Monday, 17 September 2012

Guest Post - Hollie Smith On Controlled Crying

I have a great guest post this week on controlled crying from Hollie Smith. As a mom myself I've always found it hard to just sit and watch my children cry. Until i remembered that a little tough love is sometimes the way forward, having to wean my son of he's bottle after buying bottle after bottle the only way was to give him the bottle bit back and give him a cup with milk in. In the end we had three nights of tears and tantrums, but soon after that it was all forgotten. 

all the moment we are in the progress of doing up the children's room, to help them settle in. most nights i wake up with both of them in my bed. My daughter at 17 months till not sleeping though.I know its going to be a huge battle and im sure tears from me and her, but she needs to realise my bed is my space and bed is hers.

So here is Hollie Smith tips on how to handle controlled crying and how you don't have to feel like a bad guy.

There was good news for exhausted parents from the land of Oz last week. Australian researchers have found that the use of ‘controlled crying’ as a sleep training technique is not harmful or dangerous, after all. If anything - the study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute claims - short term use of the strategy may be beneficial for the mental health of both parent and child. 

These are reassuring findings for me from a personal point of view, since my other half and I let both our daughters ‘cry it out’ over a period of several nights when they were six months old, in a (successful) bid to convince them not to bother us until morning, and combat the misery of persistent sleep deprivation.

I’m also glad to hear of it from a professional point of view. As a writer of books about babies, my research on the matter has always lead me to the same conclusion: that knackered parents who want to try controlled crying should go ahead without feeling guilty – as long as they take on board the experts’ guidelines for doing it safely. (The main ones are summarised at the end of the post.)

Understandably, controlled crying is controversial. I’ve always been confident in claiming it to be safe, because the majority of experts seem to agree that it is. But I’m also careful to point out that it has opponents, as well as advocates - in particular, Professor Margot Sunderland, who’s vociferously argued that leaving a baby to cry for too long could cause them long-term emotional damage.

Among parents, too, feelings run high on the subject, as I know from canvassing many views over the years. Some refuse point blank to countenance controlled crying because it simply feels wrong to leave their little one sobbing, whilst many others have tried it and given up, having decided it’s just too hard to hear their baby loudly voicing his distress, alone, for long stretches of time. And it is hard seeing it through, there’s no doubt about it: the phrase I use is that it’s most definitely not for the faint-hearted.

On the other hand, sleep deprivation is a truly horrible thing. And those who score a speedy result with controlled crying do tend to wax lyrical afterwards, usually reporting that it restored their sanity, and that their child slept well from that moment on. I have to confess, it worked a treat for us, within a few short nights. And yes, both our girls have been ‘good sleepers’ ever since - and no, there don’t appear to be any signs, so far, of emotional damage, ten and eight years on (other than the pretty usual ups and downs of a normal childhood, of course).

So, if you’ve done controlled crying in the past, or are considering it for now, or will be in the future, I hope that this new research is reassuring for you, too. 
I’ll leave with you that summary of guidelines, extracted from my new book, First Time Mum. Please bear them carefully in mind if you decide to grit your teeth and go for it. (And good luck.)

·         Before you attempt controlled crying, your baby should be six months old and have made a good start on solids, and still be getting regular milk feeds in the day, so that you know for sure he’s not crying from hunger.

·         Choose a good time. Make sure he’s healthy, and not suffering from teething, a cold, nappy rash, or anything that could legitimately be making him wakeful. Avoid periods where there’s something going on in his life that might unsettle him. It will help if you’re in a good place, too – you might need to be mentally strong to see you through. If one or both of you can take time off work for the duration, so much the better.
·         Be prepared. Do your research, so you know exactly what the technique involves and how you’re going to put it in to practise.
·         Make sure your partner is totally on board – controlled crying is easier done as a team. (And if you’re a mum trying to give up night-time breastfeeds simultaneously, it’s definitely a good idea to have an accomplice: one whiff of you leaky boobs and your baby is unlikely to play ball.)
·         Warn your neighbours, if the walls are thin.
·         Get other good sleep habits in place first, if you haven’t already: a comforting, early bedtime routine; the right amount of daytime napping; aiming to always put him down whilst awake, to encourage self-settling.
·         Steel yourself. Be determined. Controlled crying only works if you’re truly committed to it.
·         At the start, leave your baby to cry for three to five minutes at a time before briefly going to his cot to check he’s ok, offering him words of reassurance, and leaving the room again. Lengthen the amount of time between checks, but don’t leave him for more than ten to 15 minutes at a time.
·         If you find you can’t bear it, re-consider your options. There are, of course, gentler (but more long-winded) methods of sleep training such as ‘gradual withdrawal’ – or maybe you’re happy to let your baby sleep through in his own sweet time...

 Also Hollie's book is available to buy HERE


  1. Why would anyone want to do controlled crying when no cry methods are just as effective? If an adult close to you is upset, distressed - first thing you do is comfort him/her, but when it comes to a 6mo baby, for some reason the best way forward is to leave them cry for hours? It does teach them something, stop calling, your mommy will not come, you're all grown up at 6mo and need to rely on yourself for comfort! Babies stay babies for such a short time, is it such a tragedy to wake up once or twice in the night to feed/comfort your baby?

    1. Thank you for your comment, i did know this topic was going to be controversial and not everyone would share the same methods.

      No where on this post does it say for you to leave your child to cry for hours. Controlled crying is a method to learn routine for a child in short bursts of crying and it doesn't tell your child not to cry as mommy won't come and comfort you at all.

      Yes of course it's ok to wake up for comfort, but there comes to a point that if the child isn't upset or hungry they should be getting full sleep and not broken sleep. Along with the parent too, there is only so much sleep depravation that you can take before you get very ill yourself.