To get babies over 6 months old to sleep through the night within two weeks.

Before you start

  • Remember you and your baby will both benefit from a good night’s sleep. Your baby will be happier, and you will be well-rested and much better able to cope with your baby during the day. A win-win situation.
  • The majority of babies and toddlers will be sleeping through the night, using this technique within 2 weeks.
  • Remember that your baby has learned to associate night-time waking with a feed or attention, which is the habit we are trying to change. When you start this technique don’t pick the baby up, or give more than minimal attention. And definitely don’t take the baby out of their room when they wake.
  • The key to this technique is consistency. Don’t start this method unless you (and your partner) are prepared to use it for at least 2 weeks. It’s not fair on your baby.
  • Decide on a bed-time routine for your baby (such as a feed, bath, quiet play/ book and settling) and decide what time you want your baby to go to sleep. This step is very important as your baby will start to understand that the bed-time routine precedes a night-time of sleep, and will become familiar with it. Babies love routine and predictability.
  • Plan on a date to start the technique, when you are feeling strong and well-rested, at a good time for you,
    • Maybe you have some extra help during the day so you can catch up on sleep
    • Or your partner is free to help you or is on holiday.
    • Maybe on a Friday evening
    • Or you have a quiet week ahead.
    • Or you have someone/your partner around for moral support in the evening
    • If you need some moral support or advice with helping your baby sleep remember the Cry-sis helpline (08451 228669) 9am to 10pm, seven days a week.
    • It is good to know that your baby won’t love you any less in the morning.

On the first night

  1. Go through your planned bed-time routine at the time you have decided. Give your baby the final feed.  Then give them their bath, have some quiet play, snuggle up with a baby book or sing a lullaby so they are awake but tired when you put them down.
  2. Put your baby in his/her cot whilst still awake, give them a goodnight kiss and leave the room. Make sure the room is darkened (so they associate sleep with night-time)
  3. Leave the room for 5 minutes, even if your baby cries, resist the urge to go back in
  4. After 5 minutes go back into the room and try to reassure your baby, but don’t pick them up. You can make gentle shushing noises or speak quietly, rest your hand on them or stroke them gently.
  5. Leave the room after 2 minutes, even if the baby is still crying, and wait for 10 minutes before returning to the room
  6. If your baby is still crying go back in and reassure them –saying shush, shush, say in gentle tones “I’m here, go to sleep” or lay a comforting hand on them. But don’t pick them up or cuddle them.
  7. After two minutes leave the room, and wait for another 10 minutes before going back in
  8. If your baby is still crying, go in and reassure them again
  9. After half an hour, increase the time between going into your child to 15 minutes.
  10. Continue going in to check your child every 15 minutes until they are asleep

If your baby wakes during the night

  • Let them cry for 5 minutes before going in and reassuring them for 2 minutes. Unless they have a dirty nappy, don’t pick them up.
  • Let them cry for 15 minutes, but don’t pick them up or feed them. Leave for 15 minutes before going in again
  • If the baby is still crying after an hour, offer some water in a bottle. As soon as the baby has finished say ‘time to sleep now’ and leave.
  • Continue checking every 15 minutes with gentle shushing noises.

On the second day

  1. Allow your baby to have their usual naps, but if possible make sure they do not have a nap after 3pm. If your baby cries when settling, use the controlled crying technique, returning every 10 minutes for 2 minutes of gentle reassurance.

On the second night

  1. Go through your planned routine and put your baby in their cot, give them a kiss and leave
  2. Wait 10 minutes before returning to them and reassure gently with words or gentle shushing but this time don’t touch or stroke them. Comfort them for  two minutes before leaving
  3. After the first check, increase the time between going into your child to 15 minutes – but continue to check every 15 minutes until the baby is sleeping.

If your baby wakes during the night

  • Let them cry for 15 minutes, but don’t pick them up or feed them. Leave for 20 minutes before going in again
  • If your baby is still crying after an hour, offer water, tell them ‘it’s time to sleep now’ and then leave the baby for a further 15 minutes before the next check

On the third day

  1. Reduce the daytime naps if you can maybe to 15 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon.
  2. Make sure, if you can that the baby does not sleep at all between 3pm and bed-time. If your baby is very tired after 3pm and needs a nap, do not let them sleep for more than 15 minutes. (And be prepared for a longer period of settling at night)
  3. Use the controlled crying technique for naps but this time leave 15 minutes before the first check and 15 minutes between subsequent checks

On the third night

By this time most babies will be settling themselves within 15 minutes, so you may find you don’t need to check on them.

  1. Go through the bed-time routine, and only check on your baby if they are still crying loudly after 15 minutes. If, after 15 minutes, they are beginning to settle themselves leave for another 10 minutes before checking.
  2. Do not check a second time until a further 15 minutes have passed
  3. The next check will be after a further 15 minutes and continue to check every 15 minutes until the baby falls asleep.

If your baby wakes during the night

  • Let them cry for 15 minutes, then check the baby but don’t pick them up or feed them. Leave for 15 minutes before going in again. Offer a drink of water from a bottle after an hour, but leave the room if your baby doesn’t want it.

On the fourth (and subsequent) nights

  1. Stick to the baby’s bedtime routine. Your baby is still crying, after 15 minutes, do a 2-minute check with minimal attention.
  2. Each subsequent check is after 15 minutes
  3. If the baby wakes during the night leave the baby for 15 minutes before the first check and continue to check every 15 minutes. Offer your baby water from a bottle, if they continue to cry for more than an hour.

You will probably find that your baby is settling itself and sleeping through the night within a week, but some babies take up to two weeks. Just keep going. Remember all the benefits to you and your baby of a good night’s sleep.

Additional Help: Baby Sleep Coaching Package

Unfortunately, I am not able to provide a free service answering individual questions about this technique.

However, if your baby is 6 months or older, for £500 you can book my ‘baby sleep package’ which includes:

  • An initial phone call to discuss your baby’s sleep patterns.
  • A detailed analysis of the baby sleep diary you’ll complete.
  • A tailor-made 60 minute Skype session – for you and your partner – to work out the issues, help you understand your baby’s sleep, explore what your baby needs, and provide you with a detailed sleep plan.
  • A daily text service, to find out how your night was, and offer expert advice until your baby sleeps through for 10 hours, for five nights’ running.

Please contact me to arrange your initial call.
Please note, spaces are limited, so you may need to go on a waiting list.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here

6 Responses to The ‘Controlled Crying’ sleep technique

  1. Julia says:

    It’s day 4 of trying controlled crying and all is going well. My baby has been waking at night a couple of times and has been putting himself back to sleep. I only needed to go in on day 1&2. Each morning around 5 or 6 my baby wakes crying-(he is on his tummy) I get him and feed him in my bed and he falls back to sleep on my breast. Just wondering if I should be letting him self settle at that time or continue to feed him? I don’t want him to think that I will feed him at night. Also he is on his tummy when I get him and he looks distressed (he is 6months and has just started to roll onto tummy but can’t roll back). Should I roll him back as I think he is doing this early morning and gets distressed that he can’t roll back.



    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Julia
      If your baby has had a good night’s sleep, and is ready to wake for the day, then I would pick him up and feed him, but not let him go back to sleep.
      If you think he is distressed at rolling over, sneak in and roll him back onto his back again, without making eye contact, and see if he settles. If not, it may be that he is awake and is ready for the day ahead.
      Can you use a pillow or ‘back positioner’ to keep him on his back at night?
      If after a few weeks your son continues to wake really early, you may like to get my e-book all about baby sleep. The last chapter in the book deals with how to deal with babies who wake early in the morning. You can get it on Amazon using the link below–Handbook-Parents-ebook/dp/B00CCC83G2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368126601&sr=8-1&keywords=baby+sleep+elizabeth+O%27Shea
      But it sounds like you are doing a great job!
      Warm wishes

  2. Hannah winning says:

    Hi, I have to say I didn’t want to try the controller crying method. My little one breastfeeds and co-slept and was waking so often, not for food but comfort and I needed to do something. I had tried other techniques before but they had never worked and a friend who had previously had the same problems recommended controlled crying. I found this website by chance and I have to say a big thank you. On the first night, it was rough, I put him to sleep at 7, took him two hours to fall asleep and was only asleep for half an hour! He then finally dropped off at 11 but was awake at half 12 and didn’t sleep again until 2 but then he slept through til 7! May not seem like a big deal but he is 8 months old and I can’t remember the last time i slept that long! On the second night he dropped off pretty much immediately at 7 and slept until just after 1! And then put himself to sleep by 2. Work again after 4 but asleep by 5 and decided it really was wake up time at half 6. I’m on day three and have just put him down for a nap and he has again settled immediately. After months if having to rock him to sleep I am truly amazed how quick and effective this is. You both have to ready and commit but my word, it works! Thank you for your guide because it really helped me with his day routine and what to do when he wakes. 🙂
    hannah x

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Hannah
      Thank you so much for letting me know that this worked!
      Many parents struggle on for months – getting up several times every night. And it can be so hard!
      I wrote this blog because getting a full nights’ sleep can be a life-saver for mums who are exhausted, and want to be happy and able to respond to their baby’s needs during the day.
      I’m so pleased to hear that you can be the happy mum you want to be for your darling little son. And that it helped with your day routine. And with your sleep!!! I wish you all the very best! Elizabeth

  3. Becky says:

    Hi. I really hope for some advice on CC. I started this with my 6 month old as he was waking every 1-2 hours at night. He still needs a feed every 4 hours as he’s on neonate formula for multiple intolerances, and I have been told that this is so quickly digested that they still need 4 hourly feeds. So the aim of using CC was to eliminate the wakings BETWEEN the feeds. We are on night 10 tonight and there has been dramatic improvement in the time he takes to get off to sleep when he goes down at around 7pm – just a couple of minutes of moaning and then he’s asleep now. Also after the feeds is the same. However, he still wakes inbetween feeds, just not as frequently. So it’s progress but at night 10 I’d hoped for it to be better by now. Is it taking longer as I have to still feed him therefore he is confused as sometimes I just go in and just shhh him and other times pick him up and feed him? Also I am not doing CC for daytime naps and have to rely on buggy/ car for him to sleep. Should I be doing CC for daytime naps too??? Thanks for any advice!! I’m really stressed as have to go back to work in one month!! :o(

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Becky
      Thank you for your comment, and for the question you pose. I’m sure there are a few mums out there with the same problems
      And in answer to your question – your baby needs to learn to fall to sleep on his own. That is key to him being able to fall back to sleep when he wakes naturally during the night as part of the sleep cycle.
      I would definitely advise helping him fall to sleep for his daytime nap in his cot. He needs to know how to fall asleep without feeding or you to soothe him. If you can help him do that, he will find it much easier to settle himself in the night.
      Try that. I think it will help a lot. You may like to download my kindle book for a whole load of hints and tips helping your son to sleep through the night.
      Good luck, all the best, Elizabeth

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