Controlled Crying had its early origins in the Truby King era, when it was believed parents needed to regimentally control their baby’s routines of sleep and feeding. It was thought that a crying baby was a healthy baby who was just exercising their lungs and letting off steam.
Controlled Crying Technique became very popular in the mid 1980’s when Dr. Richard Ferber’s book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” was published. He took King’s method to a new level and advocated parents actually timing themselves before they responded to their crying baby. Controlled Crying continued to be a standard method of settling until the swell of research into children’s emotional development from 2000 onwards. Currently it remains out of favour, particularly with followers of attachment theory and is not one of the recommended options for settling young babies.
However, Controlled Crying technique, also known as Controlled Comforting or Sleep Training, may have a place with toddlers and older children who are very resistant to settling and whose parents have tried every other option. In loving, supportive and predictable homes, setting up some boundaries around children’s sleep behaviour is still considered reasonable.
Researchers from The Murdoch Children’s Hospital in 2002 stated it may also be useful for mothers who are experiencing symptoms of post natal depression.
The term Controlled Crying has crept into describing any type of settling which involves putting a child to bed, still awake and expecting them to go to sleep on their own. Essentially, it is a behaviour modification technique.
Many of the strategies in Controlled Crying are similar to “Ferberizing” i.e. using Dr. Richard Ferber’s techniques.
First Things First:
Step by Step:
Most parents who follow a Controlled Crying method see improvement in 3-14 days.
The Australian Association for Infant Mental health Inc. said (in 2004) that there have been no studies which measure the physiological stress or impact on infants who are exposed to Controlled Crying. For Controlled Crying to be most effective it needs to be done after the child is old enough to understand what their parent is saying and to know they will be coming back. They say the best age to do this is around 3 years. Other parenting support programmes say the best time to try Controlled Crying is not less than 6 months and not over 2 years.
Parents often find the process of managing a Controlled Crying programme stressful. Equally, having their sleep disrupted for a long period is something which brings its own stress too. Parents always need to make up their own minds about what they choose to do and what is right for their own child and family.
Australian Association for Infant mental Health Inc. Position Paper 1: Controlled Crying Issued November 2002: Revised March 2004
http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/controlledcomforting.html Cited July 2009