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

Monday, July 03, 2006

UK Infant Mental Health

This is from the UK Association for Infant Mental Health:

Newborn babies have a built-in drive to develop and practise every aspect of being human, yet each aspect of their growing up depends on their partnership with adults. If a parent holds herself aloof from her baby as a person, and from revelling in the physical pleasure in each other’s bodies, and in nursing at the breast or bottle, that underpins their adjustment to each other, seeing him instead as a programme and a project, she will not do all she can to keep him happy and busy and communicating with her. And of course the less busy and happy the baby is and the less he ‘talk’ to her, the less of a pleasure he will be.
The instruction manual approach gives parents a sense of adult control and separateness and supports their use of authority over the baby when what they most need is personal support while they risk submerging themselves in a relationship with him. It is misleading to parents to suggest that by rationing and routinising their attention to the baby they can conserve their adult autonomy because, however much they may resent the fact, their happiness and the baby’s are inextricably entangled. A mother may resent her baby’s crying; resent, even reject, the fact that he needs her - again. But ignoring (“controlling”) the crying does not only condemn the baby to cry unanswered but also condemns the mother to listen to him crying. So being sensitive to a baby’s needs, tuning in to him, treating him as he seems to ask to be treated, is not only better for the baby but also better for the mother and for their relationship. Being responsive to a baby soon grows into mutual responsiveness between child and parent.
Infants are not out to “get at” parents. Watching and listening to babies and responding positively to them whenever possible does not turn babies into bullies or parents into victims. On the contrary, it leads, naturally and without prior planning or particular rules, to negotiation between adults and infants and thence to the reciprocity on which all intimate relationships eventually depend. It is by negotiation (rather than by rules) that a parent arrives at the appropriate period of grace between this particular baby waking up and an adult arriving at the cot side. It is by negotiation that a mother can gradually stretch the time between feeds, or persuade her baby to accept her face and voice for reassurance when something startles him, instead of instant breast. It is through months of these reiterated mini-negotiations that a baby learns that mother is not him but someone separate. Someone who thinks about his needs and can be trusted, but who also has needs of her own. These lessons are the foundations of mutual regard. Laid in the first six months, they will support the mother-child relationship not only through infancy and as an alternative to rigidly programmed parental control, but through the toddler’s confused and confusing developmental drive for autonomy and the child’s increasing passion for peers, and into adolescence. And by then mutual regard is the only hope because power-tactics no longer work at all.

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