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

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Comfort babies rather than let them cry

June 1, 2006 - 8:29AM
The Sydney Morning Herald

Comforting babies is better than letting them cry and ultimately results in fewer tears, at least during the first few weeks of life.
British researchers who compared the benefits of soothing bawling babies or letting them settle themselves found that holding and comforting them minimised the crying.
"The hands-off approach appeared to backfire: babies fussed and cried 50 per cent more at two and five weeks," New Scientist magazine said.
"And they were still crying more after 12 weeks," it added.
Ian St James-Roberts, of the University of London's Institute of Education, examined the benefits of different approaches used by British, Danish and American parents who kept a diary of their baby's behaviour and their own responses.
Some parents held their babies for up to 16 hours a day and quickly answered their cries while others had them in their arms much less and left them crying for awhile.
St James-Roberts said comforting the baby on demand, rather than a very high level of comfort and care, minimised the tears.
"But it makes no difference to the unsoothable bouts of crying that are the core of colic," he told the magazine.

Here's the reserach they're talking about:

Infant Crying and Sleeping in London, Copenhagen and When Parents Adopt a "Proximal" Form of Care
Ian St James-Roberts, PhDa, Marissa Alvarez, PhDb, Emese Csipke, PhDa, Tanya Abramsky, MSca, Jennifer Goodwin, BAa and Esther Sorgenfrei, MScb
a Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London, United Kingdomb Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
PEDIATRICS Vol. 117 No. 6 June 2006, pp. e1146-e1155 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2387)

OBJECTIVE. Western parents are given conflicting advice about whether to introduce a "scheduled" approach to infant care or to follow their infants' demands. Attempts to address this issue using randomized, controlled trials have been unsuccessful. This comparative study collected evidence about methods of parenting and associated infant crying and sleeping in 2 communities with substantially different approaches to infant care (London, United Kingdom, and Copenhagen, Denmark) and in a "proximal care" group, where parents planned to hold their infants 80% of the time between 8 AM and 8 PM, breastfeed frequently, and respond rapidly to infant cries.
METHODS. Validated behavior diaries were used to measure parental behavior and infant crying and night waking longitudinally at 8 to 14 days, 5 to 6 weeks, and 10 to 14 weeks of age. Feeding and sleeping practices were measured by questionnaire. RESULTS. Proximal care parents held infants for 15 to 16 hours per 24 hours and coslept with them through the night more often than other groups. London parents had 50% less physical contact with their infants than proximal care parents, including less contact when the infants were crying and when awake and settled. London parents also abandoned breastfeeding earlier than other groups. Copenhagen parents fell in between the other groups in measures of contact and care. These differences in caregiving were associated with substantial differences in several aspects of infant crying and settled behavior at night. London infants cried 50% more overall than infants in both other groups at 2 and 5 weeks of age. However, bouts of unsoothable crying occurred in all 3 of the groups, and the groups did not differ in unsoothable bouts or in colicky crying at 5 weeks of age. Proximal care infants woke and cried at night most often at 12 weeks. Compared with proximal care infants, Copenhagen infants cried as little per 24 hours, but woke and cried at night less often at 12 weeks of age.

CONCLUSIONS. "Infant-demand" care and conventional Western care, as practiced by London parents, are associated
with different benefits and costs. As used by proximal care and Copenhagen parents, infant demand parenting is associated with less overall crying per 24 hours. However, the proximal form of infant-demand parenting is associated with more frequent night waking and crying at 12 weeks of age. Copenhagen infants cry as little per 24 hours as proximal care infants but are settled at night like London infants at 12 weeks of age. Colicky crying bouts at 5 weeks of age are unaffected by care. The findings have implications for public health care policy. First, they add to evidence that bouts of unsoothable crying, which are common in early infancy, are not much affected by variations in parenting, providing reassurance that this aspect of infant crying is not parents' fault. Second, the findings provide information that professionals can give to parents to help them to make choices about infant care. Third, the findings support some experts' concerns that many English parents are adopting methods of care that lead to increased crying in their infants. There is a need for informed debate among professionals, policy makers, and parents about the social and cultural bases for the marked differences between London and Copenhagen parents' approach to care.

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