Thursday, 12 April 2012

Controlled Crying

'Controlled Crying' - also known as 'Rocking in a corner trying to resist the urge to go in and give him a huge cuddle'.

controlled crying

We have three children. With our first, who is a perfectly well adjusted 7 year old now, we used controlled crying twice. First when he was about 14 months old, I was returning to work and we hadn't had a full nights sleep since he had been born. He would have to be rocked to sleep and then would wake in the night, again needing to be rocked back to sleep. And another go when he got chicken pox at 2 and a half and completely forgot that he was supposed to sleep by himself.

On both occasions we took the same approach.

  • We both agreed it was the right thing to do. It is no use starting to follow the approach and then giving in after half an hour. You have just let your child cry for no reason.
  • We supported each other. It was hard. I cried.
  • We followed the clock religiously, returning after 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes and then every 15 minutes until he had settled.
  • We only went in to very briefly reassure him that we were there. No lingering, no hugging. Just a quick stroke of the head, a 'there, there' and if standing, lying him down again.
  • Continue this method until he was asleep and repeat every night until he would settle himself before you needed to go back in.

On both occasions this only took 3 nights. I was initially concerned he would wake up, resentful and grumpy but funnily enough he didn't harbor a grudge. He would wake in the morning happy and chatty with absolutely no after effects, aside from a snot encrusted cot sheet though!.

Our second child, the Princess, was much easier. We have rarely had a need to do this. But if we had, it was the same rules and one night before normal service was resumed.

The Wee One had been the easiest to settle at night until recently. Now, at 26 months, he is fighting going to bed. He has also dropped his naps. A coincidence? He would only settle if he was lying in our bed next to one of us and then we would put him to bed when he was asleep. Not entirely convenient and not good for a restful nights sleep.

So three nights ago we started controlled crying.

Night 1: I rocked on the edge of my bed a bit. I clock watched. But after only 45 minutes of hysterical screaming, he sobbed a final "Mummy", then went to sleep.
Night 2: Less rocking from me, mainly due to him settling to sleep after only 15 minutes.
Night 3: He was pointing to his cot saying "Bed. Bed". No tears. No protesting.

So we have cracked the going to bed issues. Yay! Go us! Parents rock!

Now we just need to crack the waking up at 2.00am issues!


  1. I used this method with LM once he stopped breast feeding (which used to send him off to sleep...) It worked a treat - although it goes against all your instincts as a parent to leave your child sobbing his heart out!! Having to use the method again at nearly 4 coz he is just refusing to go to sleep at night! Last night was first night - had forgotten just how hard it is but at least he was asleep before 9pm...

    1. So reassuring that you are using the method again at 4! (Don't get any ideas, Wee One)

  2. I feel your pain. My first slept through at 7 weeks (yes you read that right), my second slept through at 10 weeks (yes I'm feeling a tad smug at this point) my third is 2 in May and from 6 months (he slept from 7pm - 5 am prior to that) has woken every night at least 2/3 times just for a cuddle. He is a very cuddly child almost obsessive in fact my husband jokes that he would lay beside my dead body for 3 days he is so intense! Anyway, I have had enough. He has always been very quick to deal with and until recently it took 2 oz of milk to confort him when he woke at 1 am then a quick cuddly at 4 am. So this Easter hols I dropped the milk he's not a newborn and I can't be doing with it - he doesn't need it. He cried for 2 hours with 4 visits from my husband. This was reduced to an hour and then nothing teh following night. Now his latest trick is to move his head right up the cot so I had been pullin ghim back down but then I thought this has to stop too - so last night he cried for 30 mins off and all real temper with no visit - I expect a bit of the same but the days of me going in are well and truly over. I hadn't been ill until recently cold, scratchy eyes etc it was beginning to make me ill. I'm not a big fan of controlled crying pre 6-12 months but at 2 a big yes!!

  3. I used this method for my two youngest and we are all saner for it. I really do not believe it damages them and think that in the long run being able to self soothe is better for them and better for you.

  4. Only did this once with first dd as couldn't face it but 2nd dd slept better anyway except when she started not going to sleep at bedtime (at about age 2)and the only way we broke this was to put gate across bedroom door and let her cry til she fell asleep on the floor ( we tried the going back thing but it made her worse)- she soon went back to going to sleep nicely and doesn't appear to be any the worse for it. In fact lets face it they're much better when they and you have had a decent nights sleep. Tired child usually equals grotty child! I'm with Natasha wouldn't do it to a small baby but toddlers are a different matter entirely!

  5. Well done. Sleep coaching is always a toughie. I sleep trained Little A at 15 months and did the gradual withdrawal method. Worked really well and is now a good sleeper. Might all change when we move her into her own bed though.

  6. Hurray, text-book training! Erm, are you by any chance Gina Ford?


Oooh, I do like a good comment :-)