Family & Parenting

Ask the Expert: Could controlled crying be harmful for my baby?

Controlled crying is stressful at the time but it works – and fast – according to Michael Gradisar of Flinders University in Australia

Q: "MY SIX-month-old baby still cries a lot at night. Controlled crying has been suggested to help improve his sleep, but I'm worried it'll be bad for him and affect our bond. Am I right to be concerned, or is leaving him to cry for longer likely to improve his sleep?"

A: Michael Gradisar of Flinders University in Australia recently led a study into the effect of controlled crying on babies aged over six months.

He says: "A lot of parents are concerned about the potential for controlled crying causing attachment issues with their children, but there's no scientific study to support this.

"We've tested this by comparing families who performed controlled crying versus a control group who continued their usual sleep practices like wrapping, rocking, etc. Controlled crying is stressful at the time, but does it produce more chronic stress in the baby, which then leads to later bonding issues?

"We found no differences in levels of the stress hormone cortisol between those in the controlled crying group and the control group. In fact, cortisol levels were always in the normal range.

"Furthermore, we measured children's attachment, behaviours and emotions one year after controlled crying and also found no differences.

"Within one week these babies fell asleep quicker, and they continued to fall asleep faster all year. They also woke less during the night. So it's a technique that works, and works quickly – many parents find it works after three nights."

:: For more information on controlled crying, visit

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Family & Parenting