What to do After Controlled Crying Doesn’t Work

  • 0
  • March 18, 2014


Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi, I’m Kim West, the Sleep Lady. In today’s video blog, I am going to answer Gayle’s question:


“What to do after controlled crying?”


Gayle wrote: “My almost 8-month old has responded reasonably well to a gradual extinction method of sleep training, i.e. controlled crying. We’re on day 40.

“She was settling herself throughout the night by day 5 but still she has a night of waking every 3 or so nights sometimes with hours of crying. These awakenings seem to happen after 3 perfect nights of sleeping through and then she resumes to sleeping through the following night. I’ve read about extinction burst but how many bursts are normal? Because of this inconsistency, I’m conflicted as to whether to treat these awakenings like night 1 of sleep training and that her cry increase increments all over again which is very stressful after 40 nights.

“But I’m also stressed about doing too much or more to settle her and undoing all of the good work. I feel like I need a happy medium between cry it out and hands on resettling. Can you recommend a strategy where we aren’t taking a step backwards? Thanks so much. I love your site. -Gayle.”

Gayle, 40 nights is a long time! Behavioral Science claims that if you have ruled out all underlying medical conditions, you are confident that your child has a behavioral sleep problem and you are consistent in your follow through then by 40 nights, you should have seen the behavior changed a long time ago.

excessive cryingThat makes me go back and wonder if there any underlying medical conditions. Please check with your pediatrician. Reflux, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, milk protein allergies, basically anything that could be interfering with your baby’s ability to sleep better and longer throughout the night.


Stop the Controlled Crying


I would stop doing controlled crying at this point. You have nothing to lose by doing a more gradual method which, of course, is The Shuffle. I’m not saying that everyone has to do The Shuffle but in this case, you’ve tried gradual extinction or controlled crying and you’re not seeing enough results. Now, you didn’t mention whether she’s well-napped. That’s going to be super important, and so is whether she’s awake enough at bedtime. Make sure that you respond to all of her awakenings the same. Be consistent with your response.

I think it’s important to always do an initial check to make sure that everything is okay and then either do The Shuffle or timed checks from there. Please know that this might take a little while to sort out what’s going on, not only to figure out if there’s an underlying medical condition, but to potentially undo any training that might have happened from doing a controlled crying for so many nights. Hang in there.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a baby who is too drowsy, please share your experience below. Please click the “reply” link under this article and leave this mom a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with your friends by clicking below, or ask a question on The Sleep Lady Facebook page.

Share this article: Share on Facebook
Email this to someone
Tweet about this on Twitter
Pin on Pinterest

Some of the posts featured on this website may contain affiliate links. This means I have the potential to receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase something using one of my links. This allows me to help cover the expense of running the site while keeping the content 100% free. Note that I only recommend products I believe in. Your support is appreciated!