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A controversial study has found that control crying has no adverse long-term effects on a child.

The study shows leaving your child to cry does not affect their emotions, behaviour or attachment to parents and in fact provides significant sleep benefits to the baby.

Lead study researcher, Flinders University’s Associate Professor Michael Gradisar, said the saliva of 43 babies was tested for cortisol levels to see if the babies subjected to the contentious sleep-training method suffered extra stress compared with babies using other means to get to sleep.

Researchers also monitored the babies’ sleep patterns to determine if those whose parents used controlled crying did in fact get more sleep.

“The controlled crying group did very well, so that the time taken for infants to fall asleep had large improvements as well as the amount of time they spent awake during the night,” he said.

“And we didn’t find that the technique led to increased chronic levels of cortisol, which in reflection makes sense because you’re talking about a technique that generally takes three nights to implement and as much as it is stressful over those three nights, you’ll probably need something a lot more longer term to produce elevated chronic levels of cortisol in a human being.”

Researchers tested two infant sleep training interventions commonly recommended for babies who have night time sleep troubles past about six months of age: graduated extinction, as well as a “gentler” method called bedtime fading, in which parents gradually delay infants’ bedtime each night in hopes that sleepier babies will doze off more easily.

Compared to a control group, researchers reported, infants whose parents used the graduated extinction method fell asleep an average of 13 minutes sooner and woke up significantly less often during the night.

At the same time, there was no significant differences in stress levels based on salivary cortisol readings of the infants, parental stress or mood, or measurements of parent-child attachment.

But for parents who remain anxious about letting babies cry, Michael Gradisar, PhD, director of the Flinders University Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic, and colleagues said the bedtime-fading group showed nearly as large a decrease (10 minutes) in the amount of time it took for babies to fall asleep, and this group saw no change in the number of night time awakenings compared to the control group.

The results of the decade-long Flinders University research have been published in the American Pediatrics journal.

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  • I tried controlled crying with my now toddler and it didn’t work he would eventually just throw up or jump out of his cot. We ended up going with the second option of extending his bed time which worked a treat

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  • Controlled crying just never felt right to me.

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  • Each to their own.
    For me I loved cuddling my babies. My eldest had problems and was full on so when I had my other kids they were like dream babies compared to my first so I enjoyed every moment…even on the tough days and those sleepless nights. I was lucky though as i didnt have to worry about going to work. I could rest when my kids rested.

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  • I used controlled crying with my first. He was 9 months old and I was about to go back to work and I was not getting any sleep as he would wake every hour and then it would take me nearly 2 hours to get him back to sleep and this would go on all night. We were both massively sleep deprived. Ever since we went down the CC path he has been a brilliant sleeper. It only took 3 nights of CC for him to get the idea that we weren’t jumping every time he cried and that he should just sleep!

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  • Each to their own but there is no way I could leave my baby to cry in distress. Babies are solely dependent on their parents to keep them feeling safe and secure. Allowing a baby to cry im distress, feel abandoned is going to make them shut off to those feelings as they learn noone will come when they need comfort. Babies do not cry for no reason. If you’re going to have a baby, look after it properly. They need nurturing. Stop hating on babies for being babies. They cry to communicate – learn their language


    • I think the same. If my daughter cried, I “needed” to be with her and comfort her. Her needs came first for me. I never let her cry and I think that’s also one of the reasons why she is so self-confident.

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  • I wasn’t too keen on it at first but now my 1 year old sleeps very well.

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  • Babies cry for many different reasons, food,wet,ill,tired,hurting etc but also crying is them learning to use their vocal cords. A quiet all the time baby would worry me.As it is a normal process, I feel. Glad they are doing serveys on it and hope right conclusion reached

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  • I wish I had done this, my 21 month old wakes numerous times a night

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  • If you let them cry for too long their throats get red and would be sore. A baby doesn’t realise that and has no way of telling you anything is wrong paprt from crying. It also probably makes them thirsty as their mouths are open. Then they nned fluid to wet their mouths.

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  • I tried it once. That was enough for me. But every one is different

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  • Worked for my first hasn’t worked for my second. Ah well

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  • I was so desperate with my first baby, I tried controlled crying. It didn’t work, he just didn’t stop crying

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  • i cant use this method it just is not me!

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  • Fortunately I didn’t have to use this method, and I doubt I could have.

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  • I still think it depends on the child. I have four children and used control crying for one which just refused to sleep and it worked. Yes it’s extremely hard and as a parent I found that I was getting very anxious and feeling very guilty but luckily after a week he managed to get into a great sleep pattern.

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