Baby Sleep ‘Tamers’ – Recycling The Same Bad Advice Since 1913

Baby Sleep 'Tamers' - Recycling The Same Bad Advice Since 1913

Did you know the so called, “baby sleep tamers”, don’t actually have any secret methods or magic tricks?

Controlled crying is a method that was created by Dr Truby King, who wrote the book “Feeding and Care of Baby” in 1913. However, the Cry It Out (CIO) approach is believed to have originated from the book “The Care and Feeding of Children” written by Dr. Emmett Holt in 1895.

There aren’t many things we still do like we did back in 1913, let alone 1895 – because we know more, thanks to research and the ease at which we can share information online.

Unfortunately, controlled crying was just the tip of the iceberg, with some “experts” and tamers popping up promoting extinction. Extinction is a process where a baby is left to cry his or herself to sleep – without any comforting at all. Of course, eventually the baby going to give up crying, at which point a parent may think the method “worked”. But what a way to go to sleep, with a brain flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone.

It’s sad to imagine how those babies brains will wire during such an important time for brain development. This initial wiring will form their personality, way of thinking, beliefs about what life is like and how they will treat others.

  • Is the world a safe place?
  • Will my basic needs for safety and comfort be met, no matter how much I call out for help?
  • Can I trust others to be there when I need them?

Why are we still using parenting methods of long ago, which clearly don’t work well or benefit our babies?

BellyBelly’s early parenting contributor, Yvette O’Dowd says, “The theme of scheduled breastfeeds, leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep, aiming for 12 hours at night… it’s nothing new. Yet those best-selling books touting the concept are just churning it out, over and over, to new generations of desperate parents. If it worked, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation! When my first child was born 30 years ago, everyone began “Toddler Taming” — Dr Christopher Green was the guru of the day. His book describes his ‘patented rope trick’, where you tie the child’s bedroom door shut, to stop them coming out after bed-time.”

While some parents and experts are adamant that these sorts of methods do ‘work’, it can certainly come at a cost. A cost which may not be evident until the babies are teenagers or adults, struggling at times with relating to other people, their partners and even their own children. Some parents admit they don’t know what else to do, and feel lost and exhausted.

Yvette believes what many gentle parenting advocates compassionately try to explain. She says, “I fully understand some parents find nighttime parenting hard work – I get it, I have been there! Society has almost destroyed the community designed to share the load, and now there’s the added stress of paid work in the mix. But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss normal child behaviour and label it a problem needing to be fixed. It would be like expecting newborns to toilet train because parents are too busy to change nappies for 2 or 3 years!”

And that’s exactly it. Our lifestyles have changed, but our babies haven’t. As parents, we’ve got our foot on the gas pedal going flat out, and our poor babies are way behind us, doing what is biologically normal and expected. There is so much pressure to be an evolved, modern day human child: highly efficient, independent, flexible and convenient. What human babies need to thrive has always been the same, but that reality has gotten lost along the way of today’s superhighway living.

So, are you buying into the baby sleep tamers?

We say ‘we turned out alright’ – but did we? We’re a population brimming with mental and physical health concerns: anxiety, depression, stress, obesity, heart disease, insomnia, narcissism, low self esteem, co-dependency, diabetes, allergies, fatigue, social phobias… are we truly healthier, emotionally and physically?

I truly believe a healthy start to life (and of course, a healthy lifestyle growing up) can help eliminate and prevent so much disease and emotional struggle that we experience today. Right from birth – making it a gentler event, which results in a better experience for mothers and fathers. We can then have a better time as new parents, who have a reduced chance of breastfeeding problems, depression and anxiety. Providing more chances of happy babies that grow into healthy adults.

Let Me Ask You A Question…

What if we said no to all this craziness? What would happen if we slowed down, loved some more, got reconnected with our communities, realigned our expectations, spent more time in nature, disconnected from technology more, and were far kinder to ourselves… and our babies? What if we made it a priority and changed our lives, in favour of what we all need for optimum growth, development and support? You only get to raise them once… and you’ll remember your parenting experiences for the rest of your life.

Something to think about.

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Kelly Winder is the creator of, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.


  1. This kind of parenting approach has led to failure to thrive syndrome in babies. As a mother, I couldn’t stand to listen to my child cry for hours on end. That’s not nurturing.

  2. Thank you so much for this! The CIO/sleep training crowd is all over the internet and it is hard to find voices of reason promoting the alternative. The fact of the matter is that sleep training is a dangerous and outdated concept. It shocks me that there are still parents out there who think it is okay to let their young babies cry for hours upon hours alone and then call it success when their babies finally “only” cry 10 minutes every night. I “parent” my 7 month old to sleep every night, which means she gets to drift off peacefully next to her mama without a single cry. She sleeps very well, is thriving and hitting all milestones out of the park, and, most important, is incredibly happy.

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