Controlled crying: How to try the controlled crying method

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  • The controlled crying method, or ‘cry approach’, is all about setting a bedtime routine and teaching your little one to associate sleep with a positive experience.

    Any mum who’s had a crying baby on their hands will know the feeling of trying everything they can possibly think of to get them to settle and go to sleep. If you’re wondering how the controlled crying method works and whether it’s right for you and your baby, we discuss what it is and how to implement it, here. Some mums swear by it!

    What is controlled crying?

    The biggest myth surrounding controlled crying is that it involves leaving a child to cry, and cry for as long as it takes until they fall asleep. In fact, it only involves leaving them to cry for set periods of time – usually short – before offering them comfort.

    In short, the technique is used to establish a regular sleep routine for your baby. It works by putting your baby to bed and leaving the room for a brief time. If the baby starts to cry, the parent returns to the room to comfort them, before leaving again for longer periods each time until they learn that you’re not going to pick them up and settle themselves to sleep.

    Leaving a baby to cry is hard. It goes against all your natural instincts, but you have to remember that they’re not being harmed by crying. You will need to be strong and grit your teeth to carry it through, but experts say it should work in 2 or 3 nights.

    How to start controlled crying

    To implement the routine is relatively simple, if a little difficult to listen to your baby crying and not be able to comfort them.

    This method is not suitable for babies under 6 months old and for babies who are suffering from separation anxiety

    • Put your baby into her cot while they’re still awake. Make sure the room temperature is comfortable and there’s nothing in the room they could harm themself on.
    • When your baby starts to cry, leave a five-minute period before re-entering the room.
    • Comfort your baby using your voice, but don’t pick them up or turn on the light
    • Gradually lengthen the amount of time you leave the room each time, but never leave for more than 10 minutes
    • Hopefully, within an hour the message will have sunk in, and your baby will have drifted off to sleep
    • Prepare to repeat the routine for up to a week before you start to see results

    What real mums say…

    GoodtoKnow user Laura tried controlled crying with her six-month-old son, Oliver, and said: ‘At the first sign that he was tired I put him in the cot, gave him his dummy and put his mobile on, stroked his head and said ‘shhh’ and then left the room. He would scream because he didn’t want to go to sleep. I’d go back in and stroke his head and say ‘shhh’ again, then leave him for maybe 10 minutes tops and then go back in and do the same again.

    ‘I wish I’d known about it from the start. Now when he wakes up I give him his dummy, put his mobile on and he goes back to sleep.’

    Zoe from Mama.toama¬†also explains why she chose the controlled crying method with her baby daughter – and why she felt she had no choice but to ‘sleep train’.

    Have you tried the controlled crying method? Let us know how you got on by leaving us a comment below!