To get babies over 6 months old to sleep through the night within two weeks use the controlled crying method.
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
- 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.
- 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)
- Leave the room for 5 minutes, even if your baby cries, resist the urge to go back in
- 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.
- Leave the room after 2 minutes, even if the baby is still crying, and wait for 10 minutes before returning to the room
- 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.
- After two minutes leave the room, and wait for another 10 minutes before going back in
- If your baby is still crying, go in and reassure them again
- After half an hour, increase the time between going into your child to 15 minutes.
- 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
- 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
- Go through your planned routine and put your baby in their cot, give them a kiss and leave
- 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
- 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
- Reduce the daytime naps if you can maybe to 15 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not check a second time until a further 15 minutes have passed
- 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
- Stick to the baby’s bedtime routine. Your baby is still crying, after 15 minutes, do a 2-minute check with minimal attention.
- Each subsequent check is after 15 minutes
- 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.
If you child is a little older then you may benefit from the Calming Kids Course. Elizabeth O’Shea, (a child behaviour expert) has designed a 6 module step by step course to help with your child’s development.