Why I don't use controlled crying


Controlled crying, controlled comforting, spaced soothing, crying in company; it has many pseudo names and even more variations on how to actually put it into practice and carry it out.

When it comes to parenting, anything (well almost) goes here. I am very pro-choice when it comes to your family. You after all are your family’s expert and I believe there’s no right way to parent and things are only an issue if they are one for you. Bed sharing, co sleeping, room sharing, naps in the buggy, feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep; you get the idea! These are ALL your choice and are welcomed with open arms here at Kerry Cares.

However, there is one thing I won’t do; controlled crying or any other of the pseudo names it goes by and I want to share with you my story behind why. If you came to me for some sleep support for your family I wouldn’t suggest that you use controlled crying either.

I would be lying if I said I have NEVER, ever used controlled crying myself but hand on heart honesty here I only did so less than a handful of times before I came to the conclusion that I wanted to find another way, there MUST be a different way because it doesn’t feel right to me.

It’s important to me that you understand that I am not staunchly against controlled crying and wouldn't judge you if you felt this was right for your family because that would mean I would presume to know what your family needs over you; that would be very presumptuous and silly of me. I simply don’t, only you are your family’s expert and know exactly what is best for them. All I want to do is share my simple message; there is a choice, you don’t have to do controlled crying if it feels wrong for you and that there is an alternative that really works. Honestly!

My story starts way back in 1997 when wide leg trousers were in fashion, Pulp were cool and I was fresh out of Nanny school. I had just graduated from my intense 2 year NNEB course, was full of enthusiasm and had landed my first Nanny job with 3 young children (terrifying really!). I thought I knew it all and was raring to go. How little I really knew!

When the day came to sleep train baby, I followed my Nanny training to the letter; Stay calm, carry out the bedtime routine, place them in their cot whilst trying not to make too much eye contact and put them down drowsy yet awake whilst blessing myself (this sentence alone still makes me cringe and want to lob anything out of the nearest window!) This is easy I thought to myself, I have totally got this. Then I left the room and had just got both feet out of the door when baby started crying. Ear splitting, world is ending, hear in space, heart breaking kind of crying. I swear my heart rate quadrupled instantly as I started sweating like I had just run for my life and my adrenaline kicked in. Every instinct in me was telling me to go back in to the baby, swoop them up and sooth them. The voice in my heart was shouting at me to go back in but the voice in my head told me I was spoiling the baby (don’t worry I had stern words with it after) so I recited my training; leave them for 3 minutes before going back in. OK you can so do this Kerry, 3 minutes or 180 seconds is practically nothing (what can you do in 3 minutes), you can do it. It felt like the longest time ever and I swear I must have paced around the world twice waiting outside. When 3 minutes were up I flew in and baby stopped crying immediately. I was almost crying with relief but as soon as I retreated once again the crying started again along with my heart rate. I now had to leave them for another 5 minutes, a whole extra 120 seconds. The time went slower this time and the whole thing felt so instinctively wrong and unnatural to me. It must have gone on for half an hour before the baby went to sleep but it honestly felt like days and by the end of it I was shaking, snotty and in tears like the baby. I hated this part of being a Nanny and hated feeling so at odds with my instincts. You have probably guessed by now that I am by nature a very nurturing, loving and caring kind of girl.

My training had to be right though didn't it? There must be no other way to help get this baby to sleep and this is what I had signed up for. I felt like I had no choice and there was no alternative to controlled crying. I was however miserable and dreaded putting the baby to bed, I had what I now call bed dread.

I think (it is all little hazy now!) it all came to ahead in my next job. When it came to teaching the baby to sleep I was a big bundle of nerves and all the memories came flooding back from before. I lasted 2 nights before I broke down to the parents and said I can’t do this anymore. I thought I was going to be fired on the spot but instead they looked so relieved and told me they felt exactly the same way but they too had felt they had no choice; there was no alternative. I chatted with the parents who agreed they were happy for me to follow my instincts. I didn’t need any more encouragement: I packed in the controlled crying, turned my back on my training and followed my instincts. No more leaving them to cry just following my instincts and meeting their needs. It worked and Care it out was born.


From that day on I vowed never to use controlled crying again and the families I went on to work for were only more than happy to oblige. I haven’t used or advised a parent to use controlled crying since.

It was a really long time (18 years) and an even longer journey before I set up Kerry Cares and started doing my sleep support full time but my mission is as clear today as it was 20 years ago:

I don’t want you or any parent/carer to ever feel like I did; standing sweating and miserable outside your baby’s room whilst every fibre in your body is telling you to go to your baby. I want to get the word out that:

  • There really is a choice
  • There is an alternative to controlled crying that works
  • You don’t HAVE to sleep train your baby
  • If it feels wrong it is probably not right for your family

Please help me to share the care.