28/01/2014 14:14 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne: How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep Through The Night?

What's your biggest challenge in family life? Send your questions and dilemmas to experienced life coach Joanne Mallon via this confidential form. Your name can be changed on request

Alison writes:

Please help, I am at my wits' end with my 18-month-old son who has never slept through the night. The problem is that as soon as he cries I can't ignore him and go in to settle him. But lately it has been getting worse, and I have to settle him at least four or five times a night. Also he tends to want a bottle at about 4 or 5am, so we tend to get up really early and watch telly. Then I'm wiped out before the day even starts.

I am just so exhausted that I am thinking of resorting to controlled crying, which I swore I would never do. How can I get through this?

Here's our life coach's reply:

Dear Alison,

I'm not surprised you're exhausted after 18 months of broken nights. Controlled crying means not going in to your baby when they first wake up. It is generally not recommended before a baby is aged 6-8 months, but can be used after that. When baby wakes, you start by leaving it for two minutes before you go in. The next time, leave it for 4 minutes, and build up from there in two-minute increments. It doesn't mean leaving your baby to cry for hours on end. There has been criticism of the CC method, but as far as I can see this has developed from studies where the child was left to cry for much longer periods than we are talking about.

Start by looking at your son's routine over a 24-hour period, including naps, activity and food. See if you can up his intake during the day so he's less likely to need a bottle at night. make daytime much more exciting so that he learns to distinguish between night and day (so no TV at night). Whatever sleep training method you use, you may find it easier to start by using it for daytime naps, when you're less tired yourself.

If you decide to go for controlled crying, the things you need to bear in mind are:

  • You and your partner need to be 100% committed to it. It's not fair on your baby to do it for a night or two, or even an hour or two, then change your minds.
  • Recognise that it will be tough for you. Even if you only leave your baby to cry for two minutes, they'll be the longest two minutes of your life. Only choose to do this when there are no other major stresses and strains happening in your life.
  • It helps to tell others. Before I did CC with my son, I went and explained to the neighbours that it was going to be noisy for a few nights. Everyone was hugely sympathetic, and most said they'd done it too. It also helped my commitment to the process to say it out loud to another person.
  • Most people find that it works fairly quickly. So yes you might have some hideous nights, but hopefully not too many.
  • This is for your baby's benefit. At the moment he is waking up because he has never learnt to settle himself because you have always helped him. If you can teach him the skill of getting himself back off to sleep, it will benefit him for his whole life.
  • Your whole family will benefit too. Think how much better your energy levels will be when you've all had a full night's sleep.

And there are lots of other things you can do – see here for some alternatives to controlled crying.

Good luck,


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How did you help your baby to sleep through the night? Did you use controlled crying or another method? Leave a comment below