Controlled Crying

Sleep help

Controlled crying helped us to get our lives back to normal by increasing the period of sleep our daughter took.

Looking back now, I think the worst mistake we made was to invest in a rocking chair, which we put our daughters bedroom. Initially it was used by me, to breastfeed but later somewhere along the line, we used it to sit down to bottle feed her through the night.

As it was a rocking chair, we automatically found ourselves relaxing by rocking ourselves and our child. This rocking would result in our daughter relaxing and therefore going to sleep in our arms.

We would then put her in her bed, only to find ourselves to be awaken in half an hours time. We later found out this was down to her expecting the rocking motion and to be in my arms, therefore when she awoke, she could not understand why she was on her own in her room and I wasn't there with her.

Sleep therapist

Whilst waiting to see the homeopath, I noticed a leaflet on their notice board about a sleep therapist. The homeopath knew the therapist and advised us that she was also a nurse, who provided advice on sleep therapy outside of her normal nursing work.

I think we decided to contact the sleep therapist not because she was also a nurse, but because we were desperate and anything that could help without risking my daughters health was worth considering.

We contacted the sleep therapist, who came to see us at home. She told us about how she specialised in helping parents who experience problems trying to get their child to sleep. She advised us to arrange a time when she could come and see all of us, including our daughter.

During this visit she met our daughter and talked to us to find out what sort of a child she was, what we were currently doing when trying to get her to sleep and how we reacted when she started to cry.

After an in-depth chat, we agreed to remove the rocking chair from our daughters room, not to give her anything to drink during the night and not to run to her the minute she calls out for me crying.

Controlled approach

We started with a 'controlled crying' approach which involved firstly installing a stair gate across her bedroom door entrance. This was to stop our daughter getting out of her bed which she did frequently and coming into our room whenever she would wake during the night.

With the stair gate installed, we stopped her from coming out of her room and into her room, she would instead stand by the stair gate crying. The next step was to control the time we waited before we went to see her.

To start with, the wait would be a minute and then one of us would enter her room and without making any eye contact or speaking to her directly, she would be carried to her bed. She would then be tucked in and kissed, then we'd say 'good night' and leave the room. If she got out of her bed the second time, we would count down another minute, before entering her room and repeating the procedure of carrying her back to bed, tucking her in, kissing her and wishing her good night.

If this still didn't work, we'd increase the time we'd wait before entering her room to 2 minutes and then to 3 minutes, then to 4 minutes and finally to 5 minutes. So we'd try gaps of 1 minute five times and then 2 minutes, five times also, all the way to 5 minutes. Once we'd reached 5 minutes we'd just have to keep going until eventually she'd get to sleep.

Fortunately for us when she got to the first 5 minute gap, we found her asleep on the floor, in almost a prayer like position. My husband picked her up and put her in her bed and she slept well for a few hours and so did we. When she'd wake in the middle of the night, we'd repeat the whole controlled process again, till she fell asleep. This can be difficult because once your awake and your child's gone back to sleep, your wide awake and can't get back to sleep even if you're tired.

Over the next few days, we found after a while she'd stop her crying at the stair gate and go and get into bed herself. I think she realised we wouldn't come at her beck and call, so she'd have to go to sleep because she was tired.

This has to be one of the hardest things any parent can do. As a mother you can not stand by listening to your child crying out for you and not do anything. The 1 minute gaps seemed like an hour, making the wait unbearable.

Although it's hard, I strongly recommend the control crying but start on a Friday when you don't have to get up early and you've got the weekend to maybe have a bit of a lie-in or least you don't have a need to get up at a certain time for any commitments, like work. If you can, do this with some help, either from your partner/husband or a friend. It's always better and easier to do with support.

I think it's vitally important in getting your child to be able to sleep by themselves as this can increase the quality of your life, by allowing you to get some sleep too. By using the techniques advised by our sleep therapist, we found immense benefits from controlled crying.

This has not stopped me trying to ensure, my daughter sleeps on her own accord. I've made some progress in making sure she does this by herself now and 5 times out of 10, she will.