What is Controlled Crying? Pros and Cons


What is controlled crying?

When you have a new child, sleep becomes a luxury, especially for the first few weeks. If you do not have help and are handling the whole change by yourself, you might find yourself sleepwalking.

Most of us search online for tips to get the baby to sleep, but the tips included there are not always successful. Buying sleep essential for the baby and singing lullabies may also not always help with the situation. This is why we have physicians and institutions promoting sleep training as a way of helping babies get themselves to sleep earlier.

With this approach, your toddler will not only go to bed with minimal hitches, but also the wakes in the middle of the night will be minimal.

There are two sleep training methods: “controlled crying” and “cry it out” approach. Before settling on either method, you should consult your pediatrician to establish that it is right for the baby.

Before considering any of the training methods, it is important to ensure that the baby is in good health, is fed, and is not in need of a diaper change. In this article, we will be discussing controlled crying and how it helps babies get themselves to sleep.

What Is Controlled Crying?

Controlled crying is a popular sleep training approach proposed by Dr. Richard Ferber back in the 1980s. This method aims at helping a child get him/herself to sleep without developing any long-term effects that could affect his/her health.

When using this, your toddler will fall asleep without you singing a lullaby or soothing him/her. This method seeks to make your child responsible for his or her sleeping habits.

Although you may get hurt hearing the baby cry, you have to practice some tough love for better sleep habits. If done correctly, you may fix your child’s sleep schedule.

However, the effectiveness depends on the age and health of the child.

Newborns tend to wake up often during the night for a diaper change and feeding. So, if you want to try this, the baby has to be at least 6 months old. Moreover, you have to ensure that the baby is in good health since a fever or other problems may cause restlessness and constant crying, thus compromising the effectiveness of the entire process. Be sure to feed the baby well and change a wet diaper to ensure maximum comfort while trying this approach.

How It’s Done

The idea is to help a baby sleep by him/herself without your comfort. For it to be effective, the controlled crying is often accompanied by controlled comforting as a way of checking on and reassuring the child. In some cases, if the toddler persists the crying, you may stroke his/her head or sing a lullaby to promote calmness. All the same, you should leave the room while the toddler is still awake for sleep training to be successful.

  • Step 1: Leave.

The first step into practicing this approach is to leave the baby awake in the cot. Say goodnight to him/her and then slowly exit the room.

When you leave, expect the toddler to cry a lot since he/she is not used to the abandonment.

  • Step 2: Wait.

If the baby continues to cry, wait for at least 2 minutes before going back inside. Once there, reassure the child that everything is okay before exiting the room after just a few minutes.

  • Step 3: Check.

If more than 5 minutes elapse and the baby is still crying, go back inside for the purpose of reassurance. When you say goodnight and leave the room for a second time, give the baby 7-8 minutes before going inside if he/she is still crying. Keep repeating this process and give an interval of 2 more minutes each time you leave the room before going inside.

The longer you leave the baby during this new process, the more he/she will learn to sleep without your presence.

Is controlled crying safe for my baby?

Yes, it is safe for babies because they get to learn how to put themselves to sleep in your absence. With time, they will get over the shock of being abandoned and the idea of sleeping on their own is reinforced in their minds.

However, before beginning you should ensure that the toddler is full, is not thirsty, is not ill, and the diaper is changed. You should know whether your baby has extreme separation anxiety, which happens once you leave him/her alone. If he/she does, then get ready for a rough time since the sleep training might be a little harder.

The drawback of this method is that you will have to abandon your kid and allow him or her to cry without you comforting him or her. In fact, some people feel that this could cause babies problems in the future. However, none of this has been proven.

In fact, there was a follow-up study conducted in 2012 by the Offical Journal of the American Academy Of Paediatrics on the impact of this particular sleep training method. The study showed that this is a safe sleep training technique with no long-lasting effect of the babies.

Moreover, controlled crying comes highly recommended by NHS as a way of helping address short-to-medium-term issues like maternal depression and sleep problems in infants.

How to Manage Controlled Crying

For most parents, controlled crying is likely to make them emotional because they have to listen to the child as he or she cries. You will most likely cave in after the first trial. This is why we recommend that you seek support from your partner or a reliable friend. This way, each time you feel like picking up the toddler during the training period, you can call someone who will restrain you.

Your friend or partner will also help when you are having a bad day and the baby’s crying gets to you. If you relapse, your efforts will be ineffective.

There is no point in trying this on the toddler today and skipping the schedule tomorrow. For efficacy, you need to make this new program constant so the child gets used to the changes.

You’ll achieve better results when the baby is sleepy and a little tired. Moreover, ensure that the child is not in distress prior to or during this sleep training process.

For How Long Will Controlled Crying Last?

Different babies respond differently to varying treatments. This is also the case with controlled crying. There are babies who have no problem sleeping and for them, this approach will most probably last between 4 to 5 days. In such a case, you will only have to tolerate hearing your baby cry for a short period in order to help him or her sleep better by himself or herself.

However, some babies experience sleeping problems such that you will need to tolerate the crying for about 2 weeks for it to start working.

If this period is over and your baby still cries much without going to sleep, then it may be time for you to change from controlled crying to another approach. You can consult your pediatrician who will help identify the most suitable sleep training method for your baby.

The Benefits

One of the main advantages of practicing this in babies is to instill a new skill in them. This means that the toddler will learn how to go to sleep alone without help. This is useful to both the child and parent.

Another benefit is that it is a quick and effective in babies with normal sleeping habits. Some babies learn to sleep by themselves after only 2 evenings of controlled crying while others may take a little longer.

Parents and guardians who have successfully managed to sleep train their babies using the controlled crying technique claim that the method is effective. It helps to reduce settling as well as waking problems experienced by babies. In fact, babies who have undergone this method tend to sleep much better in the short-term basis in comparison to the other babies.

The Drawbacks

Controlled crying has some disadvantages and one of them is causing distress on the parent.

  • You might feel guilty.

It is hard for you to sit back and listen to the toddler cry without picking him/her up. You, therefore, need to be persistent and courageous if you want to sleep train your baby successfully. This, however, might be a problem for some parents because they do not want to live with the guilt of letting the baby cry.

  • The baby may disturb others.

If you live with other family members, then a crying child will cause a disturbance, thus making this method unsuitable for you. Due to the feelings of abandonment that the child might develop after being left crying alone, some experts argue that controlled crying may cause some emotional problems later in life. Nevertheless, this has not been proven.

  • It can make your baby sick.

The other drawback is that some babies might become ill after too much crying.

So, now that you learned a little bit more about this particular sleep training method, head on over to this page to learn about the rest!