The right self-soothing strategy

The right self-soothing strategy

The right self-soothing strategy

When controlled crying isn’t the best fit for your baby

Controlled crying or gentle sleep training?

Sally came to us when her little girl Ingrid was 7 months old, and she needed to teach teach her to self soothe.

This was her first baby, and she really hadn’t thought much about sleep before having Ingrid, and didn’t feel adequately prepared for the lack of sleep she would be getting for the next 7 months!

Ingrid was quite a “sucky” baby, latching onto mum immediately after birth and even leaving some “hickies” on dad when he attempted skin on skin in the hospital with Ingrid.

Mum had heard horror stories about babies developing feeding problems when dummies were introduced so Ingrid didn’t have one as a newborn, and it quickly became apparent her favorite way to settle was to suck to sleep.

Naps - short but sweet

Mum quickly fell into a pattern of feeding Ingrid right before her naps so she would easily fall asleep and mum could transfer her to the bassinet for a quick 45 minute nap.

Ingrid never napped for more than 45 minutes, and mum got into the habit of getting her jobs done in small increments during the day which worked fine for mum and she felt Ingrid was getting enough sleep.

Nights are fragmented and mum is exhausted

Overnight Ingrid always fed back to sleep and usually woke 2-3 times, which was really tolerable for mum, and she felt like things were ticking along just fine.

The 4 month sleep regression hit, and suddenly Ingrid’s 45 minute naps became 30 minutes and her 2-3 night wake ups became 5-7 wake ups, things were in Mum’s opinion spiraling out of control.

Mum was loosing her patience in the day, and felt the lack of sleep was not only affecting her parenting, but also Ingrid's mood, she was becoming more irritable and scratchy through the day.

Friends explained this was a regression and perhaps things would improve when she started solids. Mum started solids at 5 months, but Ingrid’s sleep stayed the same, if anything she woke more frequently before 9pm, struggling to get into a deep sleep.

By 6 months, mum was shattered and her husband was noticing the affect the lack of sleep was having on his small family.

He was having to take the occasional annual leave day to help out at home as mum really needed to catch up on sleep.

Breaking point for Sally

Sally called us at 7 months and immediately burst into tears, she explained that on a friends advice she let Ingrid cry it out for the last couple of nights, but that Ingrid would cry and cry for over an hour at a time and then mum had to feed her to sleep anyway.

She explained that last night Ingrid has cried so much she had vomited and this was the final straw for mum, she was at a loss as to what to do, and needed some sleep and some help.

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We explained our philosophy around gentle sleep training, and that this usually saw better results with a baby who is used to being fed to sleep, as the mum has become the sleep association, and to remove something to quickly usually doesn’t end well.

We explained that Ingrid had no idea how to self soothe, or to make herself drowsy enough to fall asleep, and that she needed some time and space with a lot of physical and emotional support to learn to do this.

We needed to stay with her and offer this support while she made the transition to independent sleep.

We stayed the night with Sally, changed up her bed time routine to get Ingrid into bed much earlier and then coached Mum through the settling technique in the room with Ingrid.

We picked her up and nursed her 3 times over the hour that we stayed with her, and this helped her calm down really quickly.

By the third time it was obvious Ingrid was tired and getting frustrated, she tried to feed to sleep and stay on mum, but Mum gave her a big cuddle and popped her back down.

With Mums hand on her back and a lot of nursery rhyme singing Ingrid’s loud angry cry became intermittent, and she had a big sigh and went to sleep!

Mum and I looked at each other, and Mum was so stocked that SHE had allowed Ingrid to self soothe with just some touch and voice, and that Ingrid had done it!

To say mum was happy was an understatement, she really doubted that Ingrid could do it, even though we re-assured her we had seen so many do it before her!

One week in and Ingrid is doing well..

Ingrid took a week or so to sleep through the night, we had a lot of work to do on her night feeds and day feed balance, as well as tweaking her solids consumption and nap routine.

The take home message for mum was that once she felt comfortable and confident with her settling strategy the process was so much easier.

Cry it out or controlled crying works for lots of babies, but often when there is a feed to sleep association its not a great fit, and if it doesn’t suit a parents parenting style, its definitely not a good fit.

Mum felt pressure from her friends to try what they suggested despite feeling un-easy about it, and this resulted in a negative outcome for Ingrid and mum.

Mum almost gave up on the idea that sleep training could help, and thought sleep training = cry it out.

Like many parents Sally didn’t realise that sleep training is working on a huge multitude of factors which influence sleep and making sure all your ducks line up before we attempt any new settling strategies.


"We had a fantastic consultant, Lauren in ChCh. Our twins were born prem and spent time in NICU. Once home we really wanted some advice to have them on the same schedule and as much of a settled sleep at the same time as each other as possible.

Lauren was amazing and gave us helpful information and a plan that ACTUALLY WORKS!! We now have two babes on the same schedule with solid sleeping habits, who are happy and content. We would highly recommend using Baby Sleep Consultant, the variety of sessions that are offered can meet a wide range of families to help structure and provide advice for good sleeping techniques - thanks so much Lauren."

~ Alisha Peter

"For the past fortnight we have been working with Cara and have seen a huge improvement in the sleep of my 6 month old baby. Cara was incredibly patient and understanding when we wernt ready to start sleep training after our initial consult and was ready to support us when it worked for us.

She also took a firm but supportive approach when I began to be inconsistent with our strategy. My little man now settles in bed completely on his own at night with no dummy and can sleep up to 6/7 hrs in a stretch! We are still working on extending his day sleeps but we have the tools to continue to move forward and I am feeling really positive about the future. Thank you Cara for saving my sanity!"

~ Chloe Bryant 




  • HI my name is Kylie I’m trying to retrain my 7 month old boy he use to be a real good sleeper I thought he had skipped the 4 month regression he slept through the night and would self settle now he wakes up once or more a night and doesn’t self settle anymore just needing ideas on how to retrain him

    Kylie Doherty on

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