Cry it out, controlled crying, and parental presence

Most experts agree that these approaches should not be used until your child is older than 6 months. Cry it out, controlled crying, and parental presence techniques ask you not to respond to your child’s cries. The idea being that if crying no longer gets a response, your child will stop crying. The difference is that cry it out requires you not to respond at all for a long period of time (usually bedtime to wake time), controlled crying allows some in-cot soothing after set intervals of time, and parental presence requires you to not respond at all to cries, but to “sleep” in your child’s room, in the hope that your unresponsive presence will provide some comfort.

If you decide to try one of these techniques it is recommended that your child is healthy when you start, you make sure that the sleep location is safe, and you can continually check the safety of your child without being seen.

Please listen to this podcast before you begin: Talking about Babies, Toddlers, and Sleep

I DO NOT recommend these techniques except in extreme cases. Please see these posts for my rationale:  Controlled crying techniques are effective at getting children to settle to sleep and sleep through the night (in about 70% of cases), and they can work very quickly, within a few nights (see the link to get-baby-self-settle-sleep-training-review above).

If you can, I would recommend trying other techniques first, because these techniques are very difficult to stick to for the mother. There is no evidence of harm to children from these techniques, but they may have as yet undiscovered risks for child development.

However, if sleep deprivation is severely affecting you, you are unable to be responsive to your child during the day because you are too tired, you are getting angry and feel like hurting your child or yourself, or you are constantly depressed, then you may need a quick sleep solution like controlled crying. If this applies to you, you need to seek help as well. Please take the following steps to get yourself back on track:

  • See your local General Practitioner (GP, doctor) for a referral for your child’s sleep difficulties and your own mental health.
  • Contact close friends and family and request their support. You could ask them to be there to help when it is time to settle your child, have them babysit at set times while you catch up on sleep, cook you meals, or otherwise help with the housework.
  • Decide on an approach (from the Sleep Options Wizard suggestions, or from other sources) and read up on it, or pay a consultant to guide you.
  • Organise for a support person to be there for you during the sleep training.

Please add your experiences with these approaches in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it. Let us know how long you tried it it for. If it worked, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t work, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?



  1. Nicole Weeks

    “He was very persistent and determined to continue having us enter his room. The first few nights there were multiple wakenings and each time over 1.5 hours of crying. We also noticed that he became more unsettled and woke more often than before we tried this technique. We have tried this method at 11 months and 3-4months later and both times was extremely upsetting to both us parents and kid.” (Mother of 16 month old boy tried this for less than a week and found it didn’t help)

  2. Nicole Weeks

    “We only tried it for one night and both decided we couldn’t go through it again. She got so hysterical that her breathing became rapid and irregular – it broke our hearts.” (Mother of 12 month old girl)


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