The "controlled crying" debate

My eight-month-old-baby cries two or three times a night and I’m exhausted. I’m desperate to get some sleep – is it worth trying some “controlled crying” when I just leave her to cry, or could this damage my baby?

Being the parent of a baby who is wakeful at night is really hard; add some confusing and conflicting advice into the mix, and you have an even tougher job. The simplest answer to your dilemma is that it's your baby and, therefore, your choice as to how you respond each time he or she wakes in the night. It's probably worth getting a clear understanding of some of the underlying factors that might be contributing to the disturbed sleep before tackling the issue with a technique such as "controlled crying" or sleep training. You may benefit from spending time with an expert professional who can support you in looking at whether your baby is feeding enough during the day, for example, before you're confident enough to try out any sleep training. Evidence does suggest that sleep training can be effective; the "controlled crying" technique (otherwise known as "graduated extinction" or "self-soothing") involves leaving baby in his/her cot and then waiting (sometimes while baby does cry) for a set number of minutes, without picking them up, to see if they settle themselves to sleep independently. A study carried out by Gradisar and Spurrier et al 2016 found that using the "controlled crying" technique increased the length of time infants slept and reduced the number of times they woke up at night; when these babies were followed up twelve months later there was no evidence of any increased stress levels in the babies and no harmful effects on the parent-baby relationship. The study was only carried out on around 15 babies, however, and some professionals have argued that if a baby is left alone and crying for prolonged periods, and without being comforted regularly by its caregiver, it may be emotionally harmful and that these babies may show increased levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their bloodstream. The key to effective sleep training is tailoring the technique correctly to fit each unique situation. In a nutshell, there is no "one-size fits all" solution to the complex issues that can affect your baby's sleep and, if not carried out effectively, sleep training may end up being more emotionally distressing for both baby and for parents. If you would like to work in partnership with an expert to enable you to find realistic solutions to your baby's sleep difficulties so that you can feel confident to make changes, get in touch at


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Change of Clocks: Affects on Baby's Sleep

Struggling with your baby's sleep pattern since the clocks went back?

The recent change in the clocks has probably had an impact, for many parents, on how to keep their baby's sleep schedule and routine consistent. If your baby is naturally an "early riser", the chances are that the clocks going back has meant that your baby's wake up time may have changed from 5:30am to 4:30am!! As a working mum, who might have to get up and manage the demands of motherhood with those of being professionally competent and productive at work, starting your day at 4:30am will be a challenge; starting your day at 4:30am after a night of broken sleep or playing musical beds with your toddler, will probably be even harder.

Here are some ideas of how you might make that transition a little easier when the clocks go back:

  • Try to start the day at a similar time each morning (even if all you want to do is stay in bed) and stick to your baby's normal routine for daytime naps and feeds / mealtimes; babies thrive on structure and routines.
  • Make sure that the bedtime regime and rituals remain the same so that baby recognises the sleep "cues" at bedtime and feels confident that he / she understands what is happening.
  • Think about adjusting to the new time for bed gradually; bringing the time forward by 10 or 15 minutes earlier than usual each night over a few nights.
  • Allowing baby to have plenty of physical activity and lots of natural light during the day helps with the appropriate levels of melatonin production (our natural sleep hormone that promotes baby's quality of sleep).
  • Try not to set your expectations too high and look after your own needs; making sure you get plenty of rest (when you can) and taking a break to have some "me time" is crucial.

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A vision and purpose for My Baby Sleep Coach

I very much valued an opportunity to work with The Growth Shed to help me think about a vision and a purpose for My Baby Sleep Coach.

Last week, I worked with Paul Slater from The Growth Shed; I gained some valuable ideas about a vision and a purpose for my new business, My Baby Sleep Coach. It was a real eye opener and a great exercise to motivate me and provide me with the right direction for growing my business.

This is how I managed to describe the purpose of my business;

"My Baby Sleep Coach aims to work in partnership with clients to enable them to identify achievable and realistic solutions to their babies' sleep difficulties so that they can feel fully confident to make effective changes, and because parent and baby relationships should not be damaged by the stress and anguish caused by sleep disturbance."

Using Paul's Ready? Plan. Grow! approach we worked on a vision, purpose, pitch, customer journey, products and services, pricing, and channels to market. From here I managed to set up a Facebook page and a website that encompassed all the right ingredients to get started. I feel very excited about moving forward.

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Is it realistic to expect babies to sleep through the night?

None of us actually sleep solidly throughout the night as we all have a natural sleep cycle and sleep rhythm that takes us through lighter and deeper phases of sleep. Are we setting ourselves up to fail if we expect our babies to sleep through the night?

Just like adults, babies go through different stages and phases of sleep which fit together in several cycles throughout the night, only little ones' sleep cycles are shorter than those of us grown ups and they are likely to enter very light states of sleep every couple of hours. A baby who has not learnt how to settle itself back to sleep independently is likely to wake up several times per night (each time he or she enters a light phase of sleep). Arguably, the best gift we can give to our troublesome sleepers is the opportunity to learn how to settle back to sleep without being nursed, cuddled, rocked or given a milk feed; in fact teaching your child how to fall asleep independently would be like giving them a gift for life. In theory, this may sound straight forward but parents may need support in finding the right solutions to their baby's sleeping difficulties and each baby and each situation is unique with it's own challenges and barriers to affecting change. Time spent with a baby sleep coach may be valuable for helping parents to achieve a better quality and more restful night's sleep all round, but it would be unrealistic to expect a completely undisturbed night, especially if baby is still very young and still needing milk feeds during the night.

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