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, October 11, 2008

SA study to settle battle of cry babies debate
THE long-term health impact of controlled crying on babies will finally be determined by a world-first study in South Australia.,22606,24305993-5006301,00.html

The wording of this article seems to indicate a bias on the part of the researchers, which - if true - would then indicate that the researchers need to seriously consider and document that they are indeed already biased, if they are to conduct any decent credible research.

But if there is any possible risk to the babies, then how is the research being permitted through the ethics committee?

Many professionals and mothers have asked this question and the resulting petition can be signed at this link;

We the undersigned strongly object to the conditions of the study on Infant Sleep Disturbance, which is being conducted by Kate Jackson at Flinders University.

We are concerned that the children involved in the study will be subjected to ‘sleep training’, otherwise known as controlled crying, cry it out or controlled comforting. This aspect of the study is inconsistent with Flinders University Ethics policy [1], which requires researchers to protect the rights of their experimental subjects.

The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health [2] does not support the practice of controlled crying stating that the technique “is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health, and may have unintended negative consequences”. If there is ANY concern that controlled crying could be harmful to infants, then the rights of the child are not being protected and the study should cease immediately.

We are also concerned with comments that Kate Jackson has made to the media which display bias unfit for someone conducting a scientific study, “Conflicting advice about controlled crying meant some parents were being scared off the technique” [3] .

As informed individuals we question the theoretical foundations of this study, in particular, the definition of 'sleep problems' [4]. There is evidence to support that it is completely natural for infants to wake often during the night throughout their first year and beyond [5,6]. This is NOT a 'sleep problem'.

Controlled crying and other similar regimes may indeed work (although one Australian baby magazine survey found that only 8% of mothers who used controlled crying said that it worked for more than a week [7]) to produce a self-soothing, solitary sleeping infant. However, the trade-off could be an anxious, clingy or hyper-vigilant child or even worse, a child whose trust is broken. Unfortunately, we can't measure attributes such as trust and empathy which are the basic skills for forming all relationships[7].

We suggest that a study into the true causes of parent fatigue would benefit families much more than this proposed study.


1. Flinders University, Ethics and Biosafety.

2. The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health,

3. The Sunday Mail, Adelaide Now.,22606,24305993-5006301,00.html


5. Pub Med,

6. Goodlin J, Beth L, Burnham M M, Gaylor E E, Anders T F, 2001, Night Waking, Sleep-Wake Organization, and Self-Soothing in the First Year of Life, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Volume 24, Issue 4. View abstract at

7. -con-of-controlled-crying&catid=11:sleep&Itemid=36

Being "Fully Informed"

Read all the reputable articles on this Blog to be fully informed about the practice of controlled crying. Once you have read this information and sought further information in support of controlled crying, then you should be comfortable in knowing you are making a fully informed decision.

In Australia all material risks must be disclosed (as in the case of Rodgers vs Whitaker) in any proposed treatment. So you are within your rights to discuss any issues or questions you have with your health professional (and you should expect them to be able to discuss it with you) before using this method on any child.

Informed consent is a legal condition whereby a person can be said to have given consent based upon an appreciation and understanding of the facts and implications of an action. The individual needs to be in possession of relevant facts and also of his or her reasoning faculties” (Wikipedia)

“In the United States, Australia, and Canada, a more patient-centered approach is taken and this approach is usually what is meant by the phrase "informed consent." Informed consent in these jurisdictions requires that significant risks be disclosed, as well as risks which would be of particular importance to that patient” (Wikipedia)

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