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Controlled crying - is this really the most effective way to sleep training?

Controlled crying, controlled comforting, responsive settling, camping in, camping out....there are so many different methods of settling babies to sleep...which one to choose?

Welcome to our first blog post on sleep & settling methods.

As a parent, you are exposed to so much information. Not only that, there are so many options available, how do you know which one to choose?

Responsive settling & Camping in or Camping out are natural methods of settling that tunes into your baby's natural biological rhythm & are my fave!

I strongly believe & respect the simple fact that our babies are innately intelligent, even though they can't yet talk. We know that babies are really clever at picking up cues from their surroundings & giving off cues to others, which is their form of communication. Baby cues aren't always easy to read & it is really important to be able to learn to read your baby's unique form of communication in order to learn about his or her readiness to settle & sleep. Just like any relationship, you need to be mindful of the other's needs, boundaries & capabilities.

Different methods of settling babies to sleep

1. Controlled Crying or Controlled Comforting

The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has a position statement which is not quite supportive of these method of infant settling. However, they are understandably firm, that these methods are not to be used in children under 6 months of age.

Sleep science tells us that prolonged crying is harmful for the developing brain of our babies.

What science cannot tell us, is exactly how long is it safe for babies to cry for before that damage may occur.

Controlled crying & controlled comforting are really the same thing.

They involve allowing your baby to cry for incrementally increasing periods of time, so effectively, the thought is, your baby gets "used" to crying, he or she eventually learns that you will respond within the allocated period of time (usually starts off every 5 minutes, then 7 minutes, then 10 minutes and so on), however you also are teaching your baby that you will not respond to his or her needs within that time allocation.

The biggest issue here is - how long is too long? Can parents hold off from supporting their crying baby during that time allocation & what are the impacts on them?

From clinical experience, my only recommendation for the use of controlled crying/comforting, would be if the benefits outweigh the risk - such as families affected by mental health issues that need to sleep to maintain balance for their own wellbeing.

4. Camping in & Camping out

Camping in involves parents sleeping in their child's room.

Camping out, involves the parent starting out with camping in & gradually moving their mattress away from their child's room to wean their presence during sleep time.

Parents are able to be responsive as often as they need to

Parental presence is the most comforting and reassuring strategy a parent can use to teach their baby that it is indeed safe to sleep & that you will be there for them when they wake frightened.

3. Responsive Settling

Responsive settling involves being in touch with your babies behavioural cues & responding to your babies personal needs in line with their own biological rhythms. This enables carers to be sensitive and mindful towards your child's strengths, capabilities, boundaries & needs. It can be used under any sleep scenario and most parents use this method without realising that they are actually using it.

Now I have just discussed 3 main sleep & settling methods for babies...

Here at Milk early parenting support, we don't just look at sleeping methods, we also assess & address your family situation, needs, goals, health & wellbeing. We also perform infant physical assessments as well as feeding assessments to rule out babies feeding poorly or being unwell as a cause of sleep/settling issues.

If for example, we find your baby to be unwell, we would advise you, write a letter to your GP or emergency department if needed to address the cause of your baby's sleep & settling issues.

If your baby has a potential air way issue, causing frequent waking such as a with a tongue tie, we will need to initiate oral motor therapy & organise a written report & referral for surgical assessment of tongue tie.

If your child has postural discomforts, we often will need to introduce gentle Myofascial release & a rehabilitation plan to get your baby more comfortable to sleep. We may even need to prepare a written report & referral to our expert team of specialised baby Myotherapists, Osteopaths & Chiropractors

There is no use implementing any sleep training method, unless your baby is well & capable of successfully achieving a good nights sleep with help.

Here at Milk early parenting support, our focus is on happy & healthy families. Which is why we know that our Holistic Care model achieves fantastic results families feeling well supported & informed, so that they can indeed parent with confidence....

If you would like to arrange an appointment with us, we are able to provide care for families with children from birth to the age of 1 our friendly reception team or book online by hitting that button!

In health & wellness,

Kellie xo


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

At MILK early parenting support, I strive to be your go-to source for all your parenting needs – from pre-birth to post-birth. I'm a passionate and experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I love empowering expectant and new parents with all the knowledge and support they need to make the right decisions for their family.

Whether it’s helping you find the best feeding and sleeping strategies, or ensuring that your baby is getting the nutrition they need for optimal growth, I'm here to make sure that you and your baby get the best start in life.

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