone each time – until she falls asleep for the night.

The next night, do the same but lengthen the amount of time she spends on her own by a few minutes. One night, as if by magic, she’ll fall asleep after just one period of crying. Be patient, it will happen.

How controlled crying works

Your baby learns to fall asleep without you, without the shock of being completely abondoned, but with a reinforcing message that she must do it on her own. There is some disagreement between experts on the question of whether or not you should stroke your baby. Some experts think it could confuse a baby, giving her a mixed message that if she cries for long enough, it will give her some results.

Is controlled crying safe for your baby?

As long as you are sure that your baby is not hungry, thirsty or poorly before you put her to sleep, there is no proved harm in controlled crying. However, some experts say that it may make children feel abandoned which would cause them problems in later life. There has been no evidence to support this yet.

How to manage controlled crying

While you’re supposed to keep at controlled crying every night for maximum effect, it’s just not worth trying if you’ve had the day from hell and feel like you’re going to explode.  

Make sure you’ve got the support of your partner or a good friend who will answer your calls / come round and restrain you when you feel like you’re about to cave in.

And have the comfort food / rom-coms at the ready!

How long does it take for controlled crying to work?

All children are different, and for some learning to drop off on their own is a matter of just a couple of evenings. For most children that normally sleep well it's about 4-5 - still not too bad. With children who struggle with sleep anyway it's a hard one, lasting up to two weeks. If it still doesn’t happen, you should stop using the method and perhaps switch to something more gradual.

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