Controlled crying guide

Struggling with how to get baby to sleep? Our controlled crying guide - sometimes known as controlled comforting – might be helpful.

The idea behind controlled crying or controlled comforting is to help your baby learn how to fall asleep without you being in the room, while providing reassurance. You can start following our controlled crying guide once your baby turns six months old.

Laying the foundations for controlled comforting

Before your start trying the controlled crying method with your baby, it can be helpful to have good sleep habits in place. Make sure you’re familiar with our article on how to get a baby to sleep for some tips on establishing some good sleep habits. 
It’s also important that both you and your child are feeling well and that if either of you become sick during the process you stop and try our controlled crying guide later once you’re both well. 
Make sure give your child lots of attention, time and affection during the day to help you both feel calm. 
And most important of all, don’t start controlled comforting at a busy or stressful time.

Step-by-step controlled crying guide

The first thing you need to do is agree with yourself how long you’re prepared to let them cry for before you intervene, we will call this a time interval. You’ll need to think about what’s best for you and your little one. 

Babies generally need to be comforted more regularly, say two minutes then four, six, eight and 10 minutes. For toddlers, less is more, say every five minutes then 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes. 

Decide in advance what you think you can manage and change it if you need to. 

Step One: At bedtime, settle your child in bed, say “goodnight” and leave the room before they are asleep. Promise to come back and check on them. 

Step Two: Stay out of the bedroom and give your child a chance to settle on their own, as hard as this can be. Try to ignore grizzling.

Step Three: If your child starts to really cry, don’t go in to check on them until after your agreed time interval (e.g. two minutes). 

Step Four: When you’re checking on your child, try to keep the time you spend in their room to under one minute. Soothe them with quiet talking or gentle patting and keep an eye on their nappy. If it’s dirty, change it, but keep the light dim and your voice quiet. Leave the room and again give your child a chance to settle on their own. 

Step Five: If they start to cry, wait for the second time interval (e.g. four minutes) before going back to check. 

Step Six: Continue to check on them as long as they’re upset, gradually stretching out the interval times. 
baby sleeping from controlled crying method

Controlled crying - tips for success

  • Give this controlled crying guide a real go - it can take between three and 14 days to work
  • Turn baby monitors down or even off, make sure you can still hear your bub however
  • Walk away from their bedroom rather than waiting outside. Go into another room and distract yourself - make a cup of tea or turn on the TV. It’s important to let your set time elapse before you go back to check
  • Make this a team effort. It’s essential both you and your partner understand controlled crying and agree to do it together. Work out what role each of you will play - for example, helping with resettling or timing the intervals. Controlled comforting can be hard work, so consider taking turns each night
  • Avoid a busy schedule if possible. If you know you have big work deadlines or a major life event coming up, pick a different time to try controlled crying. You need to be able to see it through while keeping their routine stable

Consistency is key

You, your partner and any other adults who settle your baby all need to be using the same controlled comforting strategy – try sharing this Controlled Crying Guide. 
If controlled crying doesn’t seem to be working for you or bub, don’t be hard on yourself - it’s not easy. Take a look at our follow-up article on tips for when things aren’t going to plan. And if that doesn’t help, speak to your doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse about how to get baby to sleep using other methods. 

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