For desperately tired parents who are keen on helping their young child sleep through the night, a controlled crying program can offer dramatic results. Preparation and discussion between parents or caregivers prior to starting the sleep program is essential.
Controlled Crying To Help Baby Sleep
This Controlled Crying Technique is based on the method suggested by Dr. Richard Ferber in his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (Simon & Schuster). It is not advised to use controlled crying on a baby younger than 6 months old. Before using controlled crying, always make sure that your baby isn’t thirsty, hungry, ill, or overwrought before you put them to bed.
Parents Should Give the Sleep Training Program 100% Effort
Ensure that baby is ready for the sleep training and that appropriate preparation for controlled crying has been done. It is important that a consistent routine is in place before the new program has started. This is because any change will be easier to implement if the way the behaviour was managed previously was also consistent.
Parents should keep in mind an “all or nothing” approach; either to give baby unlimited and immediate comfort or to follow the controlled comforting program 100%. If a baby is given varied and restricted comfort, that doesn’t follow a pattern, then this behaviour is likely to simply reinforce the entrenchment of the night waking episodes.
Decide Which Parent Should Do the Controlled Crying Duty
Partners should discuss the sleep training program in advance. This is because it is very difficult to make rational decisions when it is 3am and baby has been crying half the night. Before starting the controlled checks sleep training program, it is important to agree on who will be “on duty,” that is, who will attend to baby when he/she cries.
On the first few nights it is wise to stick with the same caregiver providing the reassurance to baby. So if mom is usually the person to tend to baby during the night then she should be the one to reinforce this new routine. To do otherwise may take longer for baby to understand the desired effect since baby is not as familiar with the other person providing the night time structure.
It helps to have the same parent do the on duty portion of the sleep training for the whole night. The non-duty partner could consider getting some sleep, using ear plugs if necessary. The person on duty should expect at least one sleepless night and plan for this accordingly. It helps to have a comfortable environment to retreat to while waiting out the agreed crying interval time.
Controlled Crying Program Description for Parents
For a more detailed description of the Controlled Crying Technique, parents should read the Dr. Ferber’s book. Parents should keep in mind that if their child normally sleeps with them then it may be harder for the child to separate. A transitional object such as the same favourite blanket or toy each night may help ease the separation.
On the first night, parents should follow their usual bedtime routine with their child to help wind she/him down before putting she/him into their bed. Baby should be placed down into her/his bed tired but awake. Parents can then use a phrase to let baby know it is time to sleep and then leave the room.
The phrase that is used is important in both the choice of words and how it is spoken. It should be used consistently every time during controlled crying in a firm and calm, matter of fact voice. The message should provide a sense of comfort, to reassure baby that he has not been abandoned. As an example, this phrase avoids too much soothing or interaction, “It’s time to go to sleep. Everything is fine. Good night.”
Baby is likely to start crying, especially if he/she is not used to falling asleep alone. The crying may erupt loudly and then subside to a quieter sobbing. If baby continues to cry hard, then after 2 to 5 minutes, the parent should go back into her/his room for reassurance. During this brief visit, offer soothing and comforting words, or pat the baby for 1 minute or until they are quiet. The parent should repeat the same goodnight phrase. If possible, avoid interaction and making physical contact with baby.
When starting a controlled crying program, parents should be prepared for a few challenging nights ahead; especially the first night, where the person on duty should not expect to sleep much. Parents would do well to remember the positive outcomes of this safe sleep training method and if in doubt to compare it with weeks or months of a tired and cranky family.