Controlled Crying – Cruel to be Kind

When I first became a mum, controlled crying, (a practice in which you let your child cry themselves to sleep in order to teach them to sleep in their own bed and self-soothe), was initially suggested to us by a Health Advisor during a check-up.


My son, Luca, was very small, about a year old. We were co-sleeping and he would continually wake through the night so we decided that we would give controlled crying a go. We placed Luca down to sleep in his cot and immediately he started to scream uncontrollably, which was unbearable to listen to. We soon caved and decided that it wasn’t the right time and that Luca seemed more distressed that we could tolerate.


It was when Luca was 18 months that we next revisited this concept. It wasn’t as bad this time round, the cries didn’t seem as distressing, although the resistance still went on for 3-4 days. Eventually we mastered it. All was well for 6 months but we soon found him back in our bed, tossing and turning – and generally assaulting us throughout the night.


It was only a few weeks ago that we had our third attempt. We were expecting a full blown tantrum whilst we paced the landing all night… but to our amazement he just said ‘Mummy/Daddy’, grizzled a little then fell asleep for the whole night. He then continued to do this all on his own for the next week – we had finally cracked it! Perhaps it was us (his parents) that were creating the ‘separation issue’ when it was quite evident that my son was ready to sleep in his own bed.


Controlled crying is not for everyone and people can be very opinionated on this issue. But you know your child better than anyone, you can identify the difference between a tantrum and real distress. In our case, it is true that sometimes you do have to be cruel to be kind.

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