What is Controlled Crying?
It's basically sleep training. It trains babies and toddlers to sleep on their own without needing to be rocked to sleep.
If you are going to sleep train your baby you need to first read the section on Basics of Sleep, and once you have that under control you can try the sleep training. If you demand feed your baby it's almost impossible to sleep train your baby. Demand feeding means feeding your baby whenever your baby cries for milk but more importantly it means letting your baby sleep as much as she likes in between those feeds. This often results in far too many hours of day time sleep and therefore not enough hours of night time sleep. Silent Nights by Dr Brian Synon is a great book in understanding the importance of a routine.
The harsh fact is that sleep training is REALLY HARD, I can't stress how hard it was for me, heartbreaking infact but the good news is that it takes about a week or two and then after that you have a much easier baby.
First of all ask your doctor if you can sleep train your baby using controlled crying. You MUST get the OK from the Dr first.
Some reasons NOT to sleep train your baby
- baby is underweight
- your baby is ill or recovering from an illness
- you're about to move home or have moved home, are on holiday or just got back from holiday
- your baby / toddler has just started pre-school or nursery or an older sibling is having a tough time with pre-school or nursery or accepting the new baby
- YOU the parents are not mentally ready (post natally depressed or other causes of stress)
All on the same page
- the best solution is that the SAME person deals with the baby during sleep training and if this isn't possible then to sit down and make sure you are all on the same page. I sleep trained both bundles whilst still on maternity leave, but I had my nanny on hand to help throughout the process. With Isabelle it was much easier, we started when she was 8wks old and by 9wks she was sleeping after her 10.30pm feed through to 7am totally uninterupted. With Sebastien it's been much harder. he was able to do the same when he was almost 13months old and even now at 19mths he STILL stirs once at 4am. So being on the same page as his nanny is really important and we work together on this every day having disussions and updates througout the day when I am at work and in the evenings when I get home.
Usually with babies under 6mths if they are still getting up more than 2 times and are not able to settle down again it's probably hunger so make sure you check his weight and amount of milk with your doctor first. You MUST be sure all that is in order if you are to ignore a crying baby during the night.
Letting your baby cry himself to sleep
Sounds really cruel right? In fact it's a totally natural thing for a tired baby to 'cry down'. Babies who are sleepy and ready to sleep with start crying really quite loudly when you put them into thier cot, it's thier way of winding down. It shouldn't take more than 10-30mins. The more tired the baby the louder he will cry down. It's NOT easy to listen to your baby cry himself to sleep, and every minute feels like 20 mins. If after 10mins you really can't take it anymore you can go in, give a few tap taps, and then walk out again. If you pick the baby up the game is over. I used to stick head phones on. I know it sounds awful and just as I would approach the 10th minute and was about to pull my hair out and go running in and kiss and cuddle my baby suddenly silence ! he would be fast asleep. I can't stress how valuable a lesson you are teaching your baby by letting him to learn to settle himself.
All babies come into a light sleep a few times throughout the night and when they wake up, IF they have not learnt to settle themselves they will not sleep again, and you'll find yourself resorting to rocking or dummies which only compound the problem.
Controlled Crying for babies over 6mths
Day 1: Start in the evening with a structured evening routine that involves a bath and then the last feed of the night. Settle your baby in his cot after he is well winded and leave the room. Allow him to cry for 5 to 10 mins depending on how long YOU can tolerate. Go back in, dont't make eye contact, stroke or pat him, say 'shhh, shhh'. Stay no longer than 2mins and leave the room even if he cried the whole way through the time you were with him. Go back in again after 5-10mins. If the first time you let your baby cry 5 mins, this time try 6mins, the 3rd time try 7mins but never longer than 10mins. If they 1st time you managed 10mins, do 10mins the 2nd and 3rd time. Each time you go in stay no longer than 2mins. After 30mins of doing this you can then increase the time between going in to 15-20mins, I know IT IS HARD, but I PROMISE you eventually your baby will fall asleep (probably just as you are about to give up). Each time in the night your baby wakes up, follow the same structure.
Day 2: now you will doing the controlled crying during the day...pick up where you left off, so if the longest you had to leave your baby was 15mins then start with 15mins and go in only after 15mins, again for a short 2mins only, and then start again. If your baby's morning nap is supposed to be 45mins but it takes you 45mins of contrlled crying to eventually get him to sleep you might be wondering what to do next....allow him a short25/20min nap anyway. If this happens during the lunch time nap, allow him 45mins anyway no matter what time he falls asleep otherwise he will be too tired by the afternoon. That evening do the same as day 1 but leave your baby for about 20-25mins this time. This time let reasurance be only 'shhh, shhh' no patting or stroking this time. If after a whole hour or going in every 20mins he is still crying increase the gap to 35-40mins. This will almost never happen, usually children learn pretty quickly that you are not going to get them up and that it's in thier better interest to actually just go to sleep. If he wakes in the middle of the night, ignore him for a good 45mins before going in to 'shh, shh' him and this time no longer than 1min.
Day 3: by now most babies will settle themselves within the 1st 20mins
If it takes longer than 3 days just stick with it, some days you will go back a step but work back forward again.
When we travel long haul we usually don't leave the bundles to cry for the 1st 3 days, in recognition that they are jet lagged we assist them in their sleep using cuddles or dummies, the problem is that they then get used to this very quickly so we then have to do the whole controlled crying again to re-teach them and remind them they have to put themselves to sleep. It never takes more than 2/3 days. It's the same when they are unwell, I never let an ill child cry himself to sleep, but they soon get used to the comfort of someone picking them up or rocking them to sleep so even when they are well again they might play up as they want to be rocked to sleep and once again we have to do the controlled crying to let them know they have to do it themselves.
When it works it's amazing, with both bundles we put them down in their cots, they cry for a few minutes (less than 5) and they fall asleep, it's great as a parent not to have to be rocking your child to sleep each night and everytime you lower them into thier bed they burst out crying again.
When they are older toddlers they are so used to it that they will then dictate to you. With Isabelle we read her a bedtime story, give her a cuddle for a few minutes in the dark and she herself will say 'bed time mummy, time for Isabelle's bed'.