Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.31 12 Jun 2021


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On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice on how to sleep train their seven-month-old child and whether controlled crying is a good idea. 

Joanna Fortune, a psychotherapist specialising in child and adult psychotherapy, offered some guidance.

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Parenting: 'Is controlled crying a good way to sleep train my seven-month-old?

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Listener question

What's your view of controlled out timed crying to sleep train a seven-month-old? Otherwise, what's the best way to gently sleep train a seven-month-old?

Joanna Fortune's advice

"I don't advocate controlled crying at all no matter how old the child is. There is a difference between controlled crying or 'cry it out' and sleep training. The reason why I wouldn't condone, especially under one year old, under three years old, is that attachment is still forming and developing. Attachment research shows the more we respond to our young children and young infants, the less needy they grow up to become.

"I feel very strongly that crying is our baby's language, it's designed to establish that needs and trust cycle of the year one. Crying is designed to communicate and connect and to elicit important responses that the baby needs. I would never advocate not responding to childrens' cries, particularly at this young age because pre-verbal, it is the only language the baby has. [The child] needs to learn that their cry matters and has meaning.

"I'm also not a sleep training person, that's not something that I do, but there are sleep consultants out there and I would never judge any parent. I think we all do the best we can and the endgame is everybody gets a good night's sleep. So however that works for any of us, that's OK. If sleep consultancy is something you're exploring, there are many out there, there are many that have their own systems.

waterwipes File photo. Credit: heymattallen from Pixabay

"I would say, and the research backs this up, there is no clear-cut, definitive, 'this is the system, this is the way that works'. What you're going to have to do if you're going down this route is research. Look up and see what fits with you, what can you live with, what can you feel comfortable with because consistency is key.

"If you're going to introduce a sleep system of any kind, make sure it's on you, know, 'I believe in this, I'm subscribed to it, it makes sense to me, I can see it through'. Because if you're inconsistent, whatever you're doing isn't going to work. Just be aware that at seven months old, your baby is entirely dependent on you, they like to fall asleep on us, they like to feel the beat of our hearts, to feel the warmth of our skin, it's very comforting and reassuring, it's how they build trust.

"Don't be feeling pressure that, 'My baby should be sleeping X amount of time', because somehow it's out there that all babies can do this and it's simply not true. If this is something you're struggling with and you're thinking, 'We've got to do something with sleep', do your research, pick a system that works for you and be open to being wrong.

"If it's not working after a couple of weeks, look at something else. If you're saying, 'Look, it doesn't really bother me how my baby sleeps, I just should be doing this', get that out of your head, there is no should. Do what feels right but please don't do the controlled crying thing."

Main image: File photo. Credit: Daniel Sicolo/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

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