‘Crying it out’ or ‘controlled crying’
Letting a baby cry, rather than going in and comforting them, is known as ‘crying it out’. Controlled crying is similar, but involves building up the time you let them cry for. For instance, two minutes, then four, then six.
You may well have heard conflicting theories about these methods. Some believe they are an effective way of teaching your baby to sleep, others believe they cause the baby stress. There is no definitive answer to what method you should use, the only necessity is that you do plenty of research before trying anything, and only try things you are comfortable with. If you are unsure of how much sleep a baby needs, read our article on the topic, here.
Knowing when it’s right for you
‘Bradley had never been a great sleeper but when he was around 22 months old, we were pulling our hair out,’ says Steve. ‘He just wanted holding, and every time you put him in the cot he woke up and had a screaming fit and this would last for hours each night. Finally we tried letting him cry it out, and it wasn’t as hard as we thought. We explained what we were doing, “Daddy is going to his bed now,” and after a few days he seemed to get it.’
Some parents do have success with controlled crying, but it’s important to remember that there are other reasons why your baby may not be sleeping well, which must be explored first. For instance, they may be too hot or cold or be in pain or discomfort from colic, teething or something else entirely. For more information on ways to sooth a crying baby, please visit the NHS website. And if you feel your baby may be crying through illness, seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Various sleep-training methods
‘I was on the cusp of trying controlled crying as we were really struggling with Felicity’s sleep when she was around 14 months old,’ says mum, Phoebe. ‘But I was talking to a colleague who had used a sleep consultant for her child, and she explained her method, which was essentially staying in the room next to the child, laying them back down if they were standing up, rubbing their tummy and just repeating the same few comforting words like “ssshh it’s sleepy time”. We tried that and she gradually improved and was sleeping through after about two weeks. So it wasn’t a quick fix but I didn’t feel guilty once, which was nice.’
A baby that doesn’t sleep can be incredibly hard for parents, so don’t feel ashamed if you are struggling to cope. Healthcare professionals are there to give advice and support with issues such as these, plus there are organisations you can turn to, such as Cry-Sis.
And please remember a baby must never be shaken, as it can cause brain damage.