I am a social worker and parent in Australia concerned about the western practice of a method called 'controlled crying' that is used on infants to get them to sleep. This blog talks about the use of this method and other parenting methods. Search all the information on this site to be better informed about the practice of controlled crying. For any comments or questions, my email is

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Controlled Crying

This is part of a complaint letter I have been writing to the local 'sleep clinic' in our area.

There is much research to support that methods that involve leaving a baby to cry are potentially very harmful to babies, particularly young babies. The mere suggestion that a method could be harmful should be enough to warrant a warning to be given to clients, or even a decision to ban the practice altogether.
The Queen Elizabeth Centre in Melbourne has recently stopped using controlled crying methods due to the recommendations of the Victorian Parenting Centre. The QEC now uses settling methods based on the book “The No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. Scientists demonstrate that just being alone has been shown to increase cortisol (the stress hormone) in a baby, and leaving a baby to cry for any amount of time has been discouraged by researchers, scientists, medical professionals, child health organisations, and parenting experts the world over for many, many years. According to the body of research on attachment, not comforting or responding to your baby, for any reason, would have significant effects on the mother and baby attachment relationship.
There is no physical or psychological need (in babies or parents) for this practice, and certainly no need that would warrant potential harm imposed on an infant child. In addition to the potential neurological and psychological harm of this practice, infant crying has been linked to child abuse. In a survey of battered infants, eighty percent of the parents reported that excessive crying by their child triggered the abuse. Furthermore, teaching parents that it is acceptable to leave their baby to cry and not respond to them for varied and often unspecified amounts of time concerns me deeply, as it may give parents social ‘permission’ to abuse and neglect their child.
We have not needed this practice to survive as a human race in the past, and it is not necessary to our survival now. Currently, very few cultures practice this method, and this also demonstrates its lack of necessity. The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) recommends avoiding the use of this method, as it is potentially harmful to infants. If it is to be used then they recommend it to only be used from the age of 3 years. Certainly not suitable for an infant who is only 20 days old. Even one of the original pioneers of this method Dr Ferber has revised his book and states that his method can be used for children between 12 months and 6 years. The AAIMHI also has other important guidelines that they recommend detailing best practice and duty of care, if using this method is seen as absolutely necessary by parents.

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