Which is better: Controlled Crying or Cry it Out?
What are the Two Methods?
The two methods mentioned in the title of this article are different approaches to getting you baby or toddler to sleep. They are by no means the only two methods but they are similar approaches since they both involve letting your child cry when you put them down to sleep.
These methods are not so much about getting your baby to sleep through the night, as they should be doing that by this point, they are more about getting your baby to go to sleep on their own without a nightly ritual that lasts half the evening.
Some parents will be against any method where you leave your baby to cry but this article is for those parents who recognize the benefits of letting your child cry in order to train them to sleep happily and independently.
The Cry it Out Method
This method is often confused for the Feber method, named after Dr Richard Feber, however feberizing is more similar to controlled crying.. The method should not be used on babies younger than 4 months and roughly speaking the method should take as many nights as the baby is months old to work. So for instance a 4 month old should take 4 nights to respond to Cry it Out, whereas a 7 month old would take a whole week. From this point of view it is important to instigate the method as soon as you feel your baby is ready but not really earlier than 4 months.
For the cry it out method you should have a nightly bedtime routine whereby your baby is relaxed and enjoys some quality time with you winding down before they go to bed. It is very important that you put your baby down while they are tired and relaxed but still awake. Remember you are trying to encourage them to be able to sleep independently.
Once you leave your baby to sleep if they cry you simply leave them to cry it out. You don't go back in to comfort them and eventually they will cry themselves to sleep. It is recommended that you don't go back into their rooms as this will prolong their crying and give them a false sense of hope that you are going to pick them up and comfort them. Once you make the decision to try cry it out you must stick to it or it simply won't work.
You can expect your baby to cry for up to an hour on the first night but as the nights go on they should cry for shorter and shorter periods of time until they finally start going to sleep peacefully on their own.
The Controlled Crying Method
The second method is a slightly less drastic than cry it out since you return to your child and comfort them at regular intervals so you are not actually leaving your baby to cry non-stop.
With controlled crying you do a similar thing to cry it out insofar as you have a relaxing and loving bedtime ritual and then put your baby down to sleep awake. However with this method you only leave your baby to cry for five minutes. If they are still crying after this time you return to their room and comfort them. To comfort your child you do not pick them up or speak to them but simply pat them or stroke them and 'shh' them . As soon as your baby is soothed you leave the room again and this time let them cry for ten minutes. You repeat this process each time doubling the amount of time you let your baby cry until they eventually fall asleep.
It is important to note that which both methods you should not leave your baby to cry if you believe them to be ill or if you think there is something genuinely wrong with them. For example you shouldn't leave a baby to cry with a sodden or dirty nappy.
So Which Method is Better?
I have used both these methods. With my eldest I used the cry it out method. I did it when she was six months old at around the same time she went into her cot in her own room. It made sense to do it then as we'd have done it before chances are we would have had to do it again when we moved her. The cry it out method took four nights and ever since she has gone to sleep perfectly happily on her own with no tears and no bother. So this method definitely works.
With my youngest I did controlled crying. The reason I used this method instead of cry it out was because we had an older baby and it wouldn't have been fair on her to have to lie listening to her little brother crying for up to an hour. My son now goes to sleep on his own with no bother but it did take longer for him to get to this stage. He was crying for up to 15 minutes for quite a few months before we got to no tears at all at bedtime.
So both methods work but cry it out works faster. The method you choose therefore really depends on what you feel comfortable with.
Here are a few pros and cons to both methods:
Cry it Out
- Works fast
- You don't have to keep going upstairs and comforting your baby
- Your baby will wake up happy and will not be 'angry' with you for leaving them to cry
- Seems a bit mean
- You have to endure listening to your little baby crying for up to an hour
- Some babies make themselves vomit from crying so much so you may have to change their sheets
- Works but slowly
- You get to keep checking on your baby and make sure they are alright
- Easier on other children in the house as there is less prolonged crying
- Easier on your conscience as a parent
- Much slower to reach the desired result of no tears at bedtime
- Your baby may actually cry for longer altogether with this method than if you had just left them to cry it out
- Some babies may actually get more worked up if you keep returning to their room and leaving them again
- You have to keep walking upstairs to comfort your baby