Don’t Have a CIO Panic Attack

December 16, 2011 |  by  |  cry it out, parenting
Don't Panic about CIO!

Every few months somebody throws out a fiercely alarming article about how cry it out will permanently damage your child. The latest one caught my attention because it was featured on Yahoo’s home page. And given that zillions of people read Yahoo it’s probably going to freak a lot of people out.

Stupid Yahoo.

The Yahoo article is actually sourcing an even more alarming article from Psychology Today. Although I felt obligated to link to it I’m telling you, DON’T READ IT. Also while the title “Psychology Today” may sound like an academic journal, it isn’t. This is a magazine, just like People and Us Weekly, that needs headlines that will get people to buy the magazine.

Please don’t read it.

The Bottom Line on CIO


There is no research that suggests that CIO will permanently harm your child.

The research about attachment disorders are all based on severe cases “predominantly in infants who are abused or neglected.”


My readers are not abusing or neglecting their children.

You are here because you love your children and are concerned about meeting their very real and critical needs for healthy sleep. You are concerned and caring people. The studies that these articles cite are are NOT talking about YOU.


The cortisol conundrum.

These articles invariably come to the conclusion that stressed or crying baby brains produce cortisol, a stress hormone that in large quantities can damage neurons. You know what else results in babies producing large amounts of cortisol? Sleep deprivation. Sadly I have yet to find a study that compares cortisol production during crying to that of sleep deprivation.


3 days vs. 3 years

CIO if done well, takes about 3 days. Chronic sleep deprivation goes on forever. So even if crying produces more cortisol than sleep deprivation, there is NO way that crying for a few days produces more cortisol than years of chronic sleep deprivation.


Tired babies cry more.

Want to reduce the amount your child cries? Help them sleep better.


Attachment parenting starts with YOU.

Even if you’re a huge proponent of attachment parenting, being physically and emotionally available for your children requires that YOU are physically and emotional strong. When you’re beaten down via exhaustion YOUR ability to nurture and connect with your children is vastly diminished. So helping everybody sleep better is a critical foundation to enable parents to be emotionally connected and supportive of their children.

Parents who are looking for answers to improve their children’s sleep are fundamentally plugged into what is REALLY important for the health and well-being of their kids. They don’t need to be freaked out by these alarmist articles that cite research that is based on EXTREME neglect. Frankly the whole thing is bullshit. We’re raising a nation of chronically sleep deprived kids and the bigger narrative should be focused on how we’re going to fix this problem instead of needlessly scaring concerned parents who are trying to make a positive change in their family’s sleep.

Thus endeth the CIO rant.


  1. I read that article, because I am stupid. I *know* CIO was a wonderful thing for each of my kids. It was very hard but so wonderful and beneficial. After reading it I felt like a failure, and even an abusive parent. My kids are very happy, well adapted, loving kids that know I love them very much. They trust me above all others. And in many other areas I do practice AP. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not the worst parent ever.

    • And THAT right there is why these articles annoy me so much (and it’s not just this one – they come out ever month or so). It’s that they make good parents feel bad. And it’s just NOT TRUE!

  2. I’m glad there are insightful bloggers like you to help straighten the facts out concerning this topic. It’s unfortunate how media could mislead and cause panic, even worse when what they’re saying were not supported by legitimate research or findings. It’s important for parents to widen their scope, to read the pros as well as the cons, especially when it comes to various methods of parenting.

    • Well they’re not lying – I mean the research does say that prolonged crying leads to attachment disorders. But they’re not telling you the whole story, which is that in the study “prolonged crying” means “months of neglect” (think Russian orphanage horror show). However that isn’t mentioned so parents who let their baby cry for 45 minutes one time read the article and are then convinced that they’ve done irreparable harm to their beloved. But they haven’t. So it’s all just sad. And unnecessary.

  3. A-to the-MEN, sister. Saw an article citing the Psychology Today article on The Stir, and you wouldn’t (or would) believe the number of people spouting off about how CIO parenting = bad mommy and daddy. Puh-lease. Thanks for sharing your ideas here. It’s nice to have someone counter the alarmists.

    • I used to jump in on those sort of comment threads hoping to offer an alternative view or at least raise some key facts for discussion. Then I learned that doing so just gets you flamed in a big way so I steer clear of the raging anti-CIO crowd now. Frankly they scare me 😛

  4. You really don’t have to listen too much with these studies as it will confuse you on how to raise your baby properly. Crying is normal and so is sleeping. If you have nurtured your baby well then there is really nothing to worry about.

  5. I agree with Dianne. A good Mom should know what’s best for her baby. There is really nothing to worry about unless you neglect basic things like attention and time spent for your baby. A good cry and a good sleep will do well in the growth of the baby.

    • You sound so reasonable. And yet SO many people are SO filled with angst over this whole thing. I hope more parents are taking the more pragmatic view that you have 🙂

  6. WOO-HOOO!!!!! Yes to everything! Oh, you know what else sleep- deprivation leads to? misdiagnosing kids with ADHD because they’re too sleep deprived to focus properly in school. Also, a break-down in immune functioning that eventually can lead to all kinds of immune disorders, like cardiovascular disease. Also, depression and other mental health disorders. Also, appetite regulation problems. The list goes on and on. Three days of teaching them how to attain the most basic of needs is basically one of the most important things you can do to keep your child physically and emotionally healthy.

    • Have you read NurtureShock (chapter: The Lost Hour of Sleep?)? Chronic sleep deprivation makes your kids fat, sad, and stupid. Good times.

      But as new parents I feel like we’re so sidetracked on issues like which baby food to start for solids and if our sippy cup is right. I’m not trying to make fun of people’s sippy cup angst but honestly I feel like all these parenting books/magazines are sending people off on baby-care goose chases when really there are only like 3 things you need to care about as a parent.

      • Kind of reminds me of a recent story my friend told me about her sister-in-law who was completely obsessing over exactly what foods her son ate (too much bread, not enough peas, needs more chicken, etc.) but totally ignoring his obvious speech delay despite concerns expressed by several people including the pediatrician!

        • Ooof. Is that the thing were people obsess over problems they feel they control because the really big scary problems are simply too overwhelming to be dealt with?

          Personally I don’t get the “ignore the pediatrician” thing. Either a) you should pay attention to your pediatrician or b) your pediatrician is an idiot and it’s time to find a new pediatrician.

          ps. My pediatrician is not an idiot 😉

  7. Alexis – there was kind of a funny article in the Journal on Valentine’s Day. Someone went back through the recommended amount of sleep for kids since 1897 and found that “children haven’t been getting the recommended hours of shuteye for at least a century”. Interestingly, they also found that while the recommended amount of sleep has been decreasing over the past century, the amount by which kids are sleep deprived is the same: “Children sleep about 70 minutes less than they did a century ago. Recommendations, meanwhile, have fallen by a similar amount, according to the study.”

    Of course, the “study” is not exactly well controlled, so you might not want to draw a lot of conclusions. But — and especially since — it’s the Journal, you get the feeling like they are a little skeptical about the whole sleep deprivation thing.

    In case you want to check it out, the article is called, “Challenging 100 Years of Sleep Guidelines for Children”

    • Hey Matt,
      Thanks so much for sharing this! Got husband to get me the initial study too. Actually will probably post about it but from what I can gather people USED to suggest ideal amounts of sleep based on whatever number they pulled out of their butt.

      Modern suggestions are based more closely on science – decreased test scores, cortisol levels in the brain, etc. And the 10 year study by the NIH on kids and sleep seemed to strongly suggest that we’re not getting enough. So I can’t comment on how much sleep Victorian kids needed vs. were getting. But most modern kids aren’t getting enough.

      Check this out:

      About older kids but really compelling.
      Good times.

      • Haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, but I hope they don’t say anything bad about eating Coco Puffs in front of the television. (Though I would suggest that it’s better to put the milk back in the fridge between bowls.)

      • P.S. I’m not surprised the Victorians were pulling stuff out of their butts — I didn’t think they were supposed to talk about it, though.

        • Ha! Did you take Sex and Death at CMU? 50% of that class discussed all the strange things Victorians were doing. Which is one of the many reasons I give thanks to not have been alive during the Victorian age.

          • Uh, I didn’t really experience much of either of those things at CMU so the class probably seemed pointless 🙂

            It’s definitely better you were born in this age — I’m pretty sure there was no Spartan Beast for women in the late 1890’s (or, per Freud, it would have meant a very different thing… and still nothing good for women).

  8. I cannot agree you more about this subject!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. I am SO glad I found your blogs! I will start the CIO with my stubborn 9-month old tomorrow. Wish me luck!

  10. Thank you Alexis, I am having personal issues with starting my almost 8 month old on CIO. I am a huge softy and hate to put her through it but both she and I are about to go off the deep end if something doesn’t change. I work full time and having a baby next to me all night nursing/sleeping is slowly destroying me. I have read too many articles about how CIO is damaging to the child but my inner self tells me that it is ok and to do it!! I have a two week break over christmas and I plan on doing it then, when I have a chance to breathe…. Thank you for the information and support!!!

    • Hi Sarah, I felt the same about CIO. I was DEEPLY opposed and got angry at anyone who even hinted that I ought to try it. But ultimately when my son was about the same age as yours, my inner self started telling me he was really suffering for his inability to fall asleep on his own and helping him learn was in his best interests. This blog helped me feel confident that I could do it well and ultimately have less crying and frustration for him. I’m not going to lie, it was HARD for me, but it worked very well and I have no doubt it was the right choice for my baby.

      My only big mistake was failing to FULLY separate nursing from putting in the crib. I believe this mistake caused a few regressions in the month or 2 following the initial CIO. So I strongly encourage you to make very sure you have a 20 minute gap in there when you start putting him down fully awake.

      Hope it helps to hear a little from the other side! My son is as sweet and loving and firmly attached as ever, and bedtime is now a pleasant experience for him and for me. Good luck!

      • Thank you Kate, your response is very helpful!! I have heard of the timing between putting baby in crib and nursing and have started to define that even now, so I will keep up with that. I am so happy CIO worked for you and am hoping the same for us!

  11. 30 minutes!!!!! She only cried for 30 minutes and really the last 10 were more of grumblings and then BAM asleep!!! Honestly, I actually don’t really know what to do with myself. That should be your next topic Alexis…. What to do once your baby isn’t attached to your boob and sucking your life out of you all night”. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!

    • Well my favorite nighttime activity when not working as a human pacifier is to enjoy a nice glass of wine and some Game of Thrones, but I assume you were thinking of something actually productive?

      Congrats on the great outcome, taking the plunge, and making the right decision for your family. Nobody ever sets out to end up in cryitoutsville but sometimes you just need to admit that despite ALL YOUR BEST EFFORTS, it’s where you are.

  12. Ok one more post…..last night went pretty well in my opinion…asleep at 8:30pm after 30 min of crying/grumbling, awake at 11pm for nursing, awake again at 3am for nursing then awake at 6am for nursing/wake up. This pretty much coincides with her nursing schedule when we were co-sleeping. My question now is how do I approach naps when she was already taking 1-2 hour naps. Do I do what had been done in the past with nursing\singing to sleep or try the CIO for naps as well? Just a bit confused as her naps were already good. Thanks so much!!! Oh and baby is almost 8 months. I do work full time and we got in to the routine of nursing at night since she refused to eat while I was gone during the day.

    • Well if naps ARE good, what about leaving well enough alone? I mean you have nap CIO in your back pocket in case things STOP being good. But if you can nurse her to sleep and he happily sleeps for 2 hours, then CIO isn’t really going to fix anything, right?

  13. What if CIO doesn’t even work? Both of my kids (2.5 and 10 months) would cry on and off for hours, and if they would eventually fall asleep, then they would back up crying 1-2 hours later, all night long.

    Any suggestions?

    • Did you try total extinction method? How long did you try it for? Did you nurse close to bedtime or have any other timed sleep devices? Do they have reflux? Too hot/cold/teething?
      Sorry for all the questions, but I too often wonder what would happen if CIO didn’t work for our 6.5 month old, or any future children down the line…

    • Keely,
      In my experience no – there is always some small (or sometimes large) misstep that is throwing you off. Kristen throws out a bunch below. Check the post I link to here for a great example (the follow up post is coming which explains what their small misstep was and what happened when they made a tiny change).

      Read all the stuff here:

      Perhaps you can diagnose the issue yourself?

  14. Thanks for the notes and support – I’ll keep reading and learning. My now 2.5 year old had about 6 months (12-18 months) where we would do bedtime routine (diaper, PJs, book, rock to sleepy, lay in bed) where he would have to cry it out 3-5+ times per night, every night. We never went in, but watched the video monitor) – he would wake up and cry for 15-60+ minutes every 2-4 hours all night long. Around 18 months he slept through the night for the very first time, but would still wake up often and most nights until a few months ago. Now, he sleeps all night without waking up and calling for us 4/5 nights.

    My 10.5 month old goes down at 8pm in his own crib, and then is up crying between 10-11, again between 1-2, again between 4-5, and is then up for the day between 5:30-6am. This was worse until a few months ago, but this is the standard every night now.

    I do not go in for the first wake-up, and I did two weeks of not going in for the third wake-up either, but every night for 14 nights he just cried non stop or off-and-on from 4-6.

    So now I go in for the second and third wake-ups – I feed him and put him back down.

    I wanted to feed him once per night until he was a year old (and then give it two weeks where I don’t go in at all), but I’m not sure I can make it another month. Plus, what the heck do I do if that doesn’t work? It didn’t work for my (now) 2.5 year old – he spent six months waking up 1-5+ times per night every night. He would cry every time for 5-30+ minutes every time, fall asleep, and then wake up again 1-4 hours later.

    Sorry for the long post – wanted to give background.

    • Hey Keely,

      So your now 2.5 YO would wake up and cry for 15-60 minutes, 4X a night EVERY night? That is “not typical” at all. And as it’s water under the bridge we have to let it go and just enjoy the fact that it doesn’t happen anymore. But I have to wonder why that happened?

      I mean that’s totally typical to happen for 1-2 weeks post rough-CIO. But I’m gathering that this was happening ALL the time for months and months yes?

      Anyhoo for some mysterious reason that we’ll never really know you had a horrible time with baby #1. Now baby #2 is on the scene so it’s totally reasonable for you to be anxious about it. Who wouldn’t be!

      So 10 month old cries 3 hours a night every night and has for MONTHS? And things used to be WORSE?

      Are you putting him down awake or nursing to sleep? Are you nursing NEAR bedtime? I hope the answers to both of these questions is a resounding NO!

      What happens if you go in and feed him? Does he eat happily and go right back to sleep?

      Listen I have to wonder if there isn’t something else going on here. Babies are mysterious and sadly they never TELL you what is going on. But I’ll throw out some options for you to noodle on.

      1) Is there any possibility he’s legitimately hungry? Check the post below and see if that sounds familiar at all.
      2) Is there any reason he would have a hard time sleeping without your help? Tummy issues? Dairy intolerance? Something small that could be a source of discomfort?
      3) Do you sometimes go to him and sometimes not? Has he learned to keep crying because sometimes this works? Not judging – LOTS of people do this – but it results and lots and lots of crying.

      If it were me and I was facing hours of crying every night for MONTHS I might try something new. If you feed him and he goes right down without an issue what if you set an alarm and go feed him (dreamfeed) BEFORE he wakes up. If you do that does he NOT wake up?

      If so I would start there (you’re up anyway might as WELL feed him) and then try to gradually wean the dreamfeeds. See if that doesn’t make some headway without so much crying. Yes?

  15. OK, so just focusing on the 10.5 month old – he is not up for an hour each time, he just has a wakeup during that hour timeframe:
    He goes down (falls asleep) between 7:30pm – 8:00pm each night. Basically, I change his diaper, then put on PJs, then we read a book (I Love You Through and Through), then I nurse/rock him for about 15 minutes, then lay him in his crib sleepy (occasionally asleep) and walk away. The 4/5 nights that he is sleepy, not asleep, he immediately stands up and starts crying, but falls asleep within 15 minutes.

    Then, he has his first wakeup between 10-11pm, and I do not go in. He cries for 5-15 minutes, then falls back asleep.

    His second wakeup is between 1-2am, and I go in and feed him – I take him out of his crib, then nurse/rock him about 10 minutes, then lay him back in his crib (he almost always falls asleep). If he is not asleep, he immediately stands up and cries, but then falls back asleep after 15 minutes or so.

    His third wakeup is between 4-5 am, and I took a full two weeks (14 nights) and did not go in until 6am (his wakeup time). During those 14 nights, he would cry for 5-15 minutes, and then fall asleep for 5-15 minutes, and then wake up again and cry for 5-15 minutes, then repeat, repeat, repeat until 6am.

    So, now I go in for the third wakeup, and feed him and put him back down (same exact routine as wakeup #2).

    I then do not go back in until 6am (he almost never sleeps later than that).

    Since birth, he takes 30 minute naps (you can use stopwatch). He takes two (and has since about 5/6 months): one in the morning in his crib or stroller (depends on if I have him or his dad), then one in the afternoon (30 minutes if in crib, 1-2 hours if on a person).

    When I stopped going in for night wake-ups for my first son (at about 12 months), it took 6 months until his first wake/cry free night. I just don’t know what to do if, when I stop going in all together, the same thing happens and my second is crying it out 2-5+ times per night (for 5-15+ minutes each time).

    Thanks again – this tired Mama appreciates feedback and is frustrated:)

    • Well I would DEFINITELY move the nursing and rocking out of your bedtime routine. Meaning nurse FIRST and then rock far less so he is more awake then not. Because what is happening is that he wakes up seeking comfort nursing. Part of this is because he’s a baby. Part of this is definitely because you’re nursing him to sleep(ish). So I would start there.

      Waking up and crying for 5 minutes is no big deal. But feeding him sometimes but not others isn’t helping. Nor is nursing at bedtime, or the fact that he’s sort of nursing to sleep. So I think that starting with that separation AT bedtime will be a huge help.

  16. Hi gang. I’m having a CIO panic attack. We’ve been CIO’ing a breastfed 7 month old for 20 nights now (1, sometimes 2 night feedings, frequent 5 am wake-ups) with varying success, despite following the ‘rules’. Overall there’s been some progression and we’ve gotten the crying down to 5-20 minutes, but every night feels like a crap shoot. The biggest success so far has been to totally eliminate nursing from the bedtime routine. The biggest disappointment (unrealistic?) is the fact that this doesn’t seem to be getting us the results it gets other posters… and the fact that baby hasn’t transferred his fall-to-sleep skill to naptime. Still needs a lot of coaxing to get 3, 1+ hour naps a day. And then last night happened. Super hot, the first really hot night of summer. Baby cried for less than 5 mins at bedtime then lost his mind at the 40 minute mark for 2 hours. I gave in. Treated my visit as if he’d vomited: no lights, no play. I changed his soaked sleep vest, t-shirt and bed sheet. I soothed him like at naptime. I finally nursed (roughly on-schedule) to ward off dehydration. All told, baby was awake for three hours he shouldn’t have been… he’ll be overtired today and I’m left feeling like a total failure. Any advice for how we should get back on the horse tonight? I’ll work hard to get him as much sleep as we can and we’ll buy his room a fan today and let it run to try and control the temperature at bedtime. Expecting another hot one. Appreciate your time and consideration. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had!

  17. We don’t believe in CIO, but our best friends do. We cuddle our one-year-old to bed, then put him in his crib, he sleeps through the night, and calls for us in the morning from his room. Our friends stayed with us for a few weeks with their two-year-old. Every night they put him in his bed, let him scream and cry hysterically, and sit in front of the TV and turn it up, sipping their wine. While staying with us, it took a good 30 minutes or more – every single night! It made me crazy. I asked if he always cries like that at bedtime. They said, “Yeah, he does this every night. We started letting him cry it out at 6 months.” Oh wow. So for a year and a half, he’s been screaming and crying himself to sleep every night? Let’s not allow “the belief or non-belief in CIO” to take place of common sense.

    • 30 Minutes is actually nothing in terms of CIO. Some babies need to let off some steam before settling to sleep. Often times that is crying/fussing.

      And do you really know what your friends’ baby’s “pain/scared” cry sounds like? Probably not.

      I don’t think your friends are as heartless or lack common sense as much as you might think. They are doing what works for their family, just like you are doing what works for your family.

    • How do you “believe or not believe” in cry it out anyway? My not believing it doesn’t make it cease to exist. But I digres..

      For some babies, you can cuddle them to sleep, they sleep through the night, and that’s awesome. High fives to you! However, if I cuddle my little guy to sleep, he wakes up every hour and is miserable in the morning because he didn’t get enough sleep. Different kids sleep differently, and what works for some doesn’t work for others.

    • Ladies ladies!

      Listen, having house guests who have a child who cries is stressful for everybody. This has come up before and if I had to guess they were probably just as uncomfortable with what was going on as you were.

      Nobody wants to listen to their child cry for 30 minutes every night. NOBODY. And I’m confident when I say – this is not the norm. No way.

      Why was it like that for them? Who knows. But I’m guessing that the 30 minutes (as stressful and undesirable as it was) was better than the alternative. And frankly – a kid who will cry that long so consistently is probably a really intense little kid. He’s likely to be the kid who has long, unabated tantrums. Ironically these are exactly the kids who are really sensitive to even small disruptions in sleep.

      So for all we know the 30 minutes a day is preventing even longer bouts of crying that could result from an intense little kid who doesn’t get the sleep he needs.

      All of which is moot BTW. We are not living in their house, just as they are not living in mine. And thank god for that because we’re almost out of toilet paper.

      No seriously folks, there’s a whole lesson about walking a mile in their shoes here…

  18. Wow! I (of course) did go read the article, and am absolutely amazed by the claims and accusations. They break my heart. Especially this excerpt: “…letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.”

    We had a severely colicky little guy that screamed despite all of our efforts – no amount of rocking, snuggling or bouncing calmed him down. When a protein intolerance was discovered at 4.5 months, our lives changed forever and we were finally able to sleep more than 45 minutes at a time and enjoy our little man.

    We were so very exhausted that we put him in his crib to cry at bed time, and within a few days he was sleeping almost through the night! If only they could see what a happy, fiercely affectionate, loving and independent 21 month old he is today – and we’ve all been sleeping (in our own beds) through the night for MONTHS! I am 23 weeks pregnant with #2 and won’t hesitate to use the same method when this babe is old enough.

    • I know. I hated even linking to it because of the alarmist language. It’s so unhelpful.

      But kudos to you for sharing your story. Sussing out protein issues is so tricky and how great that you were able to figure it out! And also listen to your gut to make a positive change for your family. Good luck with #2!

  19. Thanks for this post! I’ve been having a mini CIO panic attack, so it is helpful to me to read this. We’ve started using the Ferber method for our little guy, who is 16 months, after being so exhausted from getting up with him multiple times each night, that we just couldn’t take it anymore. So far, it’s been really helpful for getting him to fall asleep on his own at bedtime. We’re on night 6, and he is crying for less than 2 minutes when I leave the room. Unfortunately, he has started being super clingy and crying when we drop him off at daycare in the mornings. He’s been in daycare since he was 3 months old, and has never had this problem before. I’m not sure if this is separation anxiety that has just happened to occur at the same time as we started sleep training, or if this is somehow related to the sleep training? I didn’t read anything about this happening in Ferber’s book (or in Jodi Mindell’s book, which we also used as a reference). I know in my heart that the sleep training is what is best for him, but I have to say that it’s hard to leave him in the morning, when he is crying and upset. It makes me feel guilty to wonder if what we are doing at night, which I really believe will be helpful in the long run, might be causing this anxiety during the daytime.

  20. I just wanted to say THANK YOU. You probably hear this at least once a day, but you have no idea (or maybe you do) how far and wide I have searched for some sort of help with the CIO method – and your site has completely covered everything that I wanted know and more. These past 4 months with my baby have been absolute hell…like, oh my God…, and even though i know you don’t personally recommenced CIO for her age there is honestly nothing we haven’t tried.

    From the first day that we brought our second child back home from the hospital she has raised nothing short of the fiery pits of hell in our everyday battle to get her to sleep. She screams like no baby i have ever met in this world. Her face turns beet red, her eyes get so wide and crazed, and any noise louder than your imagination will stir her awake after just having spent 2 hrs of nonstop rocking, bouncing, shushing, hugging, singing, white noises, swaddling, baby gas medecine, burping, swinging, skin-on-skin contact, music, walks outside, YOU NAME IT. It got to the point where the only way she would sleep is if i held her in a sitting position with the tv playing at a specific volume, with her little bitty body wrapped in 2 warm blankets, as i bounced her on my leg to simulate a vibrating feeling. This went on for two and a half months and i sucked it up like the mom i am.

    But now with her one week away from the four month mark i’m damn near delirious with sleep deprivation. i havent slept in the same bed as my husband since she was conceived because he has to get up early for work and i’d rather he have as much rest as is possible – makes no since for us both to be zombies. But I’m not the same mother that i used to be and my poor two year just HAS to see that in the way i interact with the rest of the family. I feel physically sick im so sleepy. Its to the point where i cant stay standing or i’ll get dizzy and lose my balance. I’m prone to colds (I’ve had about 3 since we had her) and have developed a sour attitude. The only person who has never seen this is my infant.

    I could go on and on describing how we’ve recently moved, or how my mother-in-law threatens to call CPS on me if i let her cry longer than two minutes, …my God could i go on…but i know that im not neglecting my child. I know that she need sleep just as bad as i do. And i know i cant keep going on like this.its been stressing me out soo badly, the whole situation. I envy my husbands freedom to sprawl out on the bed and sleep – last night i got my best sleep in months laying on the living room floor because she stirs too often when i lay next to her. I’m emotional and at my wits end. This has to stop!

    Sorry that this was so long winded, but you have given me a plan of action (i refuse to let her cry herself to sleep,but i am choosing to let her fuss just for minutes at a time, and comfort her imbetween those times, until she settles down) and I am going to stick with it.I’ll jump through whatever hoops i have to to get her to nap well during the day, but we are going to do things differently at night. I wish i could wait until she’s at the 6 month mark, but literally can’t anymore. I’m sorry, i just cant.

    So thank you. I accredit any sleep i get at this point from you.

  21. Feel so stupid.. did I say ”conceived”. I meant born.

  22. And, just to clarify, after she turned about 3 months she got somewhat better and worse. Which is the only reason I can put her down at all (hence me sleeping on the floor). Before this, bedtime wasn’t the only time she demanded to be held. I literally (literally!) held her all the time because if I didn’t she would go into a blind fit. My husband only held her when I needed to use the restroom or shower. So from that experience my left arm has developed a pain when I hold it a certain way, and the muscle in my wrist is of no more use – true story.

    but anyway, now that i can put her down for a few minutes at a time, including naps, all that changes once it turns to night. I’m still sleeping in a sitting position and wake up every hour of the night to rock, bounce, shush, or feed the baby. Seriously, i have to calm her down at 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 7 o’clock in the morning. it’s a madhouse over here.

    I honestly doubt that those women who have the energy to judge another mother for considering CIO can say they are going through the same struggles that mothers like me are going through. How easy it is to pass a verdict on someone regarding their situation when you are looking comfortably from a cushy bed in yours. No child is ever “easy” but until you have gotten to the point where you cringe just looking at the setting sun, you fantasize about things like naps, baths (not showers), or the days when you didn’t have kids… when you wish that you could just ride in the car for hrs because its the only time your little bugger will shush up, and get sad because your husband would never agree or understand how such a waste of gas would benefit you then you have nothing of value to say. To all the criticisers out there (and this is as nice as i can say it) let your top lip meet your bottom one. because what you have to say is all a matter of your opinion, and fortunately your opinion doesnt matter.

    • Juanita, how have things been the last few months? I really really hope you’ve turned a corner and are enjoying some sleep and enjoying your baby! Everything you say here is so true–you are clearly a great mom and don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

      • Oh, wow. Time has definitely flown by. My baby girl is a year old now, but I can definitely let everyone know what happened after my comments.

        My daughter was (and still is) very head-strong, but once I started putting her down for a nap BEFORE she got too sleepy (every hour and a half exactly) it immediately changed the game for me. Making a scheduled nap time for my baby – instead of waiting on her to cry so much that she couldn’t fall asleep – is what eventually fixed my problem.

        She was simply over-tired.

        Right after I read this article, I put it all into action. I’d lay her right down on our large bed (smack dab in the middle, which was okay because she didn’t know how to roll yet), and would immediately walk out of the room. I wouldn’t even pause to give her a quick kiss on the forehead or to give her a “good-bye glance”..none of that.

        She would fuss (and by “fuss” I mean raise all types of hell) once I left the room, but I learned to let her cry for two minutes before re-entering the bedroom. At first, I was so torn up by her crying that I used to time myself using the clock on my cell-phone just so I could be sure I let her cry for two whole minutes. Once two minutes were up I’d quietly walk back in, give her the pacifier that had fallen out of her mouth, and walk right back out.

        If she started crying again I’d let her CIO for FIVE minutes this time. Then I’d walk right back in, give her the pacifier, and walk back out.

        I kept doing this….spacing the time further and further because I finally understood that my baby was just tired and NEEDED me to let her fuss all of her frustrations out.

        It worked.

        It got to a point where I could lay her down, give her the pacifier, and walk out without her fussing at all. Soon it became rare for me to have to put the binky back in her mouth at all. But, if she woke up any sooner than 45 minutes I’d just walk back in the room, give her that pacifier, and walk out again.

        CIO worked!!!

        Alexis, I don’t know who you are. But, I owe you a world of thanks. I’m not generally a sap and don’t really take people seriously when they claim to be “crying” as they comment. But, you helped me in a time when I needed it the most – and I don’t believe you have yet to realize that. I was honestly in a bad place during those first few months of my daughters life. To say I felt alone barely scratches the surface. I’m honestly struggling to find a way to thank you enough…

        Thank you.

        I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be able to give you a hug for your advice. But, your words have literally changed my life. Especially since I’ll know what to do should I ever face the same issues with baby number 3.

        P.S. He’s due in January 😉


        • You are AMAZING. Thanks so much for coming back to update. Congrats on your great work with baby girl, and congrats on your pregnancy! I wish you all the best–may #3 be a magical easy excellent sleeper because holy hell have you ever earned it.

          My number 1 was a toughie (not as hard as your baby, but still a rough sleeper) and number 2 (fingers crossed) so far is SO much easier. Probably that’s mostly because I know what I’m doing thanks to Alexis, but she’s also just so much easier to soothe than her brother ever was.

          Blessings to your family!

        • Hey Juanita,

          Thank you so much for circling back around to share your happy news – ALL the happy news (sleep + sibling – YAY!).

          Also I 1,000% get where you were because I was there too. Dreading sunset because I knew it meant we were starting the all-night slog/cryfest, dreaming of the days before we had a baby, wondering how people could voluntarily go through this multiple times (I was CONVINCED we would never dare have another).

          So I love your story and I loved that you share it because thousands of other people will read it here and go, “Wait, you mean I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE?!?!”

          Congratulations on having the courage to make a big change and listen to your gut despite Grandma threatening to call CPS on you 🙂

          And if you ever see me in public feel free to give me that hug – I would be delighted:)

  23. Juanita,

    I just read your post and I feel for you!! Hang in there.

    We did Ferber’s method starting at 4 months of age (the pediatrician recommended it). Our pediatrician recommended doing sleep training starting at 4 months because he believes it’s easier than starting at 6 months. Everyone has their different opinions. I think the baby’s weight and growth has a lot to do with it too. I think they need to be double their birthweight (but I’m not a doc, so don’t quote this)

    It took some time, but things have gotten much better. Give it about 4 weeks of consistency. Good luck and things WILL get better!

  24. This kind of article makes me feel a lot better about the choice I ultimately made myself. My 10 Month old just did not want to go to sleep and I had no choice but to let her cry herself to sleep. She is really attached to me more than anyone else.

    In addition I had been going through a ton of emotional anxiety problems as I am pregnant with my second and can’t really even begin to tell you how hormonal and over emotional I get about everything. From constant worry to Anxiety and full blown panic attacks. Her daily fussing and my own personal sleep deprivation was doing no good for either of us.

    In the end the CIO method was the best choice.

    Would you rather be mad and frustrated with your own child or let them deal with it by themselves. Take it from me; Being frustrated with your own child does nobody any good.

  25. Oh my gosh Alexis you are awesome!!!!! This article is maybe my favorite that you’ve written but i love them all! Very practical, emotional lly sensitive but not emotionally guilt riden! Best sleep advice ever, I’m sending your links to all my mom friends. Thank you!!!!!!

  26. Hello! I used the Ferber method for my 6.5 month old, and he fell asleep on his own just fine with no fuss after three days. This was about 3 weeks ago. Now, for the past three days he will go down for his naps without crying, but when I lay him down for the night, he screams and screams literally like he is being murdered. I ended up going in and getting him after 3 hours of trying to redo the Ferber method with no success – just horrible screaming. So I have gone back to rocking him to sleep the last three nights. I just couldn’t let him scream like that all night. It didn’t feel right – I really felt like he actually needed me. Then I felt horrible and cried because I waited so long. He just cut his first tooth a week ago, and I suspect the second tooth might be coming in. Is this the cause? What am I supposed to do when he’s teething/sick? Do I have to redo Ferber every time he gets a tooth? I am also going to make a call to his pediatrician tomorrow. She recommended the Ferber method, so maybe she will have some advice, too.

    • Also, I am a. Big fan of the ferber method because it only took three days, and the longest he cried was 30 minutes, and it wasn’t really terrible crying. That’s why Iit felt differet this time. His cries sounded completely different, and the first night it happened, it went for three hours. I am totally not hating on Ferber – I just don’t know what to do during teething.

  27. I’m sure this is answered somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet… How long is too long? I know “it depends” but I once tried CIO at naptime and she cried for almost 2 hours before I went and picked her up. I’m nervous about trying CIO for bedtime because during our failed experiment she got so worked up and was hyperventilating. At what point would you have to assume that there was something else wrong? 2 hours? 3 hours? How long could it possibly last in a worst case scenario?

    I’m going to keep reading your site and start working on a longer routine, but I am hoping you can put my mind to rest just a bit.

    • Not sure how old your baby is–that makes a difference–but I will say that if you follow the advice on this site for CIO I think it’s extremely unlikely your baby will cry anywhere near 2 hours.

      Key things that should help ease your mind: Naps are TOTALLY DIFFERENT than night. My son never ever fell asleep without help for a nap until one day when he was simply ready, well past one year old. We briefly tried CIO for naps and gave up on that because it wasn’t working and this site said it often does not work for naps. We just kept helping him fall asleep for naps that didn’t stop him from falling asleep on his own at bedtime. At bedtime, the drive to sleep is very strong. That’s why this works and fairly quickly for most kids.

      I think there are three keys to setting yourself up for good success with bedtime CIO:
      1. No overtired babies. Make naps happen by whatever means necessary. Overtired babies cry longer.
      2. Time it right, i.e., don’t try to start CIO at 7 pm with a baby who has regularly been going to sleep at 9:30. That’s a good recipe for 2 hours of sad. You want to put that baby in bed as close as possible to the time she’s generally falling asleep for the night.
      3. FULL separation of all sleep associations from bedtime. No nursing until sleepy or rocking until sleepy or whatever. This is hard but critical–if you keep these things too close, you will likely have more trouble with continued night wakings because baby is still relying on the sleep associations.

      If you read the whole “sleep training” section of this site and follow it as best you can, I predict CIO will go ok for you. I.e. something more in the neighborhood of 40 minutes crying the first night, maybe much less. I wish you well! I know how hard it can be.

  28. Thank you, Kate. She just turned one (but it was months ago that we tried CIO with the nap). Her nap schedules have been out of whack because of the holidays, but as soon as those are on track we are going to give it a try at bedtime. You have been very reassuring 🙂

  29. Thank you for the much needed perspective.

    Breastfeeding mama who hasn’t slept in 6 months

  30. Hey, my name is Anjan. I’m 26 yrs old and I live Mumbai India. I’m honored with an extraordinary life and marvelous companions, however it has not generally been similar to this.

    I see myself as simply a normal fellow who began having fits of anxiety and nervousness in his initial twenties, albeit I didn’t realize that is the thing that they were at the time.

    It’s been a long hard street however in the end in the wake of misery from this condition for more than 6 yrs, I am satisfied to say I am completely frenzy free. I no more have nervousness hanging over me throughout the day, however when distressing occasions happen regardless I get restless emotions like others does. That is simply piece of human instinct.

  31. You’re going to think we’re monster but we’ve tried everything else and nothing is working – our 6 1/2 month girl has been crying for an hour as we sit on the floor shushing, singing and reassuring her. Will she ever stop? And we are we doing it wrong, letting her cry for so long without picking her up? All the other posts say things like “it was awful, my baby cried for 20mins before falling asleep” – we’ve reached one hour and no sign of stopping 🙁 She only slept 30mins from bedtime (6:30-7:00pm) when she woke. Same as last night but we didn’t want to do the same thing we did last night since that took 3hours. Please advise!

    • For starters, I would never think you’re a monster! Never. You’re not. So let’s just banish the term because it’s unfair and shaming and doesn’t apply here at all.

      I’m not sure what’s going on with you but I will say that often parental involvement (you there singing and reassuring) leads to MORE crying. IT’s very stimulating to have you there and leads to further night crying (because you have to be present all night otherwise this strategy leads to sleep association/object permanence issues). So you might find that NOT sitting on the floor or being present is actually the gentler path. Give her some space to see what she can do without your help.

      Also, in the short run, it may be helpful to push bedtime back to 7:30. She’s got a pretty early bedtime and it may be a touch too early. Let her sleep pressure build up a bit more by pushing bedtime back for now – see what happens.

      You’ll be OK, promise.

      • Yeah we realised any method that involves us entering the room won’t work as it only escalates the crying. We’ve settled on a modified version of Ferber – instead of going in at increasingly longer times we just shush reassuring from outside the door for 15-20seconds. I tried it at morning nap today with some success. But my new question is do I use the CIO to resettle if she wakes during a nap? Her naps are usually very short 15mins – when she wakes do I start over with the CIO method I used to get her to sleep, or do I get her up and hope for longer naps as we progress? Or should I be doing something else to resettle her? Thank you so much for your swift response! I was very impressed!

        • Also a bit confused by the early bedtime suggestion? Her last nap that day ended before 2pm. We thought a wake time of 4 1/2 hours was enough to get her good and tired for bed? I’ve read that when babies wake 30mins after bedtime it could be because they weren’t tired enough or because they were overtired and couldn’t resettle. Contradicting suggestions not very helpful! So am a bit confused on this issue. Also hope the waking 30mins after bedtime is just a phase?

    • I guess, I was the kid you’re referring to. I mean, my Mom tease me over and over again how crybaby I was back then. I cried almost everyday, though babies are bound to cry but ain’t normal anymore because it took hours before I stopped. I felt that I was just a burden to them. I am still so emotional now, and I hate that fact. When I offended someone (though I’m not sure), I cried without them knowing, when I made a mistake, I cried (thinking advance what’d happened to me when my parents will know it) and when someone got angry to me, I am blaming myself even though I know it wasn’t fault. Or Am I just being paranoid or anxiety attacks again? It’s really annoying, right? I even despised myself of being me but I can’t control it. My only friend is tea, a cup of it is enough for me to calm me down because ashwagandha organic improves resistance to stress, possibly decreasing cortisol production and it worked well though.

      • Hey Chasity,

        Wow, that sounds rough. As parents, it’s never our job to tease our children or label them with terms like “crybaby.”

        People have different levels of emotional response – there is a wide range from the stoic to the demonstrative. The fact that you frequently cry is partly just how you are made. But we also have a bit of control in these matters. If the frequent tears are a problem for you (you say you hate this about yourself), maybe you might consider some therapy to possibly get in touch with where that sadness is coming from and help to process some of those feelings so they don’t come out, in the form of tears, quite so often?

        Tea is awesome and I’m glad it helps. But if you’re really frustrated with your own emotional state, there is no shame in getting help in managing it.

        Good luck!

  32. Point 6 is key for me. I feel like I’m an entirely different mother when my baby is sleeping well.


  1. What My Dilemma About Sleep Training Taught Me - The Write at Home Mom

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