Controlled Crying: To Do or Not to Do?

Sleeping issues and babies. I bet this is the biggest problem for all young parents. Everybody would love a miracle cure: a manual which guarantees a peaceful sleeping baby. This kind of manual does exist, but almost nobody dares tell the truth about the outcome. One way to get a baby to sleep is to use controlled crying. Effective for getting your baby to sleep, but how does it affect your baby otherwise?

I am not a fan of controlled crying for babies. To be frank, for younger babies, I wouldn’t use controlled crying at all. If your baby cries, he needs you. He feels off balance, and wants you to comfort him.

Sometimes, people say that your baby will get spoiled or take advantage of you if you always comfort him. That is not true. Why? It is simple – because your baby’s mental development is not at the same level at which we (adults) think. We adults would argue, “If I cry, I’m pretty sure mom’s gonna come get me.” A baby cannot use this kind of strategy until the ninth leap in his mental development, which comes at about 15 months of age. This means that you cannot spoil a baby before that age as far as comforting and love are concerned.

Even more, a baby craves for this comfort and love as one of his basic needs. Comforting a crying baby is one of the best ways to give your baby a basic feeling of safety. I’m well aware of the fact that comforting your baby every time he wakes up can be exhausting – especially when he is making a leap in his mental development. Meaning: when he is awake, he is cranky, clingy and crying (otherwise known as the “Three C’s”), and when he is asleep, he wakes up much more often than usual. But remember, your baby is showing the “Three C’s” during a leap because he is in a very difficult phase and he needs you.

So, a baby gets a basic feeling of a state of safety if you comfort him when he cries, but you get bonus points for achieving or providing this state of safety for him. Yes, I have to admit that this makes this period even more difficult for parents, too. But, hey, that’s life – you and your baby are in this together!

Controlled crying is quite a harsh method. It works, for sure, but what your baby loses is a basic feeling of that state of safety. Instead, why not try to develop fixed routines preceding bedtime. That way, it is announced that it is time for bed. And, during the night when your baby wakes up, don’t put on the lights when you go to comfort him. Doing so conveys a message that when it is dark, it is time to sleep. It is quite normal for babies to wake up every so often during the night, and what they have to learn is to get back to sleep again on their own.

Dr. Frans Plooij: The Wonder Weeks
Frans Plooij, Ph.D is the author of the worldwide bestseller
The Wonder Weeks and one of the world’s top specialists
in infant/child development and parent-baby interactions.
His book, based on 35 years of extensive research, describes in
easy-to-understand terms the incredible developmental
changes that all babies go through during their first 20 months of life.
Following Dr. Plooij’s advice and insight in the babies changing brain,
parents all around the world have been better prepared (often within
a week or two) for the often drastic behavior that marks a new change
in their baby’s development, the new skills that emerge with
each leap and how to get the most out of these wonder weeks.

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