What Is the Controlled Comforting Sleep Training Method?

What Is the Controlled Comforting Sleep Training Method?

Nicolette Harris |

You're already exhausted, and your baby just won't sleep.

Don't worry, this is common, and there are several things sleep training techniques that you can try.

One of them is the controlled comforting also known as controlled crying sleep training method. Below is a step by step guide on introduce this sleep training method and determine if this is right for you and your baby.

What Is Controlled Crying/Controlled Comforting?

Controlled crying or controlled comforting sleep training is a way to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own / self settle.

Controlled comforting is about allowing your baby the opportunity to self settle, by leaving the room for a certain amount of time then returning to the room to comfort and calm your baby. Once calm, you leave your baby's room again and repeat the process, gradually increases the time out of the room. This is different to the cry it out or extinction method, whereby you leave the room and your baby is left to cry themselves to sleep.

For young babies, one of the biggest reasons is because they are used to being held to fall asleep. For them, it's a very easy habit to fall into.

However this is not sustainable for a lot of parents and some babies wake when you try to put them down in their own bed. Controlling comforting is about teaching them that they don't have to be held in order to fall asleep. It's aim is to teach them they are safe by themselves and that they can settle themselves when needed.

To help your baby feel secure and comforted, baby swaddles are widely used for newborns. They help reduce startle reflex and are designed to mimic been snug like in Mum's belly.

How Is This Done?

You need to be prepared and allow at least 5-10 days of consistently doing the same routine to reinforce the bedtime routine. Your baby will start to learn the routine and predict what your next move / interval will be.

1) Establish a consistent bedtime routine and do this every time before bed, it might be a change of outfit nappy change and swaddle. This is the first signal it is bedtime. Place them safely on their back in the cot, try to make sure they are calm and then leave the room while she’s still awake

2) If they cry, wait for 2 minutes before going in. When you do go in, stay for a few minutes to reassure her (but don’t take her out of the cot, try calming methods, like patting or shh'ing or a timed musical toy), then leave the room while they are still awake.

3) If they cry again, wait for 5 minutes, then go back in and repeat the process of reassuring, comforting and attempting to calm them for a few minutes. Then leave the room

4) If they cry again, wait for 7 or 8 minutes before going back in – and then extend the time between repeat visits by 2-4 minutes each time, until they fall asleep. You will be leaving your child to cry for a longer stretch each time.

5) Repeat the whole process the for each sleep, day and night. Within a few days, if your response is always consistent, your baby should have learned how to self-soothe and fall asleep by themself without crying or only crying for the first few minutes.

Note that you should only spend a few minutes in the room checking and comforting your baby. It is expected that the first few days, your baby will cry the entire time even after you going in and performing your "check" or "comforting process".

To be honest, this may sound easier than it is. Some mothers find hearing their baby cry to be distressing and you have to decide whether method is right for you and your baby.

Eventually, your baby will learn it's safe to sleep and that while you're still there, they don't need you.

See your baby's doctor before starting and inform them before you begin. If after two weeks your baby is still resisting, see their physician. There could be something deeper going on here. 

Checklist for if You're Ready

There are many things to consider before starting controlled comforting sleep training. You want it to be successful and not stressful for both you and your baby. You want the end result to be your baby sleeping regularly and happily.

Here are some things to consider before starting.

Are They Old Enough?

First, you want to make sure your baby is old enough to begin this process. That means they are at least 4 months old; it's recommended the age limit is 12 months old.

If your little one fits in that age range, then you want to make sure their physical health can do this. If your baby was premature, always check with your Paediatrician before commencing.

For example, a baby who is teething or is colic may have other reasons to cry. This means you can't be certain if their crying is genuinely about sleep. You're going to want to make sure it is before going forward.

Are You in a Good Place to Try This?

Next, you want to make sure your lives are stable enough to begin. If you're in the process of moving, or you or your partner have just switched to working nights, it might be best to wait.

In order for this to work, your baby is going to need to feel secure. That is difficult enough for anyone who is now living in a new home or adjusting to a new schedule.

Can You Make It Routine?

Finally, you want to make sure you set up a routine for this process.

It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. You want to establish a system so it will go more smoothly.

Decide who will take watch and when, if you have a partner. You will want to be nearby and listen for your baby throughout.

Also, decide on when you will check in on them. You will want to set your clock to it. Slowly work up to longer periods of time between checks.

At first, you will want to start small, just two or three minutes between. Then, you can work your way up from there.

This will make you and your baby feel more confident as well. You know exactly what will happen, and when. And they will learn.

Other Things to Consider

There are other sleep training methods that might be more suitable for your family.

In order for this to work at all, you will want to also establish a bedtime ritual.

How that goes is up to you and what works best for your family. But if you have a set time when you do set things to get ready for bed, your baby will learn when it's coming.

You will also want to make sure your baby is well-fed, and check their nappies throughout the process. This way, you know they aren't crying for those reasons.

If your baby's crying gets worse after you've checked on them, don't panic. It's likely seeing you inspired a new round if you're sure it isn't anything else.

But do listen carefully. If they don't settle down again soon, try checking in on them more often for a while.

It Just Isn't Working

Relax. That's okay.

There could any number of reasons why a controlled crying doesn't seem to be working. Talk to your baby's doctor in case there are underlying health reasons.

But also know, either one of you could just not be ready. And that's okay!

Any sleep training can be stressful. Don't be hard on yourself. You can always try again next time.

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