I’m not gonna lie and tell you that raising a child is easy because all parents know that kids require lots of patience, comfort, attention, and so much more…
It’s completely normal for a baby up to 4-5 months to wake up multiple times during the night demanding breast or bottle, however, if your child has reached the mark of 6 months, then it’s time to do something about his/her sleep schedule and finally get some rest.
There are various methods of sleep training your baby, however, today I will introduce you to cry it out method (CIO), which is widely popular but is still quite debatable. Furthermore, I will explain how the cry it out method works, when you can start practicing it with your baby, what studies have to say about this technique, and, at the very end, provide you with tips for safe sleep.
- 1. Sleep Training: Cry it Out Method
- 2. When to Let Baby Cry it Out? How Long Should It Last?
- 3. Different CIO Methods
- 3.1. The Ferber Method
- 3.2. The Babywise Method
- 3.3. The Basic Bedtime Method
- 3.4. The Weissbluth Method
- 4. What Studies Have to Say About CIO Method?
- 5. Tips for Safe Sleep
- 6. Conclusions
Sleep Training: Cry it Out Method
If this is not the first time you’re reading about cry it out method, then you may have noticed that there are so many different opinions and misconceptions about sleep training. So, it’s time to make things clear once and for all.
Sleep training is a method to help your baby to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer throughout the night. What’s important to understand is that all of us wake up during the night due to our sleep cycle, however, we don’t have a problem getting back to sleep and don't even remember being awake.
One of the sleep training techniques - cry it out method, focuses on that ability to get back to sleep without even remembering being awake. While we learn this skill on our own, you can sleep train your baby to develop it faster.
The majority of the sleep training techniques, including the cry it out method, rely on teaching your baby how to calm down and put themselves back to sleep. Even though such techniques don’t work for all babies, a few studies revealed the positive effects of such soothing methods.
When to Let Baby Cry it Out? How Long Should It Last?
When talking about the CIO method, the most common questions include:
When to let baby cry it out?
How long to let baby cry it out?
Generally speaking, you can start sleep training your baby when he’s at least 4-6 months old. However, since all babies are different, before making any major changes, you should discuss it with your pediatrician.
It’s also important to know how long to let the baby cry it out. You should start by giving your baby 3 minutes to relax once he/she starts crying. Then move to 5, 10 minutes and gradually extend the time interval.
However, since there are different sleeping techniques, you should see how they differ from each other in terms of the questions - when to let baby cry it out? how long to let baby cry it out?
Different CIO Methods
The misconception about the cry it out method appears when parents make primary assumptions before getting more information. The cry it out method is not about leaving babies alone for an unlimited time, you should rather wait for a few minutes to allow them to soothe themselves before rushing to comfort them.
While crying is a huge part of the CIO method, it’s not the main goal. You should be thinking about it this way: if your baby is used to getting your attention such as hugging and rocking once he/she wakes up, then it’s possible he wouldn’t know how to calm down on his own.
So, when teaching your baby to fall asleep without your interference, crying will be a huge part of the process. It’s completely normal because that’s the way babies ask for attention. However, after going through cry it out method, babies learn to calm themselves down and no longer associate waking ups with the attention that parents give.
There are a few different cry it out methods that you can try if your baby is already 6 months old.
Note that it’s best to consult your pediatrician before trying out different sleeping techniques, especially if your baby is younger than 6 months.
The Ferber Method
The Ferber method is based on the 1985 best-selling book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Richard Ferber. It relies on a very specific, progressive regimen to put your baby to sleep at night. Your baby should be at least 6 months old to practice this technique.
- Creating a bedtime routine. You should provide your baby with lots of affection, cuddling every time you put him to sleep.
- Make sure your baby is still awake when you put him/her to a crib.
- If your baby starts crying, give him/her five minutes to relax.
- Get back to the room and try to calm down your baby with soothing words while gently rubbing the back. You shouldn’t pick your baby up, if possible.
- Check your baby regularly while increasing the intervals if your baby cries - 3, 5, 10 minutes, and so on.
In a week or so, your baby should learn to relax and get back to sleep on his own without waking you up.
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The Babywise Method
The Babywise method is based on the book “On Becoming Babywise” that was originally written by Dr. Robert Bucknam and Gary Ezzo. This approach is not like all the others cry it out methods, it focuses on three phases, including eating, waking up and sleeping.
If you want to practice the Babywise method, you should focus on aspects as waking your baby at the same time every morning and put him/her to sleep at the same time in the evening. What is more, make sure your baby eats and takes naps regularly. When putting him/her to sleep, make sure your baby is still awake. Another important factor that’s highlighted in the book is that you should always remember that you’re the parent.
Even though this approach is well-known, many of you might think that it’s impossible to keep with the schedule at such a young age. That’s partly true.
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The Basic Bedtime Method
Another cry it out method is based on Dr. Jodi Mindell’s book “Sleeping Through the Night”. She already helped thousands of parents to put their babies to sleep. The technique that Mindell presents is quite similar to Ferber’s method. Here are the main rules you should stick to:
- Routine. Make sure to create a routine for your baby. Before putting him/her to sleep, give enough affection, hugging and cuddling. When you create some sort of routine, your baby will know what leads after what and when it’s time to go to sleep.
- Put the baby to sleep early. Based on Jodi Mindell’s book, babies need to go to sleep early, at about 7-8 p.m. Sometimes your baby might not be able to sleep because he or she is too tired. By setting an early bedtime, you will make sure that your baby is not over exhausted.
- Interact with your baby. All the activities that you do with your baby before putting him/her to sleep, should be fun and positive. You should sing, cuddle or read a book. This way, your baby will associate fun with sleep time, rather than thinking that something bad awaits.
This method offers the simplest techniques.
The Weissbluth Method
The creator of this method is Dr. Mark Weissbluth. He presents one of the cry it out methods in his book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” and focuses on very minimal parent interference to teach the baby how to self-soothe and get back to sleep.
This method is recommended for children over 6 months old, however, you should consult your pediatrician, just in case. While this method might seem similar to the Ferber’s, there’s a difference. When practicing the Weissbluth method, you put your baby in the crib and don’t go to comfort him/her, unless it's time to feed, you need to change diapers, or there’s some sort of accident.
When we talked about Ferber’s cry it out method, I’ve explained that you should check in on your baby regularly, and try to make the gaps between these check-ins longer over time. This way, your baby gets used to calming down on his own.
Therefore, this method is definitely not for every baby and not for every mom. Needless to say, it sounds like the worst cry it out method. But that’s only my personal opinion.
What Studies Have to Say About CIO Method?
When it’s the topic that concerns children, parents are often concerned about efficiency and safety, especially when we’re talking about a child’s sleep. So the main question is whether or not cry it out method is safe.
While there are many different experiences, the majority of parents would agree that the CIO method truly works. I found out that many pediatricians together with the American Academy of Pediatrics claim that this practice is completely safe for your baby once done right. However, your baby should be at least 4 months old and, if you’re not feeling sure about this practice, then it's recommended to talk to your pediatrician.
Let me present you some conceivable benefits that are associated with the cry it out method:
- More sleep for baby and parents. When parents take care of their babies, they do everything in their power to give attention, affection, make sure that they’re fed and get enough sleep. However, you shouldn’t forget about yourself and the quality of your sleep. When your baby will learn to calm down on his own, you’ll have so much more time for yourself.
- You will notice quick results. Even though cry it out techniques don’t work for every baby, parents who found these methods to be working, noticed the results in 7-10 days.
- Learn to relax on their own. If the CIO method is successful, then your baby will learn to calm down without your interference. This skill is helpful not only for infants but also for when your child grows.
On the other hand, some studies reveal negative associations to the cry it out method and little attention to children. That include:
- Avoidant interactions
What is more, based on Psychology Today, a baby’s brain is developing so quickly, in the circumstances of high levels of stress, it can create conditions for damage to synapses. Thus, you can never know what neurons were damaged in the situations of great distress and it can show up later in life.
It might sound scary but many psychologists claim that as long as the baby is loved and get enough attention during the day, then cry it out method can do no harm.
Therefore, while there are many different opinions on the CIO method, everything completely depends on you and your baby.
Tips for Safe Sleep
No matter if you try the CIO sleep method or other techniques, if you’re a new parent, there are some important aspects to always have in mind when thinking about safe sleep. They include:
- Always put your baby to sleep on his/her back to minimize the possibility of SIDS.
- Use a firm mattress. Make sure your baby is sleeping on a firm surface to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you don’t know where to look, you can check the cribs of the best quality.
- Never put your baby to sleep on a sofa, couch, or armchair. It’s very dangerous because your baby can easily fall off.
- Do not share a bed with your baby.
Therefore, as promised in the very beginning, I explained how long to let baby cry it out, how the cry it out for naps and nighttime sleep works, when you can start practicing it, the different techniques and tips for safe baby’s sleep.
You can start practicing CIO method when your baby is at least 4-6 months old. First, you should start by allowing your baby to self-soothe for 3 minutes, then increase the waiting time to 5, 10 minutes, and so on.
There are different techniques of cry it out for naps and nighttime, they include Ferber, Babywise, Weissbluth, and the Basic Bedtime methods. Even though there are different opinions on how these methods impact your baby, the majority of the pediatrists agree that it’s completely safe.
Whether or not you’ve tried sleep training before, you should always make sure to pay attention to safe sleep. Your baby should always sleep on the back and on a more supportive mattress. Also, never put your baby to sleep on sofa, couch or armchair, and avoid sleeping with your baby for his own safety. If you're interested in finding the perfect crib for your baby, then you can find some amazing options here.
I hope this guide was helpful and you found all the answers you were looking for.
Scientific References Contributed by Kylie Crowley, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant
1. Can Fam Physician: 'Infant sleep training: rest easy?'
2. Elizabeth Higley and Mary Dozier: Nighttime maternal responsiveness and infant attachment at one year'
3. Barbara A. Hotelling, et al.: 'Styles of Parenting'