We used controlled crying to help our daughter get to sleep easier at 6 months. This was hard work at the time but now, at 10 months, we can reliably put her down at the end of her bed time routine and she happily drifts off to sleep.

However if she wakes up in the middle of the night, it's a different matter. Controlled crying doesn't seem to have effect there.

We seem to go through phases of good nights, where she'll sleep through, and then bad nights, where she'll wake up between midnight and 3am and then be away for three hours. If we do controlled crying, she spends this three hours crying, and at times really working herself up. She won't stop crying when you enter the room.

We've recently lost patience and started trying anything else to get her to sleep. Picking her up instantly stops her crying but she just gets excited and happy. I have had limited success rocking her to sleep, but it takes a long time. One time we even let her play with her toys to see if it would tire her out, but she just played for three hours.

So we need to know either what we can do to make controlled crying have the effectiveness at night time that it has at bed time, or alternatives for getting her back to sleep. Preferably ones that don't involve a lot of crying or are quick!

I should add that although she's 10 months old, she hasn't got any teeth yet. These good night/bad night phases haven't coincided with any teeth so I'm not sure they're teething pains.

  • Can you please edit your question to also describe what you mean by controlled crying? Thanks! Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 11:34
  • Ask Baby has a description of controlled crying here. Seems similar to my understanding of the Ferber method (though, I confess, I didn't read the entire description). Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 17:51
  • Yep that's the technique.
    – tenpn
    Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 19:19
  • This is exactly our situation! We can't get our daughter to calm down without a bottle. We've tried crying it out ( 2 hrs + ) and controlled crying ( she gets more upset when she sees us) Did you ever figure anything out or did it just work itself out?
    – user4193
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 1:52

6 Answers 6


The fact that she played with her toys for 3 hours indicates that there is NOT anything physically wrong.

Therefore, your options include:

Be persistent and continue the controlled crying method following the protocol exactly. It appears that consistency is important for success with this model, so it is very likely that you will have to begin at the very beginning again.

Allow her to play independently until she falls back to sleep.

Provide sensory calming strategies to support a sleep environment. This could include:

  • Using white noise from a humidifier, fan or noise maker

  • Sing or hum softly

  • Leave lights turned off

  • Provide deep pressure by swaddling or tucking cover firmly under mattress on each side

  • Add rhythmical patting on back or firmly on diaper, or bouncing of mattress

  • Avoid talking and eye contact

  • Provide pacifier or thumb/finger for sucking

  • Give familiar blanket or soft toy (my son required one of my gowns)

Try co-sleeping.

It is important that you select the strategy that works best for you. Overcoming the sleep hurdle can be challenging, but remember that this too will pass!

  • Do womb-imitating techniques (like you suggested white noise and swaddling) work for older babies? I thought they would only help for newborns younger than about 3 months or so.
    – Sarato
    Commented Sep 17, 2011 at 1:47
  • Most of us never out-grow hugs/leg or arm crossing (deep pressure), calming sounds (soft music, white noise machines), swinging/rocking (rhythmical motion), or eating/chewing/sucking (oral stimulation). Forms of these strategies work for a lifetime. Commented Sep 17, 2011 at 22:55
  • My daughter has had the same rain whitenoise track playing constantly for 12 months now. She's a pretty good sleeper--at least, she is now.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 23:12

There is might be something going on which does not let you daughter fall asleep at night, e.g.:

  • She is too hot
  • She is too cold
  • Her PJ is bothering her (if it is synthetic try cotton)
  • She is too tired when she falls asleep in the evening (try earlier bedtime)
  • Nightmares - make sure that she does not get excited before bedtime

If your child is waking in the middle of the night crying and isn't going back to sleep within a few minutes, then there is something genuinely wrong. It could be any one of a number of things (@jny provides a brief list), but regardless there is something going on.

As difficult as it can be with a 10-month old in the middle of the night, you need to try to figure out what the root of the problem is (i.e. what's causing your child to wake up crying in the first place) and address it.


Pick her up if she doesn't relax after a few calm "sleep now, dear". No lights. Rocking slowly is a good idea (do the Aikido torifune-excercise if you know how, in my experience it rarely goes beyond 2x50). The trick is to be both loving, comforting, and so utterly boring that going to bed seems like the better choice. As others have said, you must also be on the lookout for something wrong as well. Also note that the sleeping pattern changes before one year, for some children. It will stabilize, just keep calm (I know it's hard, I know).

And if you've been arguing, consider not doing it in front of the child.


When a baby cries, it gets more and more worked up. The sooner you can comfort your daughter, the less she will cry. When you let her cry for 3 hours it is understandable that she can't really calm down or sleep well because after that long she can't remember why she is crying. You need to pick her up. It doesn't matter if it violates controlled crying because ultimately you want what is best for her, which is to feel loved and comforted by her parents. So, pick her up when she starts crying and rock her, which shouldn't take as long if you don't wait to do it. Make sure you keep the room dark and try to be as quiet as possible. Sing to your daughter softly and as you rock, she should fall back asleep.

To check if your daughter is teething, feel her gums. They will be very hard and you should be able to feel the shape of teeth right under the gum. If you can't tell, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and they can tell you. They will also be able to help you with finding a pain medication for your daughter.

  • Actually, some babies need to cry to release tension. These babies are known as tension decreasers. Lots of babies are as you describe, though, and increase tension by crying. It helps to know your child to know which type.
    – justkt
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 13:32

We've had the same issue. I let my wife sleep thru it so this is my process. My daughter is all over the boards, but she goes down easy at bed time. She will wake up anywhere between 11-6 depending on the day. We've tried letting her cry it out and she lasts 3 hours.

1) Let her cry for 10 minutes or so and see if she'll go back down, if she gets fired up, I don't wait to check her. I've found the more emotional she is/gets at this point, the longer it takes for both of us to get back to sleep.
2) Pick her up, check her nose, head/body temp, daiper. If she's stuffed, clear it, hot, remove sleep sack, wet change daiper. * minimal light to no light
3) She will probably fired up, so I give her a bottle with water in it, in case she is genuinely thirsty. She usually hits it for an ounce or two. * I go to bed with the bottle ready everynight
4) Rock her until she falls asleep, put her back in crib.
5) If she won't go back to the crib, I don't fight her, I put her in bed at that point. 6) If she's too fired up for our bed, which is rare, then I go back to number 2. But usually she goes down with a smile in our bed.

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