Deirdre Budd’s Blog

Archive for January 2009

Controlled crying is a technique used in some behaviour management programmes when a child will not settle.  If the child cries, the parent or parents wait 5-15 minutes before attending to the child. The parent returns to the child’s room, checks that the child is in no danger and is not unwell and leaves again. A progressively lengthened  waiting time before responding to the child’s cries,  forms part of a “non reinforcement/extinction programme”. The aim is to get the child to settle without any adult presence or any additional  stimulation. When the adult does go to check on the child there is minimal handling and minimal or no interaction. The adult has  to remain calm and apparently unaffected.  Each “check” has to occur at least 5 minutes ( measured by the clock) after the last.  Children can cry for prolonged periods. Parents often give up when they get to the 20-25 minutes of crying before checking again. There are also the parents feelings of anger and frustration when so much time has to be given to latting the child cry (stressful) and trying to remain calm and quiet when dealing with the child.

This technique can be used in a variety of ways. It should certainly not be used for children under 18 months as it can increase any feelings of insecurity and sense of abandonment.  There are a few children for whom this is appropriate. However it is far easier and better for both child and parent for the child to have been  trained  to settle and to sleep  so that they do not have to resort to this strategy.

This system is also used to deal with “temper tantrums” some children are very angry when they do not succeed in getting what they want.  Rather than resorting to physical violence putting the child in a room and insisting that they remain there until they have calmed down may also neccesitiate the use of a “controlled crying approach”.

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A newborn child cannot differentiate between night and day yet, somehow many mums expect this newborn to recognise the difference. While in utero the only difference was that there was less maternal movement at night. Sounds from outside mum were fewer.

When teaching a newborn to sleep better at night one has also to demonstrate a difference in the daytime. Although it takes on average 3-4 months for a child to learn that night time is boring and not worth being awake there are some things mums could do to help the process.

During the day baby should be awake for short periods to feed and to be aware of the environment. Most babies sleep for 18-20 hours a day and wake 3-4 hourly for feeds. They may wake more often if breast fed, because breast milk is more easily digested and therefore the baby is hungry slightly earlier.

During day time wakings baby has to be fed.  As mum learns to recognise her baby’s  “sleepy signals”,  rubbing eyes, yawning etc baby should be put down drowsy but awake, on his/her back in the cot in the main room or in baby’s room in daylight. This allows baby to be dimly aware that there are other things going on.  Household noise should  be in the  background. Background noise will not make baby sleep better but it will reduce the impact of any sudden noise on baby’s sleep.

While baby is awake in  the daytime there is an opportunity for a short play time using simple toys , nursery rhythms , mirrors etc.

At night baby should be put down drowsy but awake, in a darkened room with minimal stimulation. Night feeds should be accomplished quietly in dim lighting with minimal handling.  It takes a lot of repetition for a baby to build these experiences into a learning about the differences between night and day.