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Is controlled crying harmful for babies?


Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Author of The Gentle Sleep Book

Mandy Gurney, Founder of the Millpond Sleep Clinic

Poll: Is controlled crying harmful to babies?



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“Leaving a baby to cry evokes physiological responses that increase stress hormones. Crying infants experience an increase in heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. These reactions are likely to result in overheating and, along with vomiting due to extreme distress, could pose a potential risk of SIDS in vulnerable infants.

“There may also be longer-term emotional effects. Increased levels of stress hormones may cause permanent changes in the stress responses of the babies’ developing brain. These changes can then affect memory, attention, and emotion, and can trigger an elevated response to stress throughout life, including a predisposition to later anxiety and depressive disorders.

“Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to a good night's sleep, or even a good nap. Babies outgrow their need for adult help as they get older and until then all we can do is mask their need."


Controlled crying is a sleep training method that teaches children to sleep independently.

“Controlled crying does not mean you abandon your baby to their tears but instead you return to briefly check them at set intervals to reassure your baby and yourself. The length of time between visits is gradually increased until your baby is asleep.

“A child that cannot self-settle will invariably be a poor napper. Most often they will wake after a short sleep cycle of 30-45 minutes. Teaching your child to self-settle at night will improve the length and quality of naps.

“The key to this technique is not to stroke, pat or re-position your baby. This type of contact could be seen as a reward for crying and instead of reducing the crying could teach your child to cry for a set period before you go into them and cuddle or stroke them, thus inadvertently encouraging them to cry.”

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