There appear to be two battlefields that divide parents and baby ‘experts’ more than any other. One is the breast vs bottle debate, the other is “should I let my baby cry it out at bedtime?”
Firstly, let’s start by explaining what we mean by “crying it out” or “controlled crying”. Here we are talking about leaving your baby to cry for a short period of time, checking back regularly and reassuring your baby if needed. We are not talking about leaving the baby alone and crying, unattended, for indefinite periods of time.
Now that’s cleared up, how does “Controlled Crying” actually work? What do you DO? Well, there’s even disagreement between those who advocate Controlled Crying about exactly how it works (I did warn you it was controversial!). Between Dr Spock (that’s the childcare guru, not the Vulcan), Penelope Leach, and others the age when you should start Controlled Crying is anywhere from 3 months to 2 years (although most people now agree it shouldn’t be done before 6 months) and you should return to them either almost as soon as they start crying, or leave it 30 minutes.
Fuller explanations of the four expert’s guides are detailed on the BabyCentre website. In general though, the idea is to follow your normal bedtime routine, obviously including making sure that your little one is nice and snuggled up in their Kiddy Kaboosh baby sleeping bag, pop them into their cot and then leave the room. If they start crying you leave them a reasonable length of time before heading back, reassuring them and then leaving again. Jo Frost (aka Supernanny) gives a more detailed version of this basic approach on her website.
A few things to remember are:
- You know your baby and know what a reasonable length of time is for them, so trust your instincts.
- Chances are you AND the baby may end up crying. It’s horrible hearing them upset. If you can have a partner, friend or relative on hand to help and support then it’ll be easier.
- When you go back into the room, keep everything very low key and muted. You are trying to instil the idea that this is quiet sleep time.
- If your baby is getting extremely distressed, or is ill then stop the Controlled Crying and see to them. You can try again another day or try one of the other techniques we’ll look at in a future blog post.
- Anecdotally, most parents say that the first night is the worst, but that within a few days their babies are settling themselves much better.
Of course, not everyone agrees with Controlled Crying as a way to help young children settle themselves to sleep. Some people are uncomfortable with a method that appears to cause their baby distress, feel it teaches babies that love and comfort is withheld if you are upset and, they believe, does emotional harm to young minds. If Controlled Crying isn’t for you or your family then there’s no shame in admitting that and looking at alternative ways of helping your baby settle themselves to sleep – it is a difficult process to go through and if you aren’t committed it will make it even harder. In terms of whether it does long term damage to your baby’s emotional development, this article in the Guardian gives an overview of research into the issue.
Finally, a word of warning. Just remember that all children are different. My eldest (a girl) just needed to shout before going to sleep and Controlled Crying worked a treat. Her younger brother didn’t need help settling until he was older. He HATED to be left alone and all Controlled Crying achieved for him was teaching him how to escape from his cot unaided, leaving us to also tackle the transition from cot to bed, which is a whole future blog post!
Tog rating is simply a scale which measures ‘thermal resistance’ and indicates the degree of warmth you should expect from your sleeping bag; the higher the tog of the sleeping bag the warmer your baby will be.
To make TOG simpler to understand we have developed four weights which will suit all climates, nursery temperatures and conditions
- STANDARD WEIGHT – The standard weight sleeping bag is approx. 2.5 tog. This tog will suit most European climates throughout the year when your baby’s nursery temperature is 18º – 21º and is by far the most popular thickness.
- SUMMER WEIGHT – This bag is tested to approx. 1 tog and has a lightweight padding which is ideal for warmer summer nights when temperatures are around 21º – 24º. Summer weight sleeping bags are ideal for daytime naps and holidays
- WINTER WEIGHT – the winter weight sleeping bag has a heavier padding and is tested to approx. 3.5 tog ; ideal for use when nursery temperatures drop to below 18º
- LIGHT WEIGHT – This sleeping bag is approx. 0.5 tog and has no inner padding and is for use on hot summer nights or when holidaying in warmer climates when temperature rise above 24º.
- The light weight sleeping bag is also ideal for daytime summer naps
Simply dress baby as normal in a body vest and sleeper. Remember that babies maintain body temperature by ventilating through their head, arms and hands.
It is quite usual for baby’s hands to be cool during sleep. However if the room temperature falls then simply add a further layer of night clothing; perhaps a cardigan or pyjama top. If you think baby is getting too warm remove a layer of night wear. A simple guide is to feel the nape of the baby’s neck – if it is damp then baby is probably too warm.
During the night all babies naturally wriggle and turn causing conventional sheets, blankets and duvets to tangle and slip off. Research has shown that this can result in baby getting either too hot or too cold, thus causing stress and discomfort. By using Kiddy Kaboosh Sleeping Bags from birth, babies and toddlers are able to move naturally whilst maintaining correct, but cosy warmth, thus assisting longer and more peaceful sleep patterns.
Kiddy Kaboosh sleeping bags are all made with soft 100% Cotton; we use quilted airfill polyester as a cosy filling. Your sleeping bag will easily machine wash and tumble dry.
It is advisable to have at least two sleeping bags for hygiene and laundry purposes.
All parents want their babies to sleep well. But one of the great universal parenting truths is that as soon when a baby starts sleeping well the parent is likely to wake up, panicking that something has happened to the baby.
Over 300 babies die from SIDs (Sudden Infant Death, also referred to as cot death) in the UK each year. Although that number sounds shocking, and SIDs is one of the main causes of death in babies under 12 months, it’s worth remembering that it is still rare and that thanks to the work of organisations such as The Lullaby Trust1 numbers have been fallen steeply in the past 20 years.
One of the biggest changes in that period has been the recommendation to put babies down to sleep on their backs, rather than their tummies (something that might need gently reminding to older friends or relatives who are trying to help with bedtime). Bedding also plays a big role in helping to prevent SIDs and the general rule is the simpler the better, with nice firm, well-fitting mattress. The idea is to ensure that your baby doesn’t get too hot, or manage to wriggle themselves under their bed clothes. You should keep your baby’s cot as clear as possible and don’t use pillows or duvets for under-ones. Baby sleeping bags, like Kiddy Kaboosh’s, are fantastic as they come in a range of temperature ratings (called ‘togs’). As long as you choose the appropriate tog and right size sleeping bag – the baby’s head should be larger than the neck opening to prevent them slipping down – our sleep sacks are a wonderfully safe way for baby to sleep. On those occasions when you need to use sheets or blankets instead of the sleeping bag, make sure you use the ‘feet to foot’ position. The NHS website2 gives a good outline of how this works.
The Lullaby Trust also recommends having your baby sleep in a cot or moses basket in the same room as you for the first six months, keeping your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth and, if possible, breastfeed. There’s also a suggestion that using a dummy when going to sleep can help reduce risk, although evidence isn’t yet considered conclusive.
Co-sleeping is also an issue to consider. The NHS warns that the risk of SIDs is increased when co-sleeping if:
- Your or your partner are smokers, have recently drunk alcohol, have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily
- Your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb)
There may be times when parents choose to co-sleep with their young children, either through choice or necessity. Please take a moment to read the Lullaby Trust guide to co-sleeping safely3.
1 – www.lullabytrust.org.uk/LThome
2 – www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/reducing-risk-cot-death.aspx#feet-to-foot
3 – www.lullabytrust.org.uk/file/—–internal-documents/Fact-sheet-Bedsharing.pdf