Who Else Wants to Know the Best Time for CIO?

Who Else Wants to Know the Best Time for CIO?

Nobody is driving down the baby sleep road, looking at their finely detailed baby sleep map, saying, “Well, it looks like we’ve missed the turn off into Putdownawake-port so in the next 4-6 weeks we’re going to have to exit into Cryitoutsville.” Instead you wake up one morning feeling nauseous with the realization that sleep has totally gone off the rails, things have gone from bad to horrendous, and the only way out of this dark pit of exhaustion is CIO. The decision THAT CIO is the answer is immediately followed by the question of WHEN it should happen. Because CIO is a scary prospect for most people, they want to find the optimal time for CIO.

I think the mental dialogue goes something like this, “If we can triangulate the best time for CIO we can minimize the crying, get things sorted out prior to starting daycare, and maybe get a night or two of sleep before the MIL shows up and starts critiquing the non-housecleaning.”

Is There a Best Time for CIO?

Based on the number of people asking me about when to do CIO it’s clear that there is a widely-held belief that:

  • There is indeed an “optimal” time for CIO.
  • That I hold the secret to it.
  • And I can possibly be convinced to relinquish the secret CIO scheduling decoder ring if asked nicely enough and/or with enough capitalization/exclamation points. (Ex. HELP we’re DESPERATE!!!!)

Which is totally understandable. CIO is HARD and SCARY. If you’ve taken my advice then you know that commitment is key. So you don’t want to dive in and then realize, “Woops! We picked the wrong day.” Because once you start, you are committed regardless of which day (right or wrong) it is.

Additionally there are a number of books that talk about wonder weeks and sleep training that suggest there is indeed an optimal time for CIO. Which is where emails like this one come from:

I always knew we needed to make some changes, but I just don’t know where the time went. Month 6, 7, and 8 went by and although not ideal for most, my catnapper, frequent waker still was rocked and nursed to sleep usually quickly and easily. I just began staying in the same room as our son while he napped, and if he woke up I was right there to shoosh or nurse him back to sleep instead of catching up on things, having time to myself, or with my husband. My son took two 1-2.5 hour naps instead of 40 min ones, we were in a rhythm that worked for us, and I was oblivious to the monster that I created.

All was fine and good until I emerged from my little bubble and realized what I had done. I have a child who cannot even begin to self soothe. He is to a T how you would describe a child with a sleep problem on your website. He frequently wakes and has never once in his life fallen asleep unassisted.

I found this book that discusses certain windows that are better to train your child to sleep. I explored this a bit more and discovered that months 9-12 are not only not optimum, but that they are really bad windows to try to train your child to sleep.

Seriously. Does that mean I have to deal with this until his first birthday? What happens if I forgo this advice? Is it really okay for my child to sleep train at almost ten months? What will happen during this cognitive leap if we barrel through? I know failure is not an option, so I don’t want to try and give up. Do I need this book? Or is this me finding one more reason to hold off on doing what my child really needs?

This is my response to her email:

You are going down the rabbit hole of doubt. Don’t do this. It’s dark in there. Probably lots of spiders too.

The Myth of the Optimal Time for Sleep Training

People love the idea that you can triangulate the “optimum” time to sleep train your baby. But it’s a myth. THERE IS NO OPTIMUM TIME. There is always, ALWAYS a wonder week, growth spurt, separation anxiety, travel, developmental milestone, starting daycare, teething, ear infection, cold, shots, etc.

There IS a kernel of truth in these books in that yes – growth spurts, developmental milestones, separation anxiety, etc. will all happen and that trying to sleep train or night wean while your child is in the throws of a vicious growth spurt and thus eating constantly is not ideal. And yes many of these things happen on somewhat predictable schedules so that in an ideal scenario you would avoid them. But there are two key words here that are easy to overlook, but you shouldn’t because they’re really critical.

Somewhat and ideal.

Babies are somewhat predictable. For example I talk a lot about the 4 month sleep regression/wonder week/growth spurt. Because for most people, it’s a doozie. But truthfully, do you want to know when the 4 month growth spurt will occur? Sometime between 3 and 5 months. Or not at all. The idea of an optimal time for sleep training assumes that these developmental milestones are known quantities. But they aren’t.

And most of the time there is no ideal scenario. Much like the search for the perfect haircut or a winter coat that is both warm and slimming, the search for the ideal time is futile.

Maybe it’s today. Nope! Raging ear infection. How about next week? Uh oh – baby has figured out how to stand up at the crib but can’t sit down and is getting stuck. That’s going to put us back another week or two while we practice sitting. How about now? Ugh…now we’ve got that wedding in the Hamptons. Then your Mom is visiting. Then you’re going back to work and can barely muster the fortitude to face dropping off at daycare much less sleep training.

Sometimes you just need to work with what you’ve got. Waiting just prolongs the anxiety and chronic sleep deprivation. There is no guarantee that waiting till next week or next month is going make things any easier than they would be today.

And sometimes now really feels like it’s not the right time. And who knows, maybe it’s not. But if you give yourself a little mental breathing room, I think you’ll find that most of the reasons you’re using to convince yourself that it’s NOT the best time for sleep training all boil down to one simple fact: you’re not ready.

And that’s OK. But let’s acknowledge what’s really going on. If you’re not ready, don’t do it. Figure out why you’re not ready. Maybe there are other alternatives you want to pursue first? Maybe you need some time to get comfortable with the idea? Maybe you need a little emotional support?

But in general, unless your child is a) seriously ill or b) you’re about to launch on some massive international travel, the ideal time is now.

What About Bedtiming?

Bedtiming is a book that tries to help you figure out the ideal window to sleep train based on the rough time frames of various developmental milestones. If you disagree with my assertion that there is no ideal time then I’ve shared their suggestions here, followed by my own 2 cents on the subject.

 Age  Bedtiming says…  I say…
 0-2 1/2 Months  BAD time  Agreed, they’re NEWBORNS. Please don’t try to sleep train your newborn baby.
 2 1/2-4 Months  GOOD time Nope. For a number of reasons: they’re still really young, you still have lots of tools at your disposal, and the dreaded 4 month sleep regression is likely to fall sometime within this window which I would argue is possibly the LEAST ideal time imaginable.
 4-5 1/2 Months  BAD time I would argue that they’re still on the young side. Also babies younger than 6 months generally haven’t developed object permanence which is cause of almost all of your “baby up all night” problems that result in sleep training in the first place. Also, unlike “older babies” you still have some soothing options at your disposal.
 5 1/2-7 1/2 Months  IDEAL time They say ideal, I say it’s the first age at which I would seriously consider sleep training. Most babies don’t generally have a highly developed sense of separation anxiety at this age (note: separation anxiety is not your friend when sleep training). Alternately many babies have a big growth spurt/sleep regression at 6 months which is best to be avoided. But as noted, trying to plan around these things is a fools errand.
 8-11 Months  WORST time  Really? It’s true that separation anxiety peaks at this time. However often separation anxiety causes sleep issues so severe that sleep training is the only practical solution. Also separation anxiety/object permanence are the developmental milestones that lead to the most severe sleep issues. So they’re effectively telling parents that sleep training is not possible at the exact time when it’s generally most needed.
 12-16 Months GOOD time and the last chance for an efficient and satisfactory sleep training experience  That’s right folks, if you don’t manage to get your kid sleeping by 16 months you are doomed DOOMED I tell you.
 17-21 Months  BAD time  At this point I’m starting to feel badly for people. If neither you nor your child has had any real sleep in almost 2 years, I don’t think you need some book telling you that you need to wait another 6 months. I think you need a drink and a warm hug.
22-27 Months GOOD time Yay! It’s been 3 years but the book says we can finally do something about this hot mess!
28 Months-3 Years Last window of opportunity to initiate or repair sleeping habits with ease. Wow. Better get on that because this is the last chance we’ll ever have to establish healthy sleep habits before our child becomes a chronically overtired person forever and turns into Ted Bundy.
3 1/2-4 Years BAD time I guess this means you have to wait until they’re 5. But why stop there? After 5 it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump until they’re in college.

Listen, I don’t mean to be glib. I know this is hard stuff. But if you’ve come to a place where CIO feels like the right answer for your family, then go with that. Don’t wait for ideal. Ideal never comes. There is only today.

And if I haven’t convinced you, maybe the final words from the Mom who sent me the email above will.

“If someone were to ask me what my number one priority in life is at the moment I would say my child’s sleep, If they were to ask what most of my time is spent doing, I would say putting my child to sleep. The reason I bite my husband’s head off with a mere glance of the wrong kind is because I have poured any and all patience, understanding, and love into putting my child to sleep. Sleep…

I have this beautiful, smart, healthy boy and all I can do is think about sleep instead of enjoying this small window of babyhood I have with him.”

Does anybody have any experience with this? Maybe you jumped in and wished you waited? Or you sleep trained and found yourself wondering, “Why didn’t we do this ages ago?”


  1. So I read your comments above about the ideal time for sleep training and am now a little worried about our decision to start tonight. Our son is 18 months old and because of his reflux (up until about 12 months) had been rocked to sleep nearly upright since he was born. He never had any issues with sleeping through the night once we put him into his crib until we went on a family vacation 3 months ago and his nightly routine was ruined. We’ve tried everything except for CIO because like many other parents, the idea of our baby screaming uncontrollably for an extended period of time concerned both my wife and I. Now, completely sleep deprived, we’ve both come to the conclusion that it is time to initiate a psychological change, but seeing that 18 months may be too late is a little concerning. Could you provide any insight as to why the 18 month mark would be a less ideal time to start given our situation? I appreciate your feedback.

    • Dear God I need to rewrite this post.

      My intent was to poke fun at a book which suggests that there are good and bad times, that these times are knowable, and that you should schedule things in for “good” times. Sadly this doesn’t seem to come across – you are not the first person to misunderstand which leads me to believe that what I wrote is the problem. *sigh*

      18 months is not too late. In fact I would suggest that “whenever you recognize it’s time for a change” is the exact right time. I was trying to convey that message with this post but clearly failed.

      Tonight is a great night. Also your baby might surprise you. I was just talking to a lovely woman from Iowa who had a very similar situation as you did – 18 months old, various medical issues early on led them to this point, terrified of what would happen.

      When you say “our baby screaming uncontrollably for an extended period of time” it sounds like a pretty miserable experience. And I can’t promise you that won’t happen. But it’s far more likely that if he’s been going to bed at the same time every night and has a good routine, when you put him in his crib he’s going to complain about it for a while. Maybe 20-35 minutes. Then he’s going to fall asleep.

      Come back and tell me if I’m right…

      • Well I purposely waited to respond because the first 2 nights went way too smoothly. My wife and I decided to let our son CIO without going in to check on him (besides our baby monitor). He cried for about 8 minutes the first night, 5 the second, and then 5 or less the rest of the week. Last night (1 week from starting) my wife told him that it was bedtime, put him in his crib, and he simply laid down and went to sleep. So far it has been a breeze. Not only has he been going to sleep easily, but he’s also sleeping through the night (something that we haven’t experienced in months). I have actually been wondering why it took so long for us to give the CIO method more of a fighting chance. It seems to be working out fine for us so far. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

        • Hey Peter,
          Thank you so much for sharing your great news! 8 minutes eh? Well it doesn’t get much better than that. Congratulations for having the courage to take the big step and I hope you all enjoy your well-deserved sleep!

          Cheers 🙂

      • Hi, my baby girl is almost 11 months and she sleeps through the night. However she’s not sleeping on her own.. This is my fourth night trying CIO. The first nights I was going to check on her while increasing the time. She was crying for 25 min and then she was falling asleep while I was in her room. Now, after reading your article I decided not to go in her room and let her cry… Well I am writing this while she screams… It’s been over 30 min.. when do I know it’s too much… Thanks

        • Hi Alexis, could you please reply to this one? I have been browsing on this same issue, as mentioned by Mihaela when I came across your site and I am finding it most helpful compared to the others.

          I am ready to try CIO starting tonight. My baby is also 11 months and she only sleeps in my arms…gets so restless and wakes up 3 – 4 times at night. We are both very tired every morning.

          Please help!

          • …furthermore, I commented on Mihaela’s post (hope you don’t mind Mihaela) because this is the only thing that would freak me out, is if she cries for too long. Again, when would I know when it’s too much??

            • Hi Grace,

              I remember that night. I was in tears while writing… Having time for myself in the evenings was very important. That’s when I do my school work. I didn’t know how to put her to bed quicker:) CIO didn’t work for us. We stopped after that night. What worked for us is Love and Logic. I am not sure if you are familiar with it. The way we were doing things was wrong too. I was giving her the milk in our bedroom after bath, rocking her to sleep, and then moving her in her crib. That was her routine and she didn’t know different. Now, it’s pretty easy. No TV before bed, she gets her bath every evening, after bath she gets in her crib by herself, drinks her milk on her own, and then she puts herself to sleep. I am with her while she does it. While she drinks her milk sometimes we read stories. Sometimes before bath. We make her feel good in her bedroom. Her bedroom is now the fun place 🙂 If I leave her by herself she comes gets me and that’s ok. Good luck!

            • Hi Mihaela,

              Thank you for making time to write this. That actually feels so much something I would do (stay with her while she falls asleep) rather than let her cry it out…although I know CIO has worked for some mothers.

              I will definitely try your method out first for sure. I am so glad you replied before I was to try out CIO tonight, I can so imagine going mental doing it and it would be heartbreaking to see and will probably not last 1 minute of it for sure, and i’m sure it was for you and some mothers as well.

              Thank you and I am very happy to hear things are working out for you and your 20 month old baby now (if my maths right haha).

              Fingers crossed

        • I am also wondering how long to let my baby CIO. He is almost 10 months and I’m trying to get him to fall asleep in his swing then move him to his crib. He falls asleep quickly for naps in his swing, but he has been crying for over an hour in his swing tonight. When is it too much for him?

          • I don’t understand what is happening. He needs to fall asleep in the location that he will spend the whole night. At 10 months I would advocate for that place to be the crib. But if he’s falling asleep in the swing and then you’re sneaking him into the crib, you aren’t really achieving independent sleep. So at heart, I’m not sure if your approach is really the right one.

            As to the “when is it too much for him” question – the answer is, when he falls asleep. Personally, again, I question your use of the swing and any sleep strategy that involves sneaking from one location to another is not going to end well. But if you’re asking – is crying 1 hour a terrible problem my answer is no.

            • Hi! I just have a quick question for clarification. While my son is crying it out, should we be going in every 15-20 minutes or so to pat him, tell him it’s okay, etc without picking him up (I’ve read this from other sources) or just let him cry until he falls asleep?

      • HELP! I’m in tears writing this. I’ve followed your advice on the page the best I could but must be doing something wrong.
        My preemie 6month old (4 corrected ) had been waking sometimes 6x a night. 10d’s ago I started not feeding him before bed and it did improve to 1~2 wakes for a few nts. But now were back to waking to every hour or two.
        For example Today went like this.
        615 bottle
        730-9 sleep(fell asleep alone in chair)
        1030 bottle
        1230 cried would not sleep
        100pm sang and walked around
        115 went in crib almost asleep
        2pm woke up /bottle
        3. Sleep Again
        345 woke
        5pm bottle
        615 bath, sang, walk around , layed down Almost asleep
        645 asleep
        815 woke, fed 6ozs
        945 cried until given 4ozs
        1015 asleep
        I don’t know what to do , We need sleep . I haven’t
        slept in forever!!!
        I’m also confused as to whether or not I follow the 4month old schedule or the 6mth old????

  2. Here’s our dilemma:

    Our son is 14 months (almost 15 months) and used to go to bed on his own (for naps and bedtime). Recently, I quit my job to stay at home and it seems things fell apart there. He started screaming when we put him in his crib at night and waking several times in the night, inconsolable. We attempted CIO (as we did when he was 6 months, worked then). Didn’t work this time and it seemed to make him scared of his crib. (crying anytime he even got close to it, close to nap/bedtime or not.) We ended up singing him to sleep and when he wakes at 11-11:30, we co-sleep for the remainder of the night. It started as a “get through it” measure, but now we’re stuck. How do we get unstuck with all these issues? (going to bed on own, staying in bed to hopefully sttn).

    Any suggestions or help? We’re tired.

    • Also, his bedtime used to be 7:30, consistently. We’d change him and he’d snuggle with me for a few minutes before crib time and I’d leave him awake. Now it’s completely unpredictable, sometime between 8-8:30 and can take upwards of 30 minutes to get him to sleep. Used to consistently do 2 naps each day and now fights one. (also unpredictable – sometime between 11 and 2.)

      • Hi Sarah

        Have you considered dropping the second nap entirely? I think based on Alexis’ post he could be ready to move to one. Also, I would try to keep bedtime consistent. What is your bedtime routine? Is it the same every night? He could be anxious because he doesn’t know what to expect next.

        Food for thought 🙂

        • Hi Lindsay,

          Thanks for your reply. Yes, we’ve dropped a nap and fought with him for a few months to get bedtime and naptime more predictable. I have to rock him to sleep for nap, but he falls asleep on his own in his crib for bedtime (with us singing to him). Our routine is PJs, snack, books, diaper/sleepsack, cuddles/singing, bed. We bought a nightlight and that seemed to help, though maybe it was just coincidence.

          Our next battle will be to get him (back to) sleeping all night in his own bed. He used to sleep all the way through the night in his own crib, and wake up talking and happy. Now, he wakes up every night at 10:30 crying. Sometimes he can be soothed back to sleep in his crib and other nights it’s over and he will only fall back asleep in bed with us (or cry for a very long time, until we give in). The trouble is that he doesn’t sleep as well in bed with us (and we don’t either), even though that’s where he wants to be.

          I’m pretty sure it’s just going to take a rough few nights of not giving in to picking him up, but it’s so hard in the cold of the middle of the night, so I’d be open to any other suggestions!! He’s a persistent little guy!

          • We had the exact same problem with our son around 12-13 months. He had been sleeping thru the night and all of a sudden, was waking up at 10 pm, 2 am, 4 am, and crying. I started taking him into our bed and co-sleeping for the remainder of the night, b/c soothing or middle of night bottles didnt work, and CIO was yielding 20+ minutes of shrieking, which I couldnt bear. But taking him into our bed proved to be a fatal mistake … everything got worse and worse, and he got more and more adamant about crying and getting us to “Rescue” him earlier and earlier. After 2 or so weeks, we gave up and committed to CIO again. Even if it took 3 hours. We weren’t going in there. After 3-4 nights, it basically worked. Was miserable, but we broke his defiance.

  3. Our 26 month daughter is really struggling right now. Her bedtime tantrums have become so bad that we can’t even give her a bath or read her a story anymore because she just starts crying, knowing that it means bed time is coming. We just end up putting her to bed hysterical which seems extra stressful for her and for us.

    Last night while crying it out she pulled her diaper off and then woke up at 5am covered in pee. Her bed was soaked. We’ve had her in pull ups and two piece pajamas but I guess we need to use regular diapers and a sleeper for a while. We ended up bringing her into our bed for a few hours after that because we felt so bad.

    It also doesn’t help that she’s learned to ask for the potty, which she screams about from her crib sometimes but it’s impossible to tell whether she means it or not.

    Venting. Any suggestions would be great but I don’t know what we can do differently. Hopefully things get better over the next few days.

    • Hey Jessie,

      Few things to think about:
      1) Talk about bedtime when it’s NOT bedtime. She understands your words so use them! Talk at lunchtime. Talk about what happens at bedtime, talk about why it happens (health, growing up big and strong, etc.). Talk about how she needs sleep, mommy needs, sleep, etc. and remind her that even though you’re not there with her you’re always nearby and you always love her.

      Talk about what is and isn’t OK. What happens if you take off your diaper? You sleep in pee – yucky and cold! What happens if you can’t sleep? You can tell stories, play with your stuffed animals, sing a song.

      PS. The no-diaper pee thing sounds horrid but honestly? It’s a natural consequence playing out. What a great learning opportunity for her! Honestly, I would be very matter of fact about the whole thing, “Well this doesn’t feel good does it! Maybe next time you could keep your diaper on so you don’t have to sleep in pee.”

      2) Is her bedtime the right time? She might be having an extra hard time falling asleep at bedtime because bedtime is too early. Most kids are napping till 3 but if she’s taking a long/late nap she might not be ready to sleep till a little later. something to consider?

      Don’t get drawn into the drama, calls for potty what have you. Give her one call back (something to discuss over lunch!). If she wants to use the potty she gets once chance then you’re done. The reason she’s calling for the potty is because it’s effective. So keep things really neutral and matter of fact. “OK here’s your chance to use the potty. If you need to go potty later you have your pull up. Good night, we love you! We’ll see you in the morning!”

      • Thanks for your perspective on the diaper pulling. That’s actually a really helpful way of looking at it.

        She did the same thing during her nap yesterday, which was in a playpen because someone else was watching her, and she pooped in the playpen!

        Last night a few hours after posting, she woke at 2am which she has not done in a while and we were so worried about her pulling her diaper off that we ended up just bringing her into bed with us again. I know we’re not doing ourselves any favors with this but we’ll keep the diaper thing in perspective next time and try to worry less about it.

        If she wakes up in the middle of the night do you recommend that we go see her once?

        As for the timing of her bedtime, I don’t “think” this is an issue. I’ve read the article that you linked before and we’re pretty in tune with when she gets tired relative to her naps.

        Thanks for replying!

      • So after all that, she learned how to climb out of her crib tonight. After an hour of crying she climbed out, open her bedroom door, and greeted me in the living room. Excellent! Frustrating as it was I couldn’t help but find it amusing.

        Anyways, I had watched a video a couple of months ago where a toddler was doing this. The mom was instructed to sit on the floor sideways, not talking to the baby or making eye contact for any reason. Every time the baby crawled out the mom would just put pick her up and put her back in, and then sit back on the floor again.

        I did this tonight and she crawled out well over 100 times. She finally gave up and laid down to sleep.

        So now I’m not sure what to do.

        Do I employ the technique which I used tonight for a few nights? I can see the merit in this, as it gave me 100 opportunities to reinforce that her crying or crawling out of the crib doesn’t work. It was exhausting though.

        Do I fortify her room and just let her wail at the door? I was already having a hard time letting her CIO… and this just sounds worse.

        Should I transition her to a toddler bed? It seems that if I’m going to do first technique that it would be an ideal time to do so.

        Never a dull moment.

        • Sounds like your baby is showing signs that she`s ready for a toddler bed. I would definitely try to transition her, along with the advice suggested by Alexis.

  4. So we are starting now and have questions. Daughter is just 6 months and while she sleeps well at night (although needs the pacifier reinserted a few times, which we’d like to stop) our issue is naps. She used to be so easy and would sleep for 2-3 hrs at a time, but has needed more and more soothing lately and is just too dependent on it. I toughed it out but now she’s 6 months and it’s time. My main question is, how do we handle inconsistency with daycare? I work 3 days a week and she goes to a center with 8 total infants in her room with 2 teachers. They will not CIO. They say they can only let them cry for 5 min so they usually end up rocking her to sleep (and gets maybe two twenty min naps might I add). I am afraid this will confuse her, although I’m hoping she will draw a mental boundary line between what happens at daycare and home. My hope is that she gets good enough at self soothing that it becomes a non issue and she can go down awake at daycare, but what to do until then other than her not sleeping at all there? Thanks!

    • Wanted to post an update – we are in week 3 and things are going pretty well overall. She goes down at night with a few minutes of talking to herself but generally doesn’t cry. The pacifier thing became a non-issue, and she has been sleeping through the night without waking much. When she does, she talks a bit and goes back to sleep. Yay! Naps are a little less easy. She will usually talk to herself for 10-30 minutes before going to sleep, and doesn’t cry much which is good. She usually wakes up after her first sleep cycle, and then will do the same thing (talk for 10-30 min) before sleeping again. So overall, CIO is working pretty well and I can’t complain. I do think though that her daycare situation is confusing her. If they put her down awake, she just gets upset and won’t sleep. If they rock her to sleep, she fights them until she konks out and then won’t transfer to the crib. It just seems like she is over the whole rocking to sleep thing. I know it can’t be healthy for her to be getting one short nap at daycare, but that is what we’ve got. On a daycare day, she usually gets 12-13.5 hrs of sleep over the 24 hr period. On a non-daycare day, she gets 14.5-15.5. So for now, I don’t know what to do besides soldier on, because the daycare situation seems pretty bleak.

  5. Hi Alexis,
    Will you be making the CIO post for naps soon? We have a 6 1/2 month old who only takes 2-3 25 min naps during the day, despite trying (aka fighting her) for hours on end. at night, she is so tired that she falls asleep while eating. she sleeps for 4-6 hours, then wakes,and takes 2-3 hours to get back down..only to sleep for another 2-3 hours. I know the problem involves not being able to put her down awake, but dont know where to start with CIO considering her terrible napping, but marginally OK night sleeping…ideas?!

    • This exact thing! Our daughter is 6 months and a bit, and sleeps at night pretty well- one or even no wake ups, and in her crib. But the only way we can get her to take any manner of decent nap is to hold her. Otherwise it’s fussing for 30-60 min for maybe (if we’re lucky) a 30 min nap in the crib. Why won’t she nap in the crib?

      Thanks for any insight.


      • Yes! Same here with my 7 mo olds. And I have twins, but they’re both doing about the same thing. Sleeping ok at night, falling asleep by themselves in cribs, (fussing 20-40 min), waking 0-2 times at night for snacks. But if I try cio for naps, they’ll fuss through the entire nap, rather than sleep, then fall asleep when I nurse them. So frustrating! Any tips? I have been slowly moving their bedtime back, since they were falling asleep waay too late. Is that messing up naps?

    • It sounds like the three of you have a variety of things going on and I’m not 100% convinced that nap CIO is the answer. AND I’m knee-deep in book writing and don’t have time to write that post anyway? Why not? because it’s sort of complex. The nap and nap CIO chapter in the book is the loooongest chapter in the whole shaboo.

      Rayna – the fact that she’s awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night tells me something is off with her, likely something beyond the bounds of CIO. My best guess is bedtime is too early or too late by a significant margin but it’s hard to say. Her night sleep is on the short side so it’s hard to say. Given her age I would say consider changing bedtime and dramatically bump up the soothing – maybe swaddle, swing, white noise. Sure she’s a tad old for a swing but anything that breaks you out of that 2-3 hour of “awake” in the middle of the night is a good thing!

      Sarah – lots of 6 month olds don’t nap well in the crib. Have you experimented with a swing?

      Allie – Ditto on more soothing at naptime. Generally an early bedtime is better so when you say you’re moving bedtime back, without more details, my gut response is to push it back up.

      Good luck guys – I know this stuff is hard!

  6. I have a question. I tried CIO a couple of weeks back but was inconsistent so we tried again this week. We are on night 4 tonight. Last night she fell asleep after 25min instead of 45. The previous nights she has slept til 6am, last night woke up at 4am, so I did what you said and stayed up with her and nursed her. She went back down 1 1/2 hrs later for 2 hrs.
    I hope that this didn’t start a habit but she hasn’t been eating at night for a while. Anyway, she naps about 30 min at a time maybe twice a day unless she sleeps on me. I’m your other post you said to have them sleep however possible but don’t do CIO for naps yet. If not now, when should I start CIO for naps or will that just come naturally to her when she finally falls asleep on her own without crying? What would you suggest? I really need help and feel so helpless at this point. Thank you!

    • Update: last night she fell asleep on her own after 3 min of crying. That may have been just a one time thing but hopefully it sticks. She has woken up again around 3am, after 40 min of on and off whining/crying, I went in to try and get her back to sleep by rocking her, she pooped so I changed her and I rocked her for a bit, i put her in her crib awake, and now she is Crying it out to go back to sleep. I guess my question is, how do I get her to sleep through the night, and also is there a way to get a baby to sleep for 10 hrs?
      And back to my original question still.. When should I start CIO for nap? Or will that come naturally after she figures out how to sleep on her own at night?
      Thank you Alexis, I’m sure you know how appreciative we all are for taking your time to respond and help us mommies out.

  7. Hi Alexis! Your site has been amazing – my son went from sleeping 2 hours max to 7 hours at a stretch at 6 weeks when I put him in the swing. We use loud white noise and have transitioned him into the Magic Sleep Suit around 4 months, which seemed to work well for about a month.

    So here’s my situation – I could use some reassurance or advice. I am considering CIO at 5 1/2 months and wondering if this is too early, or if I’m giving up too soon. I was really hoping to use the swing to teach him to fall asleep on his own. I’ve been trying since 6 weeks. He is 5 months now and while it does occasionally work – maybe 30% of the time, for naps or nightwakings, but never for bedtime – the rest of the time, for the last three weeks, he starts crying hysterically and I have to rock him to sleep. When we rock him to sleep, he is up every 15 minutes (sometimes he gives us 45 minutes) all night (naps he will go 45 min-1.5 hr). Each waking, I try to get him to fall asleep on his own, in the swing or crib, and when he does, he will usually sleep the rest of the night. But if we are lucky this may happen around 2am, and if we are unlucky, it may not happen at all. I know it’s a bit early, but it seems like an object permanence issue. I am going to be traveling for business next week and he will be 5 1/2 months, so I thought it would be a good time for my husband to do CIO – I don’t know if I could do it while I’m at home, and I don’t know how many more nights we can go on like this. Should I keep on trying the swing? I am nervous about the cortisol studies I keep reading about and keep thinking I should hold out until he is a little older, but every night is like torture for my husband and me, and I don’t think my son is having a great time, either. He used to sleep so well. I think you have a great perspective on CIO and I’m hoping you can let me know your thoughts on this timing and situation.

    I just wanted to thank you again for everything you have done on this site, and to tell you that if you charged for this stuff I’d be happy to pay. I sent a bit over PayPal, you should be proud of how much value you have been providing for free!

    • Hey Kelly,

      Thanks for your contribution – I honestly am hugely appreciative 🙂

      OK stop reading the cortisol studies. The whole thing of research and cortisol is a big hot mess. I could go into depth about how flawed they all are but you are tired already and would quickly fall asleep. But the bottom line is this: chronic sleep deprivation leads to high levels of cortisol, crying leads to high levels of cortisol, cortisol leaves the body relatively quickly when you aren’t crying and aren’t sleep deprived. So nobody really knows what is worse – a few days of crying or months of sleep deprivation. My gut says “months” but there currently is no science to back me up on that.

      Anyhoo…back to bedtime. The key is what happens AT bedtime. So if you’re going to say “the swing isn’t working” then I would commit to crib for the entire night. But feel free to keep working at it during the day – in fact I STRONGLY encourage you to do so. Daytime CIO is a whole different beast and something to avoid if you can. So swing for naps, crib for bedtime.

      I’m really surprised he’s so freaking out AT bedtime and it makes me wonder if there isn’t a bedtime issue tripping you up. Bedtime too soon? too late? Something to consider?

      But I also am totally OK with you leaving the house and letting Dad be the big meanie while you’re gone. Dads are often GREAT at this. They tend to be more firm and get quicker results which means LESS crying and LESS cortisol. So if it helps you have my stamp of approval for the “stick Dad with the dirty work” plan.

      Goo luck!

      • It’s funny, you know, I knew that sleep deprivation caused cortisol to spike, but I never connected that with my son’s sleep deprivation. If I wanted to make connections, I probably should have done this research before I even got pregnant and all my brain cells started dying. ;-)It definitely makes sense that a single spike is less damaging than chronic high cortisol over the course of months.

        Honestly, I don’t know what his problem is with bedtime. We do bath, bottle, song/story, and bed every night, and we try to keep it soothing and enjoyable. I’m a wake time fanatic since reading your post, so I usually start the routine at 1.5 hours awake so he would theoretically be drifting off to sleep at 2 hours. But this was not working for us, so I actually experimented with shorter and longer wake times leading up to bed, but those experiments were even more disastrous (serious catastrophes). Bedtime falls between 7 and 7:30 depending on his last nap. But the struggle often takes another 20-30 minutes. I think I’m going to take the next week to work with the swing at bedtime and try moving bottle before bath and spending a little more time winding down after bath. If that doesn’t make an impact, Dad may have to be the bad guy. I appreciate your endorsement of that plan!

        Thanks so much for your help, Alexis. You’re doing god’s work. A god, anyway – the sleep god? I’ll let you know how it goes.

      • OK we are on day five of sleep training! Little man is doing great – sleeping through the night, so much happier during the day. The crying at bedtime is hovering around 30 minutes since day one, which isn’t too bad. It’s worth it to have a happy kiddo and mama. Thanks so much for your advice, Alexis!

  8. Hi Alexis,
    My son is 8 months now and he is still not sleeping through the night. He is inconsistent and wakes up every few hours. We put him down at 8pm every night with the same consistent routine and he falls asleep easily but does not stay asleep. When he was 4 months, we used the magic merlin sleeper and it helped but he continued to wake up. Now that he is older, we wanted him to have more movement in his sleep which the magic sleeper prevents you from doing so we tried the halo on him and now he wakes up and is moving all over the crib, on his tummy and begins to cry. I have been nursing him or holding him until he falls asleep most of the time. I tried CIO but the problem is, he will still wake up a few hours later and for me to do the CIO a few times each night seems excessive and very difficult. Do you agree or is that normal? most people I speak to do this once a night and their baby will sleep for the rest of the night but my son continues to wake up. I am trying to wean him off of nursing at night as well so I give him less each time but then he cries because he wants more. Not sure what to do or what the best approach is? any advice would be helpful.
    Thank you!

  9. Hi Alexis,

    I absolutely love your website! I have found it immensely helpful in navigating and evaluating the abundance of sleep advice that seems to be out there. However, I am still having some trouble with my little one…

    Currently, my 7.5 month old goes to bed completely awake after her regular nightly routine (boob, bath, pjs, white noise, bed). She occasionally chats to herself a little before popping her thumb in her mouth and going to sleep. She hardly ever cries when going down for the night. This is totally awesome (we worked hard to get her to this point), but she is not yet sleeping through the night. I could handle her waking 1-2x or even 3x. However, she is waking 5-6x per night! It’s like clockwork…she wakes every 1.5 to 2 hours.

    When we first started working on her sleep (around 4 months), I was feeding her twice a night because she was still young and I wasn’t ready to cut her off. However, even after several weeks of very consistent sleep training, she was still waking at least 3x per night and crying for extended periods (minimum 30 minutes). I figured that she just wasn’t ready so I went back to feeding her every time she woke. Fast forward to our current predicament.

    I know she doesn’t need the food so I started cutting down the amount of time she spends at the boob each time I feed her at night. We got down to the 2 minute on one side mark. However, instead of just sleeping through, she still wakes. Further, less than 2 minutes, she will not go back to sleep. Instead, she cries and ends up screaming, for hours!

    We have no idea what is going on or how to handle this. Letting her screaming herself hoarse is not an option. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  10. Hi there!
    I was hoping to get advice on sleep training. I’m not sure how I know I just know I’m doing it wrong. My daughter is 8 months old and wakes several times a night for feeding or reassurance.
    Her bedtime was 6-6:30 but she’s learned to crawl and it’s thrown off her bedtime. She now goes down around 7-7:20
    It’s hard getting her to sleep now that she’s moving
    She’s always been very active and I thought once she finally got active it would settle things but it hasn’t. It’s gone in the opposite direction!
    I’m so frustrated and tired.
    CIO, not CIO. I’m to the point where I don’t care how it happens I just need an outside perspective on how to get her to sleep more and go down easier
    Please be my advisor!
    Thanks 🙂
    Btw I love this site. Informative and funny 🙂

  11. Hi Alexis,

    My husband and I broke down and started CIO with our 4 month old daughter. I’ve been struggling with PPD and sleep is such an important component to a healthy frame of mind. Anyway, we reached the end of our rope; sleep was becoming an obsession (it was taking us 3+ hours a night to get her to sleep at night) and I was not enjoying our daughter because her sleep and mine were consuming all thoughts. Long story short, the crying sucked but CIO was the best decision for our family. She has the tools to fall asleep on her own and we got out of her way and gave her the opportunity to use them…she is a contented finger sucker. Night time is going well now but naps are becoming a marathon event (similar to what was happening with bedtime) and often fails unless I’m holding her, have her in the Ergo or lay down with her. Question: CIO naps? When and more importantly, how?

    Thanks so much.

    PS – love your blog. Enjoyable to read, inclusive/non-judgemental and very informative.

  12. I’m so glad I found this website BEFORE what you call the ideal window of 5 1/2 months…now we can do this right the first time. (I hope) My question is this: Our boy is a preemie, so are we training based on his ACTUAL age, or his CORRECTED age? It’s a difference of 6 weeks, which is pretty significant. Right now he is 15 weeks actual age, 9 weeks corrected age. What would you think about this?


  13. Dear Alexis,
    I absolutely love your blog!
    My daughter is 5 months and 1 week. She goes to sleep very easily at her bedtime of 7-7:30 after book, bath, bottle. She just started rolling over to sleep on her tummy and that has made falling asleep at bedtime even quicker. However, she is waking up twice at night, and recently as early as midnight. She is gaining weight very well but doesn’t take many oz during the day (max 24) so I am fine with feeding her once a night, but midnight seems early for her to need a bottle. Sometimes we offer her the bottle at her first waking and she doesnt even want it, so I dont think she is always waking up out of hunger. So she will typically wake up somewhere between 12-2 AM and then again around 4:30-5 AM and then at 7 AM. It certainly isn’t horrible, but she is a good self soother and a good napper, so I really do believe she doesn’t need the multiple night wakings. and I dont want to keep feeding her at night if she doesnt want it! But then last night at midnight she took 4 oz (after 2 attempts to rock her back to sleep without feeding) so she is a little all over the place with night feeding.
    We have tried to let her cry it out for her night wakings (max 10 minutes) and she does not put herself back to sleep. We have tried patting her back, that doesnt work either. The only solution seems to be feeding her (sometimes as little as one ounce) and/or rocking her for approx. 10 minutes.
    Do you think she sounds like a good candidate to CIO? How do I determine when to attempt to feed her and when to attempt to let her CIO? I am not against CIO I just don’t want to start it too early when she might still need us.
    Many, many thanks!

  14. My baby is 5.5 months. I have also been waiting for the optimal window. On Wed it will be 5.5 months since expected due date. (as recommended by Bedtiming). My baby is a screamer… a shrieker…. it is horrible to listen to. If I were to rock/nurse her to sleep it would take hours. As soon as I put her down… screaming… start again. I started letting her CIO at 4 months. She cries 5 min at bedtime, 5 minutes at naptime and goes to sleep. Fantastic right?? NOPE… she is up again 30 min later screaming away. It got to the point where I would give in (at night time) and co-sleep at around 9:30p.m. (I also have a 5 year old who needs my attention) 2 weeks ago.. .BREAKTHROUGH. naps extended.. no more waking from naps, screaming violently. She was almost like a normal baby. As soon as day sleep got better, night sleep tanked… even more…. Every night, wakes up at 4:00am to party. Maybe goes back to sleep for a few min. Back in bed for a nap by like 7:15am… baby is constantly exhausted as am I. I am mean. My older child is suffering, as I am a total bitch all of the time. I resent my husband for not being able to help. I should also mention that my first baby was also the worst sleeper ever. We never really followed through with cry it out, and have been paying ever since. She is a terrible sleeper at age 5. We currently live in a 2 bedroom bungalow (as this baby was conceived with an IUD in place) (not that I am not thrilled to have her). I have been sleeping in the same room as her. On Wed, I will drag my mattress to the living room and begin the night time CIO attempt. Do I dream feed her at midnight (she goes down at 6:30) Do I wait for her to cry around then? Last night we put her down at 6:30, and she woke up 5 times, screaming hysterically, before 9:00pm. Baby sleep problems are terrible. I feel like a shitty parent. I am obsessed. How do I fix it?

    • And this is why I’m terrified of the IUD!

      But you don’t want to talk about birth control so back to your sleep issues. Hmmm…

      Well I do wonder why she is so…screamy. I would hate to be missing something that is bothering her. Reflux? Dairy? Or do you think she’s just a super intense kid? If the answer is “super intense kid” then I would definitely push for swaddle and loud white noise and super dark room. Super intense kids generally need to sleep in very distinct conditions. Even if you think she’s too old for swaddling I would strongly consider it. Or minimally a merlin magic sleep suit or something.

      Consistency is key. As exhausted and frustrated as you are bringing her to bed with you is a short-term fix that creates long-term problems. The key is to focus on where you want to be and “night parent” from that place, not just what will make things better tonight.

      Trust me – I get how tired you are and how much you probably want to smack me right now but it’s totally true.

      Also check link below – I think this is part of where you guys are getting tripped up and why nothing is getting better.

      I believe the key for you is to not give in at 9:30. In fact it may (assuming there isn’t some niggling thing that makes her so unhappy) be best to fully ignore until midnight. I love the dream-feed idea and strongly support you trying that.

      Try full extinction from bedtime till the midnight dreamfeed and let me know how things go. Good luck!


  15. Like I’m sure many parents are, I was against CIO until I wasn’t. At 5.5ish months my son had become a co-sleeping, NON-sleeping, constant night nursing, non-napping monster. We were actually able to get him to the point of falling asleep in his crib on his own, but it was all over the place after that. He would wake up anywhere from every 30min-1 hour after that. We would eventually give up and bring him into our bed. That eventually stopped working, and he would be a restless, wakeful mess all night. Four nights ago my gut told me it was time for CIO. My husband and I reached the point of such exhaustion, feeling like we had done everything that we could, it was actually much less difficult than I thought it would be to listen to him cry. The first night he cried for 45 min after his first wake up. After that he woke up a few times and cried himself back to sleep, with the longest cry time of 12min. Last night seemed like a fully successful night. He was asleep by 7, woke at 7:55 and fussed himself back to sleep. He woke to eat at 10:30 and 2:50, but both times cried himself back to sleep for 10-12min or so. He woke again at 3:50, and we decided to bring him into bed after 10-15min of crying that wasn’t letting up. I’m wondering if I should work on letting 3:50ish times go or if this is close enough to being an “early wake time” and there is no harm in bringing him back into bed to nurse to sleep….thinking he will grow out of waking at this time? Thanks!!!

    • Hi Alexis,
      Thanks for the response. Here is the update:
      On Sunday, I put her down at 6:30 pm… she woke at 7:30pm and cried… for 45 minutes. At that point I dragged a mattress into my living room and set up shop for CIO. I was going to wait until Wed, but thought, “she’s already cried for 45 min.. might as well be hardcore”. She woke again at 9:30, cried for 20 min, 11:30 cried… I went in and fed her, put her in her crib.. she went right back to sleep. I heard her at 1:30 and watched…, in horror and fascination, on the video monitor, as she played in her crib for an hour and a half. WTF??? (forgive my inappropriate internet speak) Woke at 4:00a.m, fed her, back to sleep until 7:00a.m. … Monday and Tuesday have been versions of the same. It doesn’t seem to be getting better. I have to add that she is a miserable baby all day long, and this has been ongoing for about a week. (all signs point to teething). Nonetheless, I will press on…. for at least 2 more weeks. Somethings gotta give.
      I appreciate all of your advice and agree with all of it. I am angry with myself as I looked into Merlins Magic suit 2 months ago, but didn’t buy it. Now I fear it’s too late, as she is rolling over a bit. (I do have a white noise machine, blackout blinds and a grobag) Anyway… good luck to all of you who are also suffering with this belligerent babies. Thanks again!

    • Lauren… don’t do it. Our first daughter woke up every day at 4:30am for two years!!! Squash this behaviour before it becomes a two year habit. (although I TOTALLY feel your pain) Co-sleeping does seem like the easiest solution at the time…. until it isn’t.

  16. Okay, quick update. After 4 nights of CIO (with wakings for a feed around midnight and 4:00am, waking time at 6:15) we seemed to be getting somewhere. There was minimal crying at bedtime, and a brief arousal, 5 min cry around 9:30pm. Woo-hoo (I thought). Last night.. day six. Horror. She woke up at 12:30 for a feed, and then at 2:00a.m. I ignored the 2:00a.m. She cried, and cried… and played (as seen on video monitor) and cried until 3:30. At this point I went in there and gave her a boob, made sure she wasn’t soaking wet, feverish etc… and put her back in her crib. After trudging back to my mattress on the living room floor, she continued to cry. At 4:30, I gave in, went into the room and brought her to bed with me. She stopped crying, but was still awake in the bed beside me. I ignored her, and eventually (around 5:00am) she fell asleep until 7:00 am. I feel like I have screwed myself. Do I start over?… I guess I’m going to start again. Do I just have a really bad sleeper?? At 3:30am, I was reading Healthy Sleep Habits, and telling myself.. don’t go in there, don’t go in there,… I really think she would have continued to cry until morning. Should I have just let her. Selfishly, my husband is working today, and the thought of functioning on 2 hours of sleep while taking care of two kids was super scary. I resent Dr. Weissbluth in that he doesn’t address these long periods of night waking in his book. Is it just my baby? Has this happened to anyone else? What did you do?

  17. Thanks for your advice and this great website! I really appreciate you taking time to answer everyones questions!
    Anyways, here is the update on our CIO for our 6 month old which we started last week. The first night was total torture but now he cries for 15 minutes and then goes to sleep on his own without a pacifier or nursing. He also went from waking up every hour to waking up only twice a night (which I am ok with)I consider this great results! Also, will he cry every night when I put him in or will he outgrow it?

    In addition, naptime is a huge battle which we both dread. I put him into his crib and he screams and cries then just lays there awake.I feel guilty making him cry so much..
    My question is how should I be handling naptime? Is CIO the way to go?

    Looking forward to your response!

  18. Hello! I love your website, and I am SO EXCITED for your book; that way I can physically hand my friends your book and open it up to a relevant page instead of sending them a link and hope they actually look at it 🙂

    I have a sort of CIO question, and not sure where to post it…so starting here. Our son is 21 months old, and has been sleeping through the night and going down with no issues since about 5 months (shortly after I found your website). HOWEVER, we fell into a binky trap, he didn’t actually take a binky until he was about 6 months old which meant we totally didn’t take it away from him at the recommended 7-8 months. It wasn’t an issue with waking in the middle of the night, so we finally got around to it at about 18 months. First 3 days were torture (30+ minutes of crying at bedtime and nap…running to the corner and jumping up/down in protest), then about 1.5 weeks of 10-15 minutes of crying, then almost magically (when we were on vacation of all places) we had our sweet bedtime boy back and he went to his bed happily said “night night”, talked for a few minutes and passed out. We were over confident in our success, celebrating our massive victory…then 2-3 weeks later he started crying again 🙁 Not a ton, but he cries 5-10 minutes at night and nap EVERY DAY FOR THE PAST 2 MONTHS. No other sleep issues — sleeps through the night, wakes at 7 or 7:30, naps are a bit more volatile (range from 1.5-2.5 hours, and occasionally just sits in his crib and plays).

    I kept thinking it was a phase, or separation anxiety, or whatever…but now it has been so long I feel like we need another plan of action. I feel like I read somewhere on your site that 5 minutes of crying is not CIO, it is just them protesting having to go to bed. Is that true, is this normal? I am TERRIFIED for when he figures out how to get out of his crib and instead of standing at the rail crying he jumps out and follows me down the hall. Toddler sleeping is starting to scare me as much as infant sleeping!

  19. I just found your site today and am now quite worried about this whiole sleep thing! my son just turned 8 months and boom, he’s definitely now got separation anxiety. We have co-slept since day 1, and still do. i haven’t slept in 8 months basically. He gets sleepy around 6pm everyday and so i breastfeed him when he starts to cry (meaning he’s sleepy) then he’ll fall asleep. problem is first of all, he doesn’t fall asleep by himself! even if he’s exhausted and we lay down, he will just go on all fours and bawl his eyes out and roll around until i put him on boob. and the same goes for every time he wakes up during the night. i don’t even know how im supposed to begin getting him to sleep on his own, i really want to stop breastfeeding him and actually get a whole night sleep (even 5 hours straight would be heaven). im afraid of CIO because i try for a few minutes to see what happens but the intensity gets worse! where do i begin? 🙁

    • Hey Joanna,
      In his world, the way he sleeps is by nursing. When you take that away he’s frustrated because he knows now other way! And of course the intensity get’s worse. That’s how he’s letting you know how frustrated he is. “Mooooom! What do you expect me to do here? I need the boob to sleep!”

      But you’re right – he needs to sleep without nursing. This is a longer issue than I can get into via a comment but you’re options are essentially these:
      – Cry it out. Yes he will ry and yes it will escalate. Also it will work. But it may or may not be the right course for you.

      – Help him fall asleep by any other means. Sometimes co-sleeping parents have good luck with patting and shooshing, or rubbing his back or what have you. He’s still not falling asleep on his own in this scenario, you’re simply switching to a different association that is generally easier to gradually wean off of. Parents often find that dad (or anybody not you) will have better luck with this.

      This can be a tough path and will take far longer. But if you’re having reservations about CIO there is no harm in taking 1-2 weeks and making a committed effort to help him fall asleep in a way that’s not nursing.

      Good luck!

  20. So we are doomed 🙂 No seriously I mam so worried. My son is 2 yars & 10 months. He has slept through the night for a long time now, so can obviously self settle as I understand there would be periods of the night he wakes & settles back to sleep. Gettign up / waking up through the night was never really an issue …. but getting him to bed in the 1st place … When he was born had reflux & was often nursed to sleep. We tried a number of sleep techniques but never were consistent due to a number of reasons. When we started sleep training properly & were doing quite well he fractured his leg (Just over 2 years of age). Plus he got quite sick. He was a very un happy wee man & the doctor said to go easy on him. We were also successfully potty training. The sleep training & potty training were put on hold.

    NOthing’s been the same since. His optty trainign went out the window. He is a very anxious wee man, who cries in his sleep. Calls out for us/ comes to our room once a night every night. I was heavily pregnant & now havea 3 month oold so my energy levels were low. My uhsband works very hard & is exhausted so his energy was low too & so when our wee boy would come through we’d just let him nito bed wiht us PLUS we felt so sorry for him as he just seemed so sad. Having the baby only made things WAY worse. On the night it happened our wee man didn’t know we’d gone to hospital so woke in the morning with Poppa there but no Mum & Dad. Then he got a tummy bug & wasn’t allowed in hospital. I was in hospital for a week. He didnt see me for a week as he wasn’t allowed in (it was a bad bug) & as far as he was concerned I disa ppeared one night.It was horrible. Now he won’t let me out of his sight. I can’t even put him in his car seat & pop back to close the front door without huge anxious heart broken tears 🙁 Anyway so … we still have the same sleep routine & all is fine up until the point where ligts go out. We don’t leave the room until he falls asleep. Now he gets so worked up because baby is in our room & he feels alone that dad sleeps in his room on a spare bed, btu still we cannot leave until he’s asleep & lately even I have been in there with him & Dad while I feed baby so we’re all with him til he gets to sleep. He just seems so sad which makes me sad because he’s such a loveable wee man. I am so worried he’ll have life long sleep issues because it’s so far down the track. He never used to get up during the night either and this has just gotten worse & worse 🙁

  21. Hi there! Your website is unbelievable. I’m a newcomer to the site, but your statement “you’ve been googling sleep training forever” hit home. My daughter is now 6 months, but months 3 and 4 were hard with sleep — all swaddling/bouncing forever. At 4.5 months, I decided to let her cry for 5-10 minutes at each nap time – eventually brought this to bedtime, and it worked really well. She falls asleep on her own for naps and bedtime, but not for night wakings. I have only recently let her cry for a bit during the night – 10/15 minutes – but then I go in and nurse. I’m hoping for your opinion on a couple things:

    (1) Is nighttime CIO the same as bedtime CIO? Do I just let her cry during the night, and that’s that? I know she can fall asleep on her own – she does all the time except night wakings.

    (2) When she goes down for a nap, if she’s still crying hard at the 10-15 minute mark, I go in and pick her up to soothe her for about 3-5 minutes. I then put her back down (awake). She may cry for another 5 minutes, but usually that’s it, and she’s asleep. Do you think this is creating a bad habit/sleep dependency, or is the soothing okay?

    Thanks a ton – I know you can’t respond to everyone, so thank you so much for all of your work putting your site together.

  22. Hi Alexis

    First let me just say that I absolutely adore your blog and have been reading it religiously since the day I stumbled upon it from Google.

    Now, I’m a first-time mom with no idea what I’m doing (at least that’s how I feel). My son is only almost 3 1/2 months old but I feel like I’m driving myself up the wall with this whole “he has to learn to fall asleep by himself or he will grow up into a monster forever and I will go more insane,” because all I can think about is sleep, sleep, SLEEP due to the fact that I’ve been spending morning, noon, and night googling infant sleep training, or anything to do with my son sleeping AND of all the horror stories Ive read on how their 11 month old never sleeps. I don’t want that!

    Am I overanalyzing this whole baby sleep thing or am I on the right track? Should I be concerned at this point that my son can’t fall asleep without any help? Or that he wakes up every 1 1/2-3 hours at night (he is ebf…)? Or that his naps haven’t “consolidated” into 2-3 consistent naps and only last 40 mins?

    I think the main reason I’m so conserned about his sleep habits is that I have to return to work in a week and I want the transition for not only him, but the people who will be taking care of him as well, to be as smooth as possible.

    Sigh. I know, I sound crazy… But it certainly feels like I’m on the fast track there!

    Anyways, thank you for your awesome blog. Hopefully I’ll get this whole sleep thing down before I’m really in the weeds. For now I’m gonna keep immersing myself in your posts in hopes of an eye-opener!!

  23. Tried CIO with checks and she lasted over 4 hours the first night. It was horrible. She’d cry on and off the entire time. It did make it worse when I went in to check on her, so I stopped after awhile but peeked in on her. The next night she cried on and off for 2 hours and nights 3 & 4 weren’t much better. Then she came down with a bad cold, congestion and cough, so I held her for 5 nights in a upright position. Well we’ve now created a monster. She’s up 45 min. after I put her down and then every 10-30 min for the rest of the night. I do breastfeed but only do that around midnight, since she’s asleep by 6:30 and then again around 3 am. I don’t know what else to do!!! HELP

  24. Hello Alexis, I love all of your great insights, thank you. I have a 4 1/2 month old daughter who never fell asleep unassisted in the last couple months. Until not too long ago, she used to fall asleep while breastfeeding, or by my side in our bed(she sleeps with us :)). Then, she stopped wanting to fall asleep by my side or while being nursed, and I did the Mistake of starting to rock her. That worked for few weeks. In the last week, she refuses to fall asleep being nursed or rocked, she throws herself back and arches her back and starts crying. Also, she starts talking in her language, and yells after a while, like saying let me fall asleep my way. Honestly, I feel I am in her way of falling asleep. I have to return back to work, 3 nights a week for 12 hours, and she needs to learn on how to fall asleep unassisted, I think ITS TIME:). Also, she loves her pacifier, but in the last few weeks she takes it out of her mouth, and then tries to put it back on, but is not always successful, and if I don’t help her she starts crying. Also, she takes about 3-4 naps a day which are between 25 min to 2,3 hours if I sit by her when she wakes up. We love having her in our bed, we always wanted that, but she is such a light sleeper, and we can barely turn in bed, and if she is not fully asleep, she hears us and wakes up. She also fusses a lot in her sleep and my husband has to go in the other room so he can rest for work, and I hate having him in a separate room. I was wondering is there any way we can still have her in our bed, and try the CIO method sleep training? Last night for the first time in couple months she fell asleep in the swing after about 55 min of crying/ complaining. She wakes up about 2-3 times at night, in a 13-14 hours night, to be breastfed, and goes to sleep right away without no problem. So I guess my questions are: How can I do the CIO method if she loves her pacifier and i will not go in every min to replace it? (BTW, CIO is the last resort for us, nothing else really works for her, she is a very strong willed child and not a calm one, but a very happy baby overall, always smiles even after a 10 min nap.). How long does the crying last in the first nights when starting to sleep train, because I do not feel comfortable letting her cry more than an hour…

  25. Thanks so much. Love your humor. I needed a laugh.
    I was going to wait until my 10month old turned 12months, but after reading this I feel it’s ok to start now before I collapse from exhaustion. Wish me luck

  26. I love this site, it has been so helpful to me! We recently started CIO out with our 10 month old and I guess I’m looking for a little reassurance that we’re doing the right thing. I have been able to put him down somewhat awake before and he seems to fall asleep fine – but it’s very, very hit or miss. Most of the time its anywhere between 10-30 minutes of rocking to get him to sleep, sometimes followed by more crying as I finally lay him down in his crib. Getting him to sleep has become so unpredictable and is causing a lot of anxiety. While I love the snuggles, it’s too much. Waking in the night is anywhere between 1-3 times each time needing rocking and/or nursing. I suppose my question is; it appears that he has some ability to self-soothe (sometimes going to sleep on his own, sometimes sleeping nearly through the night) so is letting him CIO maybe not necessary? Is he just wanting extra cuddles before sleeping? It just seems in the past couple months that the rocking is becoming more necessary and at 2am standing next to the crib nearly tipping over from exhaustion while rocking this sweet little man… I’m just losing my mind a little bit. But I also don’t want to make him cry when maybe it’s not that bad? Especially compared to other stories I’ve read with 4-6 night wakings. Just curious your opinion. Thank you!

    • I should also say, the past two nights it’s taken him an hour and 45 minutes to get to sleep on his own. It’s hard when I know if, after about 20 minutes of him crying, I was to go upstairs and rock him he would be out like a light in 30 seconds! But, that would just be continuing the problem, right? I’m sure I know the answer to that.. 🙂

  27. Omg that chart had me laughing!
    I ended up doing CIO unplanned one night after my pacifier-hatin’ 9 month old, in one beautiful culminating finale to a couple weeks of regressing from 1 night waking/nursing to ~3, just simply woke at some ungodly hour crying uncontrollably. No issue could be found, and nursing, rocking, bouncing, new diaper, etc. wouldn’t work. After an hour I threw up my hands and basically said, “I’m sorry, I’m out of ideas!!!”, left the room and cringed & pleaded to God for 15 min. Then he fell asleep. One more night of the same and he has never needed me again at night. He’s now almost 13 mos.

    And mind you, he has never been an “easy” napper. I remember one day when he was 2 months-ish, I was “that” parent who didn’t bathe or EAT bc I was in the sick cycle of “soothe/absolute silence/oh crap, he’s up & still overtired…get him down NOW!!”
    So there’s hope!!!!!

  28. Hi. I have started the CIO method 8 days ago. Was going quite well. Did the Ferber checking method. Times were reducing over the days but then 5th night took longer. I know it was probably because I soothed too much and she was almost asleep already so 4 hours later she was up again and again. I thought I had mastered it because she didn’t cry but what had of course happened was that she was already asleep or 2 seconds from it. Anyway my question is the following. I am using the dummy even though she cries mainly with it in her mouth but if it has fell out I do replace it and say my message and leave. I was patting but this made things worse so just message dummy and out. I want to know if the shit is going to hit the pan if I now decide to remove the dummy altogether? Let me just add that it falls out and she doesn’t wake up and has gone all night but then there are others where I have had to replace it at 6am to get another hour which is what was happening before the CIO method anyway. So can I go cold turkey and take it away at night or will this cause problems with it from now on ?? Many thanks

  29. Hi Alexis. Please please get back to me I’m so desperate. I am obsessed with my daughters sleep and suffering from chronic insomnia and depression. My daughter is 6 months old and I Have been doing the CIO for 10 days. Her naps were the typical 35/40 minutes after lots of soothing buggy whatever but she wouldn’t sleep for longer than that even in my arms.
    The first few nights took 45/50 minutes with checks for her to sleep and she started to sleep through from 9.30 until 7. I moved her bedtime earlier and no she sleeps at 8pm but has started to wake at 4/5/6 so I would wait for a certain amount of time go in and put her dummy in to which she would fall back to sleep and then feed her around 6am when she is awake awake to get another hour or 2 out of her. I am using a pacifier still. Is is possible that this is the problem? Also what should I do when she starts crying at 4am and there on? I know that going in and putting the dummy back in is what I was doing every 2 hours or less before the CIO but as she started to sleep through with it even though at some point it fell out during the night, I thought it was okay to keep it. Is it too late to take it away????
    Also tried for naps first few days and they were horrendous. Crying for an hour and half screaming no sleeping at all. Stopped and tried again around the 6 day mark. Worked for one but the next day awful again. Tried yesterday for her 12pm nap and 4pm nap and worked with her sleeping 1,5 and 1 hour but then tried the same again today and she slept for 15 minutes and then screamed for another 70 minutes or more with checks.
    Please help me I don’t want to give up after what feels so long but it seems to be getting worse not better and I don’t understand why.
    Is it the dummy and should I do full extinction at night? What if she doesn’t go back to sleep?
    She actually sleeps for quite a few hours the first part of the night but as I don’t sleep for more than 3 and haven’t for 6 months I’m losing my mind.
    She usually gets up around 8.30am but crying and then I try to put her down at 12 and 4 and bed at 7.30/8 but yesterday is worked today it was awful. She did sleep for an hour at 3.30 alone but woke up screaming after that and was miserable for the rest of the day. More than even because that was the only nap she had. Before this I was holding her or lying down in my bed with her to force longer naps but I can’t keep doing it. I need to gain some control. Please reply when you can. Thanks

    • Taken from Alexis’s post on How to cry it out (you should definitely read the whole post tho) :

      7) Give baby as much soothing as possible!

      For older babies (6+ months) your options are generally limited to loud white noise, block out blinds, and a small lovey. It’s sometimes helpful to have Mom stuff the lovey in her bra and wear it there all day so that it smells like Mom. If your baby is still swaddled that is also really helpful. DON’T use any sleep aids which will feed into your object permanence problem. So pacifiers, timed music, etc. are all forboden.

      11) Cry it out does not mean night weaning.

      IF your baby has been eating/nursing at night then you will need to feed/nurse your baby when they wake up. CIO is not a good way to cut out night feedings as hungry babies will cry A TON. If your baby had been eating at predictable times then feed your baby when they “regularly” would be eating. If your baby wakes up crying at a time other than when they would regularly eat, then I recommend you don’t go to them.

      If your baby was previously sleeping glued to your boob (don’t laugh, this is a REALLY common problem) then sorting out what is a cry for attention vs. a cry for food will be challenging. You’ll need to listen to your baby and your gut and make the best determination you can. I would suggest you try to space out the feedings as best as you can. For example if you nursed your baby at 6:30 PM then I would be reluctant to offer more food before, say, 11:00 PM. If you nursed again at 11:00 PM, then potentially the next feeding could reasonably be expected to happen at 3:00 AM. However these are not hard and fast rules, listen to your gut. It’s almost always giving you good advice.

      13) When baby wakes up early?

      CIO is very effective at bedtime because there are a number of biological factors that make it very difficult for your child to stay awake at that time. However if your baby wakes up very early in the morning (4:00 AM or 5:00 AM) letting them cry will almost never result in them falling back to sleep. If your baby wakes up very early and doesn’t seem to be falling back to sleep (it’s been longer than ~20 minutes) then it’s morning time for you. This is horrible but generally temporary. You may want to consider offering baby a quick snack, putting baby in the swing, or bringing baby back into your bed. Sometimes these options will buy everybody a few more hours or sleep. But crying is unlikely to do anything productive.

      4)Can I use CIO for naps too?

      That is a whole separate topic which I’ll write about in the future. I don’t recommend tackling naps until AFTER night sleep is well established. So for now, focus on getting night sleep sorted out and let things settle into a positive and predictable sleep routine before you start mucking about with naps.

      5)Won’t they get confused if I keep (rocking, nursing, pacifier) for naps but not bedtime?

      Different parts of the brain regulate day vs. night sleep so you aren’t mucking things up by rocking to sleep at naptime then using CIO at bedtime. Many people feel they need to tackle the whole day at once but I don’t recommend it. Sorting out naps tends to take a while and involve quite a bit of crying and not napping. Babies who don’t nap become overtired. Overtired babies cry at bedtime. A lot. So with the goal of minimizing crying you would work on having GREAT naps (by any means necessary) so your baby is well-rested coming into CIO bedtime. Once night sleep is well established sorting out naps becomes easier (because well-rested babies sleep better), which is why I recommend focusing on night sleep FIRST before moving on to nap battles.

    • Just wanted to add that you should check out the post on wake time lengths to help you with naps later on:
      I think maybe baby is awake too long and that’s why you’re having some trouble at naps.

  30. We have an almost 5-month, that we think is ready for CIO. He doesn’t need any night feedings, and puts himself to sleep after his bedtime routine.

    Bedtime routine is just a nighttime bottle, jammies and then falls asleep downstairs on his own (well, we are there with him but he puts himself to sleep) – laying on a Boppy pillow (supervised). Sometimes he has a pacifier, sometimes not. Then we’ll transfer him upstairs for the night, where he is swaddled (arms out) and with white noise. He does wake up after awhile, and then needs help falling back asleep – which is why we’re thinking he needs CIO.

    Question is, too young? Are we creating bad sleep associations by having him fall asleep downstairs rather than upstairs? He usually wakes up for the day around 7:30, but is known to be awake at 4:30 or 5 (will fall back asleep if given a pacifier, or placed on that dang Boppy pillow)


    • Kelsey,

      There are two things happening here that stand between you’re current plan and him ACTUALLY putting himself to sleep.

      The first thing is that he’s falling asleep downstairs and then is transferred into a bed upstairs later. He needs to FALL asleep where he’ll remain for the night.

      The second is the use of the pacifier.

      Sleep training is all about how he FALLS asleep, it’s not ideal for fixing later wakeups (sometimes it is, situationally specific). so THAT’S your issue. He needs to fall asleep IN his bed, ideally without the pacifier.

      Is this a CIO situation? Maybe maybe not. I would work on it with a bit of assistance (belly rubs, soft words, etc.) and see what develops. You may find that he just needs a bit of a nudge. If not, CIO is your backup plan.

  31. Hi Alexis,
    I have been pouring over the articles on your site trying to convince myself one way or the other whether to start cry it out training with my daughter. She is nine months old. She has always fought sleep since the early days. We have a solid sleep routine in place of bath, pajamas, white noise and fan (since she is a very light sleeper) nursing and then walking around the room singing until she falls asleep. She doesn’t usually sleep more than three hours at a time, sometimes 4,5 or 6 but that is rare. I was planning to do a more gentle sleep training approach but I am honestly so tired and the idea of the no cry solution sounds so daunting that I haven’t committed to any plan at all! My husband and I decided that we would try night weaning first since she has always been nursed to sleep at every waking overnight. We thought this might introduce some comfort measures that would help us with sleep training. My husband would put her down for the first two times of the night. The bedtime routine starts at 6:45 but it can sometimes take her until eight or later to go to bed depending on how fussy she is. She almost always wakes about 45 minutes after the first put down. Then I go in for the remainder of the night wakings. Things were actually going pretty well and night wakings reduced from 5 to 8 times a night down to four.Plus, she has been getting easier and easier to see youth back to sleep over the past week that we have been trying. I was getting excited that maybe we wouldn’t have to do heavy-handed sleep training after all! Enter sleep biting.She has occasionally biten at bedtime before she had teeth and I thought maybe I was hallucinating because how could this sweet baby be biting me? Now she has four teeth with another on the way and the biting has only increased since we started night weaning.Now she bites while I hold/ walk with her for naps and bedtime and my arms look like I’m being abused! I have tried everything to get her to stop and nothing works. Now I feel that we might have to do CIO sleep training because I can’t take much more of this biting behavior. What are your thoughts? Thanks for your help. I’m seriously lost here.

  32. Just a week shy of my little boy’s 8 months and considering cio. Otherwise we do a lot of “attachment parenting” including bed sharing. I’m not tired, I hardly wake when I nurse him back to sleep. But as he is an avid crawler, I’d prefer him falling asleep in his crib and staying asleep! Additionally, having to walk him or carry him in the ergo for every nap sucks – zero time to get on top of life!!

    Now to the big question: we are about to head on a long trip in a week, 8 hour time difference etc. staying for over a month. Do I train him right away, today, pre travel or rather after we have arrived and re-set his clock?

  33. My daughter is 5 1/2 months and one of the most laid back chill baby’s ever!! But she still wakes up twice a night which is driving me nuts… and sometimes I can’t get her to sleep. Sometimes she puts herself to sleep if I just lay her down with her nuk (she also sleeps on her belly)… sometimes she falls asleep while eating… sometimes she falls asleep while swinging, or me holding her, or on a car ride. She takes little 10 minute cat naps thru out the day. She only takes longer naps it seems when I am holding her or sometimes in her swing.

    I’m finding it hard to create a schedule with her because I work days half the week and nights the other half. When I work days she usually falls asleep around 8 or 9 for me (puts herself to sleep, rocks to sleep, ect) when I work nights we usually don’t make it home til around 11… where she either stays asleep and I transfer her to her crib… or she wakes up, eats, and then falls asleep by one of her many ways. I don’t know if crying it out would work for her since I can’t commit to a bedtime… it also keeps my 6 year old son awake whichis not okay since he has school in the morning.

    When she wakes up in the night I move her to a bassinet where I usually prop a bottle and she immediately falls asleep (rarely will she not fall asleep but if so sometimes she gets moved to my bed. The bassinet is right next to my bed so I take the bottle away once she’s asleep.. she usually wakes up between 1 and 3 for that bottle and then again between 5 and 8…

    She is only eating 4oz at a time. So I don’t know if she is genuinely just hungry or if it’s a habit or if that’s my way of getting her back to sleep. She’s a little chunker and loves eating just does less more frequently. She recently has started baby food so I was hoping that would fill her up and have her sleep longer but so far it doesn’t seem to be working.

    She seems to sleep for longer periods of times in my bed… but I still try to keep her in her own crib for as long as possible.. I do feeel she is going thru a growth spurt so that might explain some and she has been chewing her hands like crazy so I think definitely teething but either way I feel I have a couple of problems going on here I need help with…

    How do I deal with the not being able to have a consistent schedule issue?

    How can I get her to sleep thru the night?

    Does the fact she doesn’t nap a lot/long matter if she seems generally happy thru out the day and not over tired?

    Does crying it out seem like the best option or should I start with other things.. and what other things would those be? Thanks 🙂

  34. I think the CIO method is the last thing we should try to sleep train our baby. I sleep trained my second daughter when she was 3 mo and it changed her life and our life as parents. She started to nap longer, she was able to fall asleep on her own without crying. It just must be the right method. I think the best one is by Susan Urban. It’s called Hold With Love (HWL – if I remember correctly). The method is without CIO so no harm for the baby. I’ve read her guide in an hour or so because it’s in a nutshell and i knew exactly what to do with step by step instructions. After 3 days my LO was able to sleep all night long without eating every hour and she started to nap longer so she finally wasn’t exhausted. The method must be great because I had like the worst sleeper in the history of babies.
    You just must do it step-by-step like the author says. So I wanted to encourage everybody who is interested in sleep train a baby to first of all try Susan Urban’s method and follow her instructions and I bet any other method especially with CIO won’t be necessary. I’ve found instructions on what to do and how to do it in the guide “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” from I think the author’s website

    So everybody who wants to improve baby sleep should try and don’t wait to be even more exhausted.

  35. Hello! I love LOVE your website! So helpful and informative. For me, it was probably too much information at one time. My 9 month old is not sleeping through the night at all, waking most nights every hour–not to feed, not for the pacifier, just because! There are some nights that he wakes up every 2 hours seemingly starving to death! He is currently sleeping in my bedroom in a crib next to my bed. We are working on getting him into his own room. My question is: where do we start? Night weaning, pacifier weaning, crying it out? what do we do first? ‘
    thank you!

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