Controlled comforting: tips for when things aren't going to plan

It’s one of the most common strategies for teaching a child to settle, but controlled comforting isn’t easy. If you’re struggling, try these tips.

Controlled comforting is all about resisting the urge to pick up and comfort a baby crying at bedtime. Instead you let your baby self soothe and learn to go to sleep without you. To find out more check out our controlled comforting guide here.
 
Controlled comforting isn’t right for everyone however, and it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re having trouble making it work for you, your baby and your household, here are some tips that might help.

Are you checking on your child too soon? 

Only enter the room when you officially have a crying baby on your hands. Lots of babies grizzle when they’re drifting off to sleep and checking on them might be stopping your little one from falling asleep. 

If you’re sure they’re crying, only go in after your agreed interval. Try using the stop watch on your phone to ensure your timings are accurate. 

Are the time intervals right for your child? 

Some babies calm down when a parent enters the room and others get more upset. If your child is the latter, try making your time intervals longer to say, 5, 10 and 15 minutes to give them more time to go to sleep by themselves, and less time to get upset by your return. 
a mother timing controlled comforting intervals on her phone

How can you make this feel more manageable?

Try breaking the controlled comforting method into a series of steps. For example, for a week you could try patting your child until they’re quiet and then leaving the room when they are semi-asleep. Then the week after, put them into their cot or bed fully awake. Read our step-by-step guide here. 

Is controlled comforting the right strategy for you?

Not everyone agrees with controlled comforting and that is fine as there is no one way to parent. But if it’s important to you that your baby learns to self sooth without you physically being present, then this passion can help make it easier to find the motivation to persevere with controlled comforting. 
If you’re not that passionate about it, consider using a different sleep strategy such as ‘camping out’. Alternatively, take a break and try controlled comforting again when they’re a bit older. 

Do you need extra support?

If you’re concerned about how you’re coping with your baby crying at bedtime (or simply not sleeping at all), talk to your doctor family health nurse who can help. 

 

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