Should I use Controlled crying?

I would only have to hear the mention of the word controlled crying and I would shudder.

No way no how.

I couldn’t fathom leaving my little baby to cry inconsolably on her own just so I could get her to sleep and make my life easier.

My little baby who has depended on me to give her life and keep her alive for nine months, and then for the first six months of her life, as I feed her the sustenance she needs to thrive- the milk, the sleep, the love.

She can’t even hold her head up, how could I let her cry her fears of being without me and not knowing how to sleep all on her own.

She’s just too little

baby sleeping

Sleepy girl

For the past two weeks I have been struggling to get Savannah to sleep. She’s awoken out of her newborn stage and is becoming addicted to the wonders of the day time world.

Just like her older sister and her mummy, she doesn’t want to sleep and miss out on anything.

Which is a good thing, but not just yet in her life. She needs her sleep.

I’ve tried the pram and the rocker, the dummy she just spits out, I can hold her and she’ll sleep but as soon as I put her down within half an hour she will wake.

The only way she will sleep is in the hug a bub baby carrier, snuggled against her mummy. It is lovely and I would love to do that always, but it is just not practical and really not in her best interests.

She loved it so much that getting her down of a night now became difficult which was heretofore pretty easy.

So I began entertaining the thought of controlled crying, but looking for any excuse, namely Savannah cuddles, to not walk that path.

Besides, she is too young for that now, isn’t she?

That’s what I eventually asked my mother-in-law who is a paediatric nurse.

“No, if you just let her cry, she’ll only need five to ten minutes. She’ll be alright.”

She showed me how to wrap her up real tight, put her down and she fell asleep straight away.

What was I missing?

I spoke to an experienced tresilian trained nurse on the phone. She knew her stuff.

She walked me through the whole sleep process from the point of view of Savannah.

It helped to make it crystal clear for me what I needed to do in order to help her.

Communicating her Tiredness

And the crying part was nothing to worry about. It was just her working it out and communicating her tiredness. It wasn’t going to hurt her or affect her as long as she knew I as there beside her.

Controlled crying

The wail starts

Really I know all this. It is the reason why I don’t jump and run straight away to Kalyra when she falls and hurts herself. I give her space to work out her own reaction and don’t allow mine to stress herself out.

It’s why let Kalyra roll around the floor in a tanny without giving in to her pleads. I know if you give in then she knows what to do next time. I know the tears don’t hurt her.

It’s just an emotion she is passing through.

So I followed the mid-wife’s steps, preparing Savannah for sleep with lots of cuddles, wrapping her tight and the putting her in bed.

Controlled Crying begins

I pulled up a chair and sat quietly beside her, patting her when she became distressed and telling her how much I loved her when the tears started and the wailing continued.

My heart was wrenched from within me as I fought the urge to pick her up and hold her so tight with my love. But I patted and shooed and pleaded silently that she calm herself down soon as I hated seeing her so distressed.

And before I knew it the five minutes which seemed like 5 hours passed, as did her tears, and she slipped into that calm state before sleep.

Wow that was easy!

And I was fearful to try this before? I thought of all the hours wasted with Kalyra in stress trying to get her to sleep. Isn’t five minutes of crying way easier on your baby than months of sleeplessness and a freaked out highly strung mother?

Just as she drifted off to sleep, Kalyra came bursting into the room and startled her,


The mid wife spoke to me about this- the real problem with getting Savannah to sleep- the attention that Kalyra would be demanding. She told me the preventative method for this, which I thought I had worked out, but obviously didn’t do a good job of.

Adn so the process started again….. and again… and again..

For an hour we went through the cycle and my heart ached again, especially the moment when Kalyra threw herself down on the floor in the hallway in tears because I couldn’t give her the attention she needed.

Finally she drifted off to sleep for good and I downed a glass of red wine before cuddling Kalyra to sleep.

Since then controlled crying has not worked too well for me. I would try it and then sit and look at her face and realize she was just too young to be left there in tears. She needed cuddling from her mummy.

The next tresilian nurse told me just as much. For at least the first six weeks they need lots of cuddles and if they are crying they aren’t gong to go to sleep anyway. You have to pick them up, settle them and then try again.

Bloody exhausting.

Thoughts of “How can anyone ever have five kids?” or “Craig has to get the snip” would always infiltrate my mind during settle to sleep time, or the words to the “childrens'” book “Just go the Fuck to Sleep”  as I silently willed her to close her eyes.

Nothing would work and I would let her cry a little bit, before my heart tore too much and I picked her up once more.

I am sure controlled crying works, and I wish I had the guts to go through with it, so it would make my life easier. But I just can’t.

At least not now.

I’d rather take the trauma for a few more weeks until she is a little bigger and feels a little more secure with the world around her.

Then, if I haven’t by some miracle taught her how to sleep, I will try it. But not before downing a whole bottle of wine to help numb the pain.

For now I’ll stick to cuddles, and hug a bubs, and pats on the back.

Besides, it won’t be long before she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.

Your Turn to Share Tips:

What has been your experience with controlled crying?

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  • Laura Roberts

    Hated controlled crying. I think it’s harder on mum more than it is the baby. I couldn’t cope when Rufus cried, the pain/anxiety that it created for me made it difficult. At that 3 month mark, he started sleeping through 8 hours and life got easier until he reached 3.5 and he started waking up 3 times during the night. That brought a whole new set of issues which was hard to cope with when working full time. I have friends who swear by Tizzy Hall, and I think if I have another child- I will be listening/reading Tizzy!


    • Caz

      I’ve heard a lot about Tizzy. I think I even read it with Kalyra, or something similar. It didn’t work for me though. Savannah is much better than what Kalyra was, she didn’t sleep through until she was two, and she still wakes up. I am hoping she catches on soon.


  • Veronica @ Mixed Gems

    I was never able to do it. My first bub ended up being primarily fed to sleep till about 18 months. Second time round I vowed not to do the same. She was born in March.

    The first maybe 8 weeks required lots of cuddles to sleep with swaddling and the sling. She got the day/night difference but was quite the catnapper during the day. I worried and got frustrated about her lack of sleep too. She was averaging 14 hours a day in the early weeks. Surely it wasn’t enough! 

    I started to see a pattern evolve and figured out she needed to go down every 1.5 hours after waking so I set up a routine of wrapping, singing, kisses and cuddles. She got used our sleep routine and started to self-settle. Then it began to change again as she was happy to be awake longer. So I moved to two hours awake and it worked. But, as with my toddler, she started to struggle once she learnt to roll. 

    It’s been more hit and miss now. She doesn’t feed to sleep all the time unlike her sister. She doesnt self settle easily because once she rolls onto her tummy, she gets distressed and is often just too tired to roll back. Sometimes she needs to thrash about struggling to sleep in my arms before I put her down and pat her bottom either just as she’s drifting or when she’s already asleep. She has fallen asleep on her tummy only three times.

    I was surprised how I forgot the changing stages with my first bub as I went through these with my second bub. I’d love her to self-settle all the time now but I take what I can get. She’s just turned 7 months and averages 12 hours a day. She wakes at least twice a night. She seems to be settling into two main naps a day though these may be broken into 2-3 half hour slots where I have to re-settle her. The timing for these naps is a bit all over the place, but I assume a tighter pattern will evolve eventually, as it did with my toddler. 

    If I was very desperate I might be tempted to CC but I am just willing to take it as it is with some good sleeps and some frustrations. I hope you figure out what works for you. Maybe, as it was with me, it’s just about riding through these rough early weeks. A clearer pattern may evolve soon enough.


    • Caz

      Savannah is a horrible catnapper! She’d be lucky to be getting 14 hours as well. Today started off really good but by lunch time she was back to her normal cat naps and me finding it difficult to get her to sleep. We went for a 45 min walk and she still wouldn’t nod off. I hope consistency will come soon. It’s great to hear that other mums are experiencing the same sort of issues. Helps me to not go crazy trying to figure out what to do and just roll with the punches instead.


  • Kelly Exeter

    Hey Caz – have you seen the book by Tizzie Hall called Save our Sleep? I did her routines with Jaden from virtually the start and had great success with them. Tizzie doesn’t advocate ‘controlled crying’ as such.

    She says if you know your child is not hungry, not gassy (ie needing a burp) and doesn’t have a dirty nappy, then the cry they are doing is most likely a protest cry.

    When I would put Jaden down at 7pm (from memory this was the only time he cried ‘badly’) I would then go have a shower. That way I wasn’t sitting there hearing him cry. 9 times of out ten by the time I was out of the shower he would have stopped.

    Tizzie suggests making a cup of tea and drinking it slowly while reading the paper. Then, if they’re still crying once you’ve finished the cup of tea, and if you can’t take it any more, then you can go in to them.

    True controlled crying involves going in and out of the room which she thinks does the baby’s head in. She says once you go in there, you need to stay in there (patting or whatever works for you) till they are asleep.

    Let me know if you want me to bring my copy of Save our Sleep to Melbourne for you next week. I could pop it in the mail but who knows how long Australia Post will take!!

    I actually wrote a post just this week that touches on how Tizzie made my working life a lot easier in those early days!!


    • Caz

      I think I have seen it, I may have even read it- something similar anyway. I could never get it to work with Kalyra- she was a shocker!!
      I think I am definitely noticing the difference between the cries. The protest cry I do tend to leave her a little longer and it does fade away. If it gets too much though I end up picking her up. She did really well this morning but by afternoon we were back to normal. Would love some consistency!! 🙂


  • kirri

    You’re bringing back a lot of memories with this post Caz…I did not even think about controlled crying with my first. It was just not something I wanted to attempt – even though she barely slept unless she was held and even though I was verging on psychotic due to lack of sleep and anxiety.

    With the twins though, I felt like I had little choice – I couldn’t settle both of the at the same time and someone was always crying. So, I started controlled crying at about 8 weeks and with the support of my hubby, it seemed to work for us.

    You just have to do what you feel like doing and when it feels right to you.
    Sending you some ‘zzzz’s and sincerely hoping that you get to use them soon!


    • Caz

      Kirri, I don’t know how you managed with twins. Must have been such a challenge!! I can see why you had little choice with the controlled crying. You must never have slept or had five miinutes peace.


  • MummyK

    I did controlled crying when she was six months old but then she got sick and I didn’t want to start over again. It wasn’t fitting for my, my culture, my views on things. I do attachment parenting and it’s been good for us. Having said that, I doubt we’ll be having another kid so it’s not hard doing what I do now.


    • Caz

      The older she gets the more inclined I would be to do it. I let Kalyra cry for ages!! That is usually because she is chucking a tantrum 🙂
      I really wish that they did come out knowing how to sleep and actually slept like babies


  • Linda

    Hiya Caz

    It’s a bloody nightmare trying to figure out what works with the sleep issues, isn’t it?
    Btw, loved your honesty with the F******* when Kalyra walked in. It’s not hard to imagine.

    I mentioned on Twitter about the progressive crying technique. It’s worked a treat for me, but know that it hasn’t for others. Some swear by Tizzie Hall and Gina Ford, but they’re a bit to full on for me, and considering TH has never had kids I find it even harder to take what she says. I was a paeds nurse for 15 years, and even after all the kids I’ve looked after, nothing is the same as having your own. Yes, you’re well prepared and little fazes you, but the sleep thing is just way beyond control!

    So, the method I’ve found helps is one based on the Ferber method. Again it’s not for everyone, and there are a few myths associated with it, so I’ll let you make up your own mind.
    Here are a few links (including myths debunked):

    How I do it is feed the bubba, give lots and lots of cuddles, then put bubs down awake. Pat them for one minute, then leave the room. Give them two mins, if bubs is still crying go back in and reassure and pat for another minute. Leave room again, Repeat process at 4,6, and 8 mins. If still screaming at 10 mins pick up and cuddle/soothe. then start over. I’ve only ever got to the 8 mins a few times in 20 months!

    Now the thing is, I don’t know how it will work for a six weeker. She might be still too wee. But I would give it a go. It’s a good way of reassuring you’re always there and will always come back.

    If you want any more details I can email you the info I’ve got.

    All the best! and hope little S catches some Zzzzzs!


    • Caz

      Thank you so much for this information. I have kind of being doing this, but just not consistent enough, I keep panicking that she is too young and so end up cuddling her. I read the websites and they say on there not before they are 5 months!!! Geez, I hope I have it figured out before then and God knows what I do in the meantime. 🙂
      She is having good days and bad. Some days she can put herself to sleep, others,like today no go! And the cat naps are a killer.
      Right now i have her in the hug a bub. Took her five minutes and she was asleep. Will stay curled up on my chest for hours. Cheeky bugger!!


  • Linda

    Sorry, have to correct myself: Tizzie Hall now has two kids, it’s Gina Ford who doesn’t. Both wrote their infamous books pre-kiddies though.


  • Denyse

    Awww mummy Caz! This is a tricky stage. From my days of being a mum it was better when my hub went to my daughter who’d gotten into a wake & cry at 11pm habit . With me, she sensed my “give up” but with her dad, he was stronger ( no hormonal attachment) & she stopped.
    When she became a mum her first child would stir at around 45 mins – this we all learned later is the normal sleep cycle for a baby & all of us …. But here’s where my daughter excelled- with baby #2.
    for baby #1 After none of us ( I cared for J 3 days a week) were getting any rest ourselves my
    daughter happened on a book about babies & self settling in their sleep times.
    So baby #2 & #3 were taught at the critical time – between 6-8 weeks to self settle. Tight wrapped & dummy or thumb encouraged. Gentle patting with no words. And patience.
    Obviously you were on your way to that except for big sister. Is Craig able to distract/entertain her? This little one’s settling is a key to your whole family’s equanimity.
    Wishing you well honey! But it’s hard yards with the traveling at this point 🙁 Denysewhelan xx


    • Caz

      It’s a hideous stage Denyse!! I wish I could work it out. Every day is so different. Yesterday she could get herself off to sleep and we were getting up to an hour out of her. Today, its been taking hours to get her to sleep on her own, but then her eyes fly open after 5 minutes as she realizes she’s asleep and missing out on something. she has her night time sleeps going okay though and she is not stirrking or waking after that 45 mins, so I don’t know why she can’t do it during the day. Last night she only woke once at 3:30am for a feed.
      Craig is helping out with Kalyra, I wrote this when he was in New Zealand so I was coping on my own. Gave me huge respect for single parents. Must be so so hard.
      I think I have to keep perservering. I keep repeating the mantra- “this too shall pass”
      Thanks so much for your advice and supportive comment- what a great community this is!


  • Corinne

    This mothering biz is so hard. My little one is six weeks (though just a couple of days corrected age). He was self-settling beautifully, but has now ‘woken up’.

    As he’s my third, sometimes I have to let him cry, because I have two other children who need attention too. They need to be fed and get ready for preschool or bed. I can’t physically sit with him for hours. I think this will probably benefit him in the long run, but it does make me feel guilty.

    I hope things settle down for you you quickly. I know how much it sucks.


    • Caz

      So very hard Corinne, and you have had extra challenges with your boy coming early. I think we mothers need to learn how to let our guilt go and understand that if we are doing the best we can and loving them then we can’t go wrong.
      Good news is that Savannah is starting to get it and is self settling, except we can’t get longer than an hour out of her day sleeps. I’ll take it though and do a little victory dance


  • Patricia Rennhackkamp

    There is so much advice and information and books to read on parenting these days that one can go crazy just trying to apply all that in your life. One can spent more time reading and trying to “learn” what to do and stressing about whether one is picking the right “method” , than just getting on with doing what we can, to the best of our abillities. I think on average, kids have more difficulty sleeping these days as a result of so many things. You do not hear people of 20 years ago, complaining so much about the difficulty of getting their kids to sleep as do mothers today, despite all the help and advice out there! And it is not because we are doing things worse or so differently than mothers of a few years ago. I think it is about changes in the environment, about more stress, about a faster pace in life, about computers, cellphones, microwaves and so much more creating a buzz in the air that affects everyone, including babies and kids. It is more difficult to switch off and become calm. On top of all that our kids are attached to us with emotional umbilical cords, they pick up on all of our stress and madness as well. Diet, exercise and life pressure has got as much to do with it – the human body reacts to it. I have found that limiting refined sugars and food in my kids diet and letting them have a day full of fresh air and not the pressure of having to achieve or do a million things definitely improves their sleeping habits. My kids are now 2 and 3 years old. I struggled with sleeping patterns when they were younger, still do now and then, but in the end I did so much better following my gut feel (that is so strong in a mother) and living in the moment. Accpeting the circumstance and just doing the best with it I could. I stopped wishing or imagining things could or should be otherwise and again just did the best I could. Isn’t that what any mother does – just the best she can. And lastly I keep reminding myself not to stress about it, not to worry that I am getting it wrong. Afterall: “Mother knows best and mothers are always exhausted!” 🙂 At least one day when they grow more independent from me, I will look back and feel I got lots and lots of closeness with them during all those sleepless nights.


    • Caz

      Great advice Patricia! I think you have to learn to tune out the noise and go with those mother instincts. Things are going really well now, thank goodness. Savannah is settling down nicely.
      I agree with what you are saying in regards to the different lifestyles we lead now which makes it hard for us and our children to switch off


  • Lisa Wood

    Hi Caz,

    I could never do controlled crying….i tried but I was to much of a sucker for their tears 🙂

    Actually its not a good idea to do controlled crying until they are six months of age..because they dont know what they really want until then. Sounds weird but that is what I read (cant remember when/where) but I think a few moments to yourself is really important. Its important to also get sleep. So at the end of the day…your baby will let you know what works/doesnt work and you will also know what works for you/doesnt work.

    With our last boy (we have five!!) I used to give him a bath with essential oils, and then I would also give him dilated chamomile tea in a bottle (before bed time, or even when he was upset!). To make the tea I would dilate it 50/50 – make it as if you were drinking it, then add 1/2 to a bottle and fill the rest with water. Never put honey with it unless baby is over 12 months of age.

    I also slept whenever/where ever – I would put a DVD on for our fourth boy (the others used to be at school) and I would go for a sleep with baby. It was the only way I could cope with the lack of sleep 🙂

    Hope that helps you decide if controlled crying is for you.



    • Caz

      Yeah, I’ve given up the idea of it. I just can’t do it and I could never keep up the consistency. I reckon they’ll eventually learn how to sleep and until then I’ll just give lots of cuddles to sleep. Win win.


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