Cry It Out Sleep Training Tips from real moms who have actually used the method. Tips to help you succeed at sleep training.
Cry it out can sound simple on paper. You simply let your baby cry for a bit before naps and sleep. After a few days, your baby will learn to fall asleep independently. Then you will all prance for joy!
Sometimes it really is that easy.
Most of the time, it is not.
Sleep training is never easy, and of all the sleep training methods, cry it out is emotionally very difficult. You can do your research and know your baby will be completely fine after sleep training. I have made this step easy for you by compiling my Big List of Sleep Training Resources. It is still difficult.
After writing 6 Rules for Using Cry It Out as a Baby Sleep Training Method, I asked readers what their advice was for using cry it out as a sleep training method. What tips would they give others? What is essential for people to understand and know before beginning cry it out sleep training? Here are the answers.
Cry It Out Sleep Training Tips
Here are some tips for teaching your baby to self-soothe using CIO from moms who have actually used the cry it out method.
General Cry-It-Out Method Sleep Training Tips
Things to know/understand:
1) be consistent/don’t give in. Inconsistency will just be torture for everyone.
2) your child will not hate you or remember the crying, even the next morning. He/she will be just as pleased to see you at the designated wake up time.
3) it gets easier every night. An hour of crying the first night will likely be shorter the next night.
4) be prepared for setbacks. It doesn’t mean it’s not working. See #1.
5) you are giving your child an important life skill – Sleep is a necessity and you are teaching them how to do that. You will ALL be happier for it.
As far as tips – turn off the monitor sound, shut the bedroom doors, wear ear plugs if you have to. And try to sleep through it. It was hard but doing extinction vs checks worked so much better for us. 7-7 after 3 nights of crying and the crying decreased each night.
This is exactly how it was for my kiddos… they get a full night of sleep, and even after my daughter did her crying for quite a while, she’d wake up HAPPY and smiling!
Absolutely second all of this. I started CIO when I wasn’t fully sure I wanted to…and that was a huge mistake because I would go cold turkey one night and then check on her and rock her to sleep the next.. when I finally went full on with CIO, it only took a few days and made life soooooo much easier. If I had done it from the get-go fully committed, it would have blessed us with sleep a whole year earlier!
Use a Timer
The cry it out method of sleep training is not easy. Setting a timer can help you to know how long your baby has really been crying. It can also help you not intervene too soon.
Get a timer and use it. Listening to your baby cry always feels like an eternity, no matter how long they’ve actually been crying. I can remember trying to let my firstborn settle himself and, when I was headed back into his room to get him, I happened to glance at the clock. He hadn’t even been fussing a minute. Using a timer also allows you to recognize patterns in how long it takes them to settle. That way, you can tell if they are crying longer than “normal”, and you will know that it may be something you need to address.
Yes! I second this! I did the same thing – and I would start with 3-5min and tell myself “I’ll let them cry for x min and then see what they sound like after that.” Once I discovered that my daughter rarely needed more than 7-10 minutes before settling down easily and going to sleep peacefully, it made it easier to endure AND also helped me know exactly when she needed extra help/comfort or when something was wrong.
Keep a clock by you and watch it. Your child isn’t crying as long as you think he is! Made a huge difference for us! One night of CIO and we were good!
Cry It Out is Hard
This will not be easy. This sleep method can be hard on you. First of all, it is hard to not know how long the process will take.
You might also start to find yourself worry about potential long-term effects. Are the negative things people say true? Will this be bad for cortisol levels in baby? Will it cause attachment issues or separation anxiety?
>>>Read: What Are the Benefits of Sleep Training?
It is hard. Know it is hard. But know it works. If cry it out is not your thing, there are other ways to sleep train baby. If you have a newborn, see my Gentle Sleep Training: The Four S’s.
No matter how many times you do it, it never is easy. I’m now training baby #3 and I always hate to hear them cry. We CIO because I know the benefits, but it’s hard. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Some things worth doing are hard.
Know Baby and Use Wise Timing
You will have more success at making the CIO method work if you know your baby. You want to know what cue to watch for to tell you it is time for sleep. Learn more about Optimal Waketime Lengths (aka wake windows) here.
Before doing any CIO, it’s wise to have the pediatrician give a clean bill of health, because illnesses cause MOTN wakings and difficulties falling asleep. Secondly, I personally never did any CIO with my kids until they had proved to me that they no longer needed MOTN feedings, though this can vary greatly from baby to baby (my firstborn began CIO at 6 weeks old but was STTN without feedings needed for 2 full weeks at that point, whereas my second born was 11 weeks old). Third, it’s a smart idea to have the strategy in mind. We used the Ferber method where I could pop in at intervals for my daughter, because she was quite young. With my son, he didn’t even need any CIO until briefly at 6 months and then not again until maybe a few times at around a year, and then not again until 15+ months old — so for him, we just did a strict CIO without popping in to check on him, as that seemed to cause more harm than good. Know your child’s cries and what they mean — very, very important! Kids can get sick very suddenly in the middle of the night, so it’s good to remember that if a child has been STTN and then suddenly starts waking up MOTN again. And finally, don’t let anyone put you down for doing it. As a mom, your kids need YOU. And that means you need to take care of you. And them. Some critics like to claim that CIO will somehow psychologically or neurologically damage a child, but on the contrary, I’ve seen the opposite! And on top of that, getting a full night of sleep makes all the difference — for both mom and baby!
Most important thing: know why your baby is crying. Aka meet ALL their needs so you know that CIO is serving it’s purpose and you aren’t ignoring your baby.
You need to be confident that they don’t need any MOTN feedings. For all 3 of mine, I knew it was time when they would no longer take full feedings during the day if they even had 1-2oz at night. Then be consistent. I think a lot of people who say CIO doesn’t work is because they weren’t committed to it or consistent. It’s not fun. It even sucks. But it’s 100% worth it to have a great sleeper.
Great Sleep Training Books
Know What Cry It Out Sleep Training Is
Before you get started with the cry-it-out method of self soothing, know what it is and what it isn’t.
I think people jump the gun assuming CIO starts in the infant weeks (if they are not informed and say that CIO is a form of abuse). This is NOT the case. CIO is different for every family but I don’t know anyone that let a newborn scream while also ignoring the infant. It has such a bad rep but I have only seen it work if done correctly. I give different advice based on the parent I am speaking with. Not all scenarios work for each baby/Family. But I can attest that it has worked in one way or another for all of my children.
You really need to trust yourself when sleep training a baby, whether you are using the method from Richard Ferber (a graduated extinction method), an extinction method, my CIO Bootcamp, or some other method.
You will have to make judgment calls. You will have to analyze baby’s cries and decide if intervention is a good idea or not.
I did sleep training 13 years ago, before comment sections ever existed, and just it exactly as Babywise said it would. 5 years ago I did Babywise, and read comment sections..what a huge mistake that was. I started to question and doubt what I KNEW worked. Ugh. 3 years ago I did Babywise again with NO googling anything about it, and it went great! Lol
I felt like the worst mom ever letting them cry, but I knew they were tired and I knew all their needs were met because I was right there checking every 5 minutes and listening constantly with tears in my eyes. But I knew it was a need for them to sleep too. Asher went backwards for a little while during the middle of the night, but still only got up once even then. We always talked to the doctor too about things at our visits. Layla is still very new so she still needs those middle of the night feedings, but this may still help for getting better stretches too and better naps during the day. It sure did for both of ours! One thing we learned is that if we tried to keep kids up during the day or they didn’t nap well, they didn’t sleep well at night. And it Still is so true! Sleep and GOOD sleep is so important at every stage of life! Do what is best for your family. But I promise It gets better and more sleep does come
Consistency is a vital part of any type of successful baby routine or schedule. If you want long term success with your infant sleep training and daily schedule, you need consistency.
Be consistent. Don’t start and then not, and then start again. That’s confusing and makes the crying kind of a waste.
In my opinion, the best thing about it later is that you can distinguish their cries. It made me more confident knowing if the cry was just a tired whiny cry or if there was really something wrong, instead of just crying all the time!!
Stick with it, be consistent. IT IS WORTH IT!!!
Pick a time in your family life when you can be home and consistently implement it, and then stick with it and be consistent!!
Stay strong and make sure your child is old enough to realize what is going on! And decide on a time that you are going to let it happen and stick to it!
Stick to your timer!!! Be super consistent!!!
Cry It Out Sleep Training is Worth It
The two things I always say are 1) do your research and 2) It.is.worth it. It is worth it for you and for them! And you will see the benefits of good sleep habits for years to come.
There are Variations to Cry It Out Sleep Training
Know that there are many ways to teach your baby to self-soothe. There is not one right answer or one right way. There are varying opinions on how many months of age baby should be. There are different opinions on how to handle night wakings.
If you look into cry it out and it doesn’t sound like your thing, you do not have to do it. Pick a different method.
CIO doesn’t look the same for every baby even from the same family. Some babies (especially ones who have been Babywise from birth) don’t need to be sleep trained at all, others do well with Ferber and then there are some for whom checks just start all the hysterics allover again. This brings me to point #2 extinction sleep training IS A PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE WAY TO SLEEP TRAIN. Sometimes either baby or parent can’t handle checks and THIS. IS. OKAY. Yes, all caps were necessary lol
>>>Read: Using Wake To Sleep and Pick Up/Put Down for Great Baby Sleep
My advice is to do it the way we did. Put baby down, leave room, cry it out for two minutes, go in and comfort, leave room, cry it out for 3 or four minutes, go in and comfort, keep adding a little time. Go exactly by the clock, don’t do longer or shorter. Keep going till it works. This way, baby knows you’re still there, and all is well. Of course, always make sure there isn’t a real need, like didn’t eat long enough, or the temperature too hot or cold, etc.
Decide beforehand what you’re comfortable with (which method, how long you’ll leave them etc) don’t do the full cry it out if you think it’s child abuse! (I’ve heard of some mother’s doing this just once then saying to other mums that cry it out is so wrong/bad parenting!) And I agree with a lot of PP: it is worth it!
CIO has been hard for us… we set a timer, we’ve done the comfort you’re okay thing, but all seemed to not work… till I had enough, and we CIO’ed for 4 hrs no comforting (ear plugs for me). Then all was solved- slept through the night for a week. We of course made sure there were no underlying issues, but we do wonder if that’s not right for the baby (5.5 mo old)- it seems like an extremely long time? With no comfort? But it worked
Get on Same Page with Spouse
This is not easy. You want to communicate with your spouse and make sure you both agree on the short term plan and the long term goals.
You and your spouse may not be on the same page with the timing and level of CIO. With 50/50 parenting this is something that needs to be worked out.
Make sure your spouse is on board with your method! My DH has an even harder time with the crying than I do so we had to make some compromises. It’s best not to wait until the child is in bed screaming to start the discussion 🙂
Night Sleep Might Differ from Naps
You might initially have a different plan for night sleep vs. naps.
Have a consistent bedtime routine. Having a sleep routine is important either way. Have one for naptimes and one for bedtime.
If you have to get up with the baby in the night, keep interaction to the minimum. You might have nighttime feeds and need a diaper change. Try to not talk to your baby as much as possible so you don’t make night a social time.
Cry It Out Sleep Training is not easy, but it does work! The rules of sleep training apply whether you are using On Becoming Babywise or any other parenting philosophy.
If you want to try a different, no-cry sleep training method before trying cry it out, see my post on Sleep Training: The Four S’s:
This post first appeared on this blog in October 2018