Why CIO isn’t Working

July 24, 2012 |  by  |  1 YO, 2 YO, 9-12 Months, cry it out, parenting
Why CIO isn't Working

For most babies cry it out, if you take my sage advice, should last only a few days. After the first 2-3 days, some babies may complain 5-10 minutes at bedtime but that is not CIO. That is the baby expressing her disagreement with your decision that she needs to sleep.

However other babies will continue to cry progressively LONGER and LOUDER over subsequent nights. You will feel sure that CIO is just not working for your baby, that I am just another Internet idiot, and that the only solution is to go back to whatever “up all night” solution you had going before you attempted CIO in the first place because, horrendous as it was, it’s GOT to be better than THIS.

Or maybe you successfully navigated CIO and have been popping a nightly bottle of Champaigne to celebrate your success for weeks, only to find yourself with a previously happy baby who is now crying. Again. You and your partner have stopped your happy jig and are wondering what the hell just happened?

THIS is what is happening…

Extinction Burst

This is a great phrase to casually drop at the baby playgroup to establish yourself as someone who is capable of pronouncing multisyllabic phrases and is thus very smart (military industrial complex and LIBOR are also good). But these two words are not just helpful for their show-off appeal.

What is An Extinction Burst?

Sleep training via CIO is a method to break out of unhealthy sleep habits by forcing the issue because those habits are keeping everybody awake. It is essentially a form of “extinction therapy” where you are working to make the undesirable behavior (up all night) become extinct by no longer rewarding/reinforcing it. In this case the “reward” is you nursing, popping in the pacifier, rocking to sleep, etc. all night long. And for roughly 70% of you it will be amazingly effective.

However for the remaining 30% of you, your child will amp up the crying. Or take a break for a few days and then resume the crying. This is an extinction burst, which basically means that your child is doing even MORE of the behavior you are trying to extinguish now that you have removed the reinforcer.

Awesome right?

So what do you do about this? You have two choices:


Do nothing.

Let your child cry through the burst. Don’t go back to the rocking, nursing, pacifier use that prompted this. Put the cork back in the champaign bottle and wait it out. It’ll pass.


Accept chronic sleep deprivation as a way of life.

Go back to what you were doing. Nobody will sleep and it won’t get better for a long, long time. But you’ll avoid a night or two of extinction burst crying.

(Hint: I’m really hoping you choose option #1)

Also file the idea of extinction bursts away for future reference because this is not the last time you’re going to see it. Temper tantrums, whining, demands for (treats, toys, McDonalds), are all behaviors that are prone to extinction bursts.

For example, your child whines for a cookie every time you go to the grocery store. The first few times you give her a cookie because really, it’s just a cookie right? Then you realize you have your own personal Cookie Monster who is now demanding a cookie every time you pop in for a gallon of milk. So you calmly explain that cookies aren’t everyday food and you’re not going to buy them anymore.

Will your child quietly acquiesce? Give you a hug and thank you for being such a thoughtful parent? Or will they go from whining to SCREAMING. And if screaming doesn’t work, how about adding on some THROWING? Or (God save you) SPITTING and BITING? You power through the tantrum and get a few quiet weeks of grocery trips and think (phew!) that’s over with. Only to have the cookie fight start anew.

That’s the joyous experience of the extinction burst. And with every burst you face, you’ll have the same parenting choice that I outlined above. And in every instance I hope you choose #1.

Every single time.


  1. I just started the CIO method and its alot harder than i thought. My husband does not support me on this at all. He says that its child abuse and wrong. I have zero support and i was just wondering if there was an easier way to do this method. Also, how long should i let the crying happen each night, because it seems like he could just scream all night if i let him. I talked to his pediatrician and she suggested this method, but again i have no other support. Thank you

    • FERBER! it’s the gentle way to cio 🙂

    • I used CIO with my 9-week-old son when he wouldn’t go to sleep before 2 am. It worked like magic. I only had to do it for 3 nights. If your husband disagrees, let HIM get up with the baby, or rock him/her for 6 hours to get him/her to sleep.

  2. I need some guidance…

    How long should I let my son cry?

    We have been cosleeping for the last 11 months but I am going back to work and need more sleep so we started the ferber method. We have been consistant with his bedtime routine. Bath bottle book.

    Night 1 cried 45mins and woke 5 times crying a half an hour each time

    Night 2 cried 45 mins woke 7 times crying about half an hour each time

    Night 3 cried 1.5 hours and woke 9 times about 30 mins each time

    Night 4 cried 45 mins and woke 6 times for 15 mins each time

    Night 5 we are reaching the 45 min mark and he is still crying.

    I go in to sooth at the suggested intervals…

    I feel like giving up. What can I do?

    • How did it go…I am there right now 🙁

    • Did this finally work?

    • Omg I’m reaching the 1 hour mark on night 6… I though it was supposed to be getting easier by now. Gosh! Lol I keep going in every 8 to 10 minutes but he is doing worse now than the first night. This is so hard for me. But my 1 year old is waking up every 20 minutes to nurse. I’m at my wits end. This feels like it will last forever….

  3. Hi Alexis,
    Your website is giving us a lot of insight for sleep training!
    One question I have is – how do we CIO with night feedings still in place? We are not yet ready to wean off night feedings. Right now, we feed him at 7:30pm (then bedtime routine, in bed by 8:15), then dream feed at 11pm, then 3am, then 7am (or earlier if baby is up).

    Would you go in and feed when he cries? Or should I stick to my own schedule and go in to feed, regardless or cry or not? What is the best way to deal with this without reinforcing his crying for attention?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Flora,
      I have this exact same question. My daughter is 7 1/2 months and I’m not sure if I should go in and wake her up to feed her, knowing she’ll eventually wake up hungry on her own, or wait for that to happen, but then run the risk of encouraging the crying by responding to it. I know at her age she can nutritionally go all night without eating, but we’re trying to tackle one thing at a time. Since you posted this last February, I’m hoping maybe you can give me some insight into how you handled the situation and how it worked out. Anything you’d be willing to share with me about your experience would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • this is my question problem too!

      • from alexis’ post:
        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.

  4. Alexis,

    My 6 month old sleeps great through the night. We nurse until she’s almost asleep and she sleeps 9 hours, wakes to feed, and sleeps another 3. Sometimes she won’t get super sleepy after nursing and will fall asleep on her own in her crib. Great, right? We have a big problem with naps. I’ve been trying for 2 weeks to let her CIO. Sometimes she’ll fall asleep after nursing and sleep for about 35 minutes. But then she will cry for up to 2 hours and not fall asleep. If I put her down wide awake she just cries for hours. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong! I know she can put herself to sleep, so why won’t she? This worked so well for my son. How long should I let her cry for naps? I’m putting her down every 2.5 hours. Help!!

    • So few thoughts.

      – Bedtime is working now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it stops working soon. If her nights turn into 5X demands to nurse, you’ll know why right?

      – If you’re nursing to sleep at naptime then you’re nursing to sleep at naptime. If you’re NOT nursing to sleep at naptime then you’re done nursing to sleep at naptime. Cool? You can’t ping pong back and forth.

      – If she can’t fall asleep without being put down 100% asleep, nap is 1 hour then done. Then rest time is over and you go about your day. If she cries through each nap for the whole day, so be it. This often happens. It’s not easy. If that is unappealing…

      – You could start by intermediately getting her to sleep in the crib sans nursing. Meaning you do your pre-nap routine, put her in the crib, and rub her back/belly until she’s asleep. She’s not falling asleep solo but it’s a strong step in the right direction.

      – What I WOULDN’T do is nurse her to sleep and then let her cry after she wakes up. She’s falling asleep with you/nursing and then waking up solo – she’s not likely to fall asleep in this scenario 😛

      Hope that helps – good luck!

      • Alexis,

        So I started nursing her in the living room with the rest of the fam to try and keep her awake, and then changing her and doing the rest of our nap time/bedtime routine in her room. The first nap took 35 minutes, and she slept for 30. Bedtime took 20, and she slept until 530. Then for nap time this morning, she took 20 minutes to go down and has been out for 50 minutes!!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!! I guess I thought if she was kind of awake when I put her down, then it was the same thing. I did this 2 years ago with my toddler, and it’s funny how much you forget. Btw, your posts completely saved me with him. Can’t thank you enough!!

  5. I used extinction with my first and it worked like a charm. I’m on day 6 with my 2nd child and he is not getting any better. He’s 6 months old and cries for about 30-60 mins every time I put him down for sleep. I’m getting really discouraged and so stressed from the constant crying in my house.

  6. Alexis,

    I’ve been training my 6 month old daughter for 2 weeks now. For the first 5 nights the last part of the routine was feeding and she cried for a long time and it was not getting better. Then I came across your website and read that feeding should never be the last step so I changed the order like you suggested. The 1st night with the new routine she cried for 45 min then the 2nd night for 30 min and 15 min on the 3rd night. However she cried for 40 min on the 4th and 5th nights and it made me feel discourage. Does this mean cio is not working on her? I’ve been making sure that she has good naps everyday and have been consistent with her schedule. If I were to stop now I feel that the 2 weeks of trying to sleep train her would go to a waste. She wakes up once or twice at night but she doesn’t cry as much as during bedtime. Could you please help me? I am not sure what to do and starting to get discouraged =(

    • It’s likely either an extinction burst (as described) OR it’s a sign that bedtime is too early. I would assume extinction burst and see if things improve in the next ~2 days. If NOT, I would push bedtime back ~30 minutes and see what develops.

  7. Hi Alexis,

    My 10 month old son overall does pretty well with sleeping through the night. We put him down between 7:30-8pm and most nights he’ll sleep through the night with some bursts of crying here and there that last for a few minutes. However, there can be nights where he wakes up around 11pm and he won’t go back to sleep. In the past I would have him cry it out to close to an hour and then we go in and try giving him a bottle. He does take the bottle but the he’s awak and it take about 2 hours for him to go back down (he’s wide awak by the time he’s “done” with his bottle). When I’ve tried to have him cry it out it can go way beyond an hour. This sounds like the extinction burst you describe in this article. My question is how long do I let him cry it out? Is having him cry 2,3,4,5+ hours ok/safe? If I do have him cry that long do I stay up to make sure he doesn’t choke on his spit or is it ok for me to sleep (as horrible as that may sound)? Thank you for your helping this concerned and sleep deprived mom!

  8. Help!! I am so confused on how to get started and what to do…. It was going good but now he has regressed…. Should he always be put down before he is asleep? How long is too long for him to cry? He is flipping on his stomach and it wakes him up? Help

  9. Well ladies and gents I would like to bring you hope. We are FINALLY getting there with our little 5 month girl. Last week she improved slightly (actually going to sleep in cot sometimes and not feeding every time she woke) but we had one better-ish night then 3 more awful ones. Check Alexis’s words of wisdom – ah, extinction burst doom. We stuck it out, and tweaked things a bit. The things that made the difference were: night feeds in baby’s own room not Mummys, no breast at night, getting into bed with Mummy is not an option (helped by not coming into Mumm’s room so Mummy isn’t as tempted,) realising that when she’s whimpery crying a visit to calm works backwards – she’s more upset after it than before. Controlled crying with timed visits only works if she’s proper upset. Otherwise it’s counter productive. We have gone from waking every 45-90 minutes all night every night and crying for up to an hour each time to sleeping 7-6 with a brief cry at 9;30 not requiring a visit and a feed at 1am. That’s it. That was last night. Im still in shock. And the 2 precious were similar except feeds at 12 and 5 then falling asleep again till 7. It’s blissful. If we can do it you can. Honestly we were so low last week after we’d been working at this for weeks. Now im over the moon.

    • Let me just repeat this in case somebody scans by and misses them because these are KEY INSIGHTS:

      ” The things that made the difference were: night feeds in baby’s own room not Mummys, no breast at night, getting into bed with Mummy is not an option (helped by not coming into Mumm’s room so Mummy isn’t as tempted,) realising that when she’s whimpery crying a visit to calm works backwards – she’s more upset after it than before.”

      Well done – this is huge! You clued into some MAJOR themes there and things worked better because of it. Well done!

      • Thanks alexis. We honestly couldn’t have done it without you. Life is so much nicer – and we have a happy well rested munchkin. We’re going to rest on our laurels for a week or so then attempt to sort nap times. All in the pram up to now!

    • So what did you do about night feeds?

      • She was really after a breast feed and the associated cuddle, and didn’t want a bottle. When she was actually hungry she’d take some of a bottle. So making breast feeding not an option worked for her at that time. She just stopped waking up when it never materialised. I was already mixed feeding to stop breast feeding as I needed to go onto a medication, so that was easy enough for me to do.
        Out of interest, she gradually slipped back over the last 2 months (she’s now 10 months) from 2 feeds a night with the occasional 1 feed night, to 3 feeds a night and then feeds not always settling her, up for 2 hours in the night again. She was only taking 1-3 ounces, so we worked out that she wasn’t really hungry, it was all about the cuddles (again!) So we did controlled crying again, and made feeding not an option until after 4am and the child who started waking at 10 for a feed and then 2-3 hourly all night has gone to feeding once or not at all over the last 10 days. With no problems after the first 3 nights. And they weren’t bad either. I got my Dad to do night visits i.e. someone not associated with night feeds or cuddles, and he comforted her in her cot (no cuddles) at ever increasing intervals. I took over again on night 3 and she cryed a bit more that night but not really. She’s only taking 2 – 3 ounces then so I’ll drop that one soon too.
        It’s tough. But in my experience not as tough as the coping strategies that weren’t working and the sleepless nights. Work out what feeds your baby should have and stick IF YOU@RE IN A SIMILAR SITUATION to me i.e. the wakes are really for cuddles, not feeds (even though you are feeding!)

  10. Hi Alexis,

    We really want/need to do this for our son, and we attempted one night already which was a disaster. He cried for over an hour getting more and more upset. I want to push through and continue, but he’s figured out how to stand in his crib and when he gets really upset he lunges backward. I’m so worried that he’s going to hurt himself by falling and hitting his head hard on the crib when he’s left to cry alone in his room.. Any suggestions?

  11. Hi Alexis,
    Let me start by saying, we’ve been PLS devotees since our baby would not sleep during Month 1. Our baby is now just over 5 months. We’ve done everything you suggested. She wouldn’t sleep in a Rock N Play, bassinet, pack n play, etc.We used the swaddle and swing method and it worked wonders (I wonder if we hadn’t figured that out, would she be considered colicky because of lack of sleep like that first month, who knows?).

    My wife returned to work full time two weeks ago and I’m a teacher so am doing the stay at home dad thing all summer. We started the transition about a month ago. We followed all your steps, slowly reduced the swinging, put the swing in her room next to the crib, and the biggest thing we missed at first pass through was putting her down awake in the swing! Once we started doing this I knew this was going to work and we were headed to Cribby Sleepsville.

    We slowed down the swing until we were putting her in it awake and motionless! Two weeks ago, on my first day off for summer, I decided to try out the dreaded crib for her morning nap….and it worked she had four naps in the crib for 1 hr, 1 hr, and 2 30 min naps.

    She transitioned to the crib pretty well that week, but switched back to getting up 3-4 times at night to feed. Wednesday of last week we had a break through, we had the monitor on mute and both woke up feeling terrible and well rested at 6 am! I had soothed her at midnight, but we don’t know if it was a freak night and she just slept or we accidentally CIOed her and didn’t wake up (she’s in the next room and we share a wall, so we usually hear her).

    Low and behold the next two nights we put her down awake and she only woke up to feed once at about 1 and again at 5, then back down until 6:39! Thing is, I had been feeding her very regimentally all day and up until bed. My wife was busy in her first week back and she missed the 4 pm feed so would only nurse her forthe 6 pm feed, before we started our bath, book, sing routine.

    My wife went away for a bachelorette party on Friday night and of course the baby decided not to follow her newly found routine. Well, I rocked the Ferber method all through the night. Fed her once at 1:30 am and put her back down awake and battle for a 5 min, then 10, and she finally went down in the second 19 min chunk! Well, on Saturday she fussed for a minute, slept until 3 am (I changed and fed her and she instantly went back down) and slept until almost 7! She repeated this same thing on Sunday night when my wife got home and she was amazed!

    So to finally get to my questions, (I’m Irish and tend to be a bit verbose!) Mom has been home earlier this week and we’re back to the baby getting up three to four times. So my wife has been getting home earlier, so I can’t do my big feed at 4. She usually will take 6-7 oz when she usually averages 4. But she gets super distracted nursing now and never has a solid feed. My wife will basically just let her snack for the next two hours and of course baby isn’t interested at 6:00-6:15 right before out bedtime routine. I talked to my wife and she’s on board with being more diligent before bed.

    My big question is how do you know when your baby needs to eat or is just crying to nurse? She’s been pretty good about putting herself to sleep within 5 minutes or 10 at the longest when she’s not hungry. Every time we let it go until 25-30 we break down and she eats for a long while when nursing (about 5-7 oz with bottle). I read somewhere the you should do baby’s age plus 1 for hours needed between the bedtime feeding and the first feed. Is this true? Is 5 months still too early to start CIO/Ferber. How can we be sure she’s not hungry? Also she’s pretty terrible at naps still. She used to only take 4-30 min naps. She’s been better since sleep training and will get up to an hour on her two morning naps. In the afternoon, she wakes herself up after a half an hour screaming bloody murder. I can tell she’s still tired and will sometime give up and let her sleep on me for another 30-45 min. (She would only nap on us for the first 4 months of her life). Where do you stand on CIO for naps? Are the Ferber times he same? I’ve read on your site that naps will come, but what do I do in the mean time? Should I soothe her to sleep for naps? Do I let her cry through the whole thing and then just get her up? I dread the overtired baby (the first month of her life). If we feel, she’s not getting enough milk before bed, should we feed her when she wakes up screaming at 10 (Assuming she ‘ate, last at 6:30) or just let her cry it out? She’s very Dr. Jekyll and and Mr. Hyde. She’s had some great nights and it certainly working since I watch her soothe herself in the monitor and she finally doesn’t scream bloody murder in the car seat since we started training. So many questions. I’d love to hear from you. If you could address just one I’d like to know what to do about the naps. Anyway, thanks so much, your website has helped immensely!

    • Andy, this is us exactly. I could have written this! If you are still around, I’d love to know if you tried to feed her earlier if she wasn’t having a good feed right before bed and how that went. Would also love to know what happened with the naps. Our baby does not sleep more than 30 mins!

  12. So I have been sleep training my boy for 12 days now with a strict day schedule of naps and food time- which is going well. He’s falling asleep on his own at nap time and when put to bed with very little crying. HOWEVER is still waking in the night crying around 2-4 times. I let him CIO as if I went to calm him he would just get even more upset but the nights are still really bad and I’m flagging. Please please someone advise. He has 2 naps a day a total of 2- 2.30 hours. No nap from 2.30pm till bedtime.

    • I am having the EXACT same problem. My boy falls asleep within a few minutes but still wakes 2/3 times and cries for about 5 mins and then back to sleep. We’re on day 7. What gives?!

  13. I’ve been doing cio with my 14 month son for 5 nights. The crying is lessening at bedtime, but he’s still up for an hour or so in the middle of the night. I know it will take some time because he was used to eating in the middle of the night (pretty much 5-6 times) so we are making progress. Where we have seen no progress is for naps. He hasn’t napped since we started. At all. No naps in the car or anywhere, so it’s not like crappy cat naps are preventing him from napping. When can I expect him to transfer this skill to daytime? We aren’t doing any checks for naps and leaving him for 90 minutes. It’s rough to put it mildly. Thanks!

  14. This is my 4th baby (first one was a girl and didnt have any issues sleeping ever…last three were boys and put up a fight…not trying to say anything about my little loves but my boys are tough). You would think I have this thing down by now but NOPE..i just royally screwed number 3 up and didnt realize how badly until years 2-4….he’s finally in his own bed and sleeping like a normal child through the night…now for baby 4…the last and final. I will NOT screw him up (sleep habit wise)…he was in our room (never in our bed) in his own crib on the other side of the room until this month (9 months old). Not because Im attached to him, but because we got an Au Pair who took the 5th bedroom so number 3 and 4 were going to share this really great big room….until number 4 decided he wasnt going to be the great sleeper he used to be and we didnt want to mess up number 3’s sleep…so we went on vacation and number 4 totally didnt like being in his own room (but we made him anyway)…he did okay but his naps werent great….took a few of his over an hour naps but not consistently as he usually does…then we came home a week ago and thought this was the best time to put his crib in his new room with his brother since he was already sleeping in a different room at the lake…so that’s when it all started. Could be sleep regression that he was going to have had already, could be teething (but I keep saying that and the kid still doesnt have any teeth), now he doesnt want to nap AT ALL unless he is being held. You would think we put his crib on the front porch or in a back alley…he knows his brother’s room/his room very well because we always play in there, get dressed in there, change diapers, read books, just didnt sleep in there…so we started CIO…I admit we havent been consistent because there is way too much info out there and I keep trying the graduated but he goes for SO LONG and will not sleep…he has bags and red eyes…he sleeps all night pretty much but doesnt nap at all now…we just did an hour and 15 minutes of crying (I checked on him about 4 times) and he fell asleep for only 25 minutes, woke up crying…I got him out when he calmed down, tried to give him a bottle which he wouldnt take much of, then tried again…he just cried for about 35 minutes. He is not the same baby…not smiling much, not laughing…literally so tired he is falling asleep sitting up in his crib (last night)…yes I cried myself last night. I know its the best for him…I know it hurts me more than him and he wont remember. Im more concerned that he isnt napping at all…he will fall asleep in the car when we go out…i cant stay home with all the kids. I took off work today to help so my au pair could take my 4 year old out to play but how the heck do i do this for naps???

  15. Okay, I’m a single mom and I’ve tried the CIO method a couple times. I have not support other than my sons doctor tell now when my grandmother finally stopped supporting my grandfothers way of thinking. (I live with them) well I was wondering how long he should cry? This is my last stop on trying to get him to sleep through the night and to get him back on a good sleep schedule instead of staying up tell almost 2am, waking up at 11, and napping at 3-4.

    • Hi! if you are serious about doing CIO and doing it correctly, read through the WHOLE section on sleep training on this blog (sleep training tab on the top of the page). That section covers CIO in-depth so you have a very good understanding of what needs to be done, how, when and why. Good luck!

  16. Hi,
    First off, awesome website and extremely informative! It’s so helpful!
    I’ve been sleep training/CIO my 6 month for 11 days. It went like this:
    Day 1: cried for an hour and half, woke up once during the night and put himself back to sleep in an hour
    Day 2: cried for an hour and 15 minutes, woke up once during the night and put himself back to sleep in 30 minutes
    Days 3 and 4: cried for 15 minutes, woke up once during he night and put himself back to sleep in 10 minutes
    Days 5 and 6: hardly cried
    Day 7: hardly cried at bedtime but cried for an hour during middle of the night
    Days 8 and 9: back to crying 15 minutes at bedtime and minimal crying throughout the night
    Day 10: 10 minutes of crying at bedtime BUT after feeding at 2am, he was crying on/off between 3am (he was asleep from 2:30 am to 3am) and 6:30am and then I decided to start his day!
    Day 11: back to crying an hour at bedtime, fell asleep for 12 minutes, then cried another 30 minutes, woke up at 2am to eat, put down back in crib awake, he let out a few short cries and went back to sleep in 10 minutes, and slept till 6:30am
    His naps are:
    Nap #1: 1.5 hour nap after wake time of 2 hours
    Nap #2: 1.5 hour nap after wake time of 2 hours
    Nap #3: 1 hour nap after wake time of 2 hours
    Bedtime: 2 hours after nap #3 (usually around 7pm)
    We have a bedtime routine of: bath, feed, book, song, cuddle
    He naps in my arms as that’s the only way to get a long nap from him.

    Question 1) Does this sound like extinction to you? I keep hearing The crying should greatly decrease after 3/4 days which it did, but he’s been very inconsistent! I don’t know if is because I still hold/swaddle him for naps but he wears a sleep sack and sleeps in his crib at night that’s confusing him? But I read your blog and you mention that tired babies don’t sleep well at night so I’m waiting to hold off on nap training will his nights are tackled.
    Question 2) what else should i do differently in his routine?
    Question 3) if he had a bad night, should I extend his naps the following day to make up for the terrible sleep the previous night? I’ve been trying to keep his naps between 4 to 4.5 hour so that it doesn’t interfere with his night sleep.
    Question 4) if he had a bad night, should I put him to sleep at an earlier bedtime or try to keep bedtime consistent every night?
    Thanks for your help in advance!

  17. Hi Alexis: thanks for such great information. I have a young daughter – 8 weeks old and I know it’s very controversial to do CIO with a baby this young. However, the problem I have is that she is extremely alert and struggles to go to sleep if I put her down drowsy or awake at all. If I rock her to sleep and put her down, she wakes often and then is immediately wide eyed and won’t settle. We don’t have this problem at nights….just during the day. Usually I put her to bed around 8ish and then wake her at 10 to eat. She’ll sleep until 330/4 when she needs to eat and goes back until 630/7.

    My thoughts are to focus on naps when I’m having problems with her sleeping off of me. And I thought to ease her into it – focus on letting her self soothe one nap a day. But it’s hit or miss if it actually works. Yesterday she cried without stopping at all for 20 mins (the max I’m letting her cry because of her age) and when I pulled her out she’s sweating and shaking and hiccuping. I feel awful about it. Today however she just cried for 5 mins and settled down.

    My questions are: do you think it’s impossible to do this so early and if so, any suggestions on helping her sleep away from me for naps. If not, is it a bad idea for me to start with one nap a day? Is it confusing her? Any other thoughts on what I may be doing wrong?

  18. Hi Alex,

    We are on day 9 of cry it out with our 5 month old. The first 4 days went pretty much as anticipated with a 3 minute cry on that day before going to sleep. Since then my baby has cried between 15 and 35 minutes hard. He is sleeping through the night without waking but I don’t feel I can put him through such a distressing bed time any longer!!

    He wakes at around 7am, takes a nap at about 8.30 for approximately 30-45 mins then has a 1.30 min – 2 hr nap around midday. He will then have a final 30- 45 min nap at 4- 4.30pm and we usually have him back down for 7pm.

    As for naps I am not doing cry it out as suggested and he continues to have his soother, which is not happening at night.

    Before I give in, as I feel I can’t put my baby through this any longer, I wanted your input as to whether you think he is over- tired, under- tired or I need to do cio for naps.

    Any input would be brilliant!


  19. Hi Alexis! Thank you so much for your website 🙂 I have been doing the total extinction cio with my 8 month old baby girl for both nighttime and naps. We are on day 3 for naps and going into night 4 for nighttime sleep. My question is about nap #1. This used to be the easiest nap for her to accept when I was lying down and nursing her to sleep. Now, with CIO, she cries for half an hour before falling asleep and then only sleeps between 20-30 minutes before she wakes up crying again. For her second nap she might cry for two minutes and then goes to sleep and sleeps anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Why am I having trouble with morning naps? When she starts looking sleepy, usually just before 2 hours after waking up, I tell her it’s nap time, bring her upstairs, turn on the fan, sleepsack, book, song, prayer, crib, lovey and then I say sweet dreams and walk away. I do exactly the same thing for her afternoon nap and it’s no problem. What the heck?

  20. Hi,

    I’m on day 7 of cio with my 5-month old twin boys. We’re doing extinction because I already tried Ferber but caved on the second day. It seems not to be getting better. We have a strong bedtime routine that ends around 7/730p. One of the twins was down to 15 min crying, but tonight is going strong on 30 min. The other was down to 20 min by day 4, but has cried for an hour the last 3 nights. I would push their bedtime back to 8p (the time he usually falls asleep), but they are already so grumpy and fussy when they go to bed that I don’t know how I’d keep them up another hour. We aren’t doing nap training (they are in daycare, where of course they don’t sleep well), and are still feeding 1x at night (they go right back to bed after). After their long cry at bedtime, I usually don’t hear a peep, until they are hungry around 3a. Any advice? I don’t really have any other options, but I hate hearing them cry so much every single night…

  21. Hi Alexis

    I’m sort of in the same boat as a few other people here in the comments:

    6 month old baby
    day 12 of Extinction
    Cry times were progressively going down, then we had what I thought may have been an extinction burst (day 6-8) followed by 2 nights of amazingly short cry times ( 8 minutes and 4 minutes) at which point I thought we were on the home straight. However the last 3 nights have been worse again (18, 30, 30 mins).

    Can you have 2 extinction bursts?
    Could it be that I need to move bedtime later (currently 6pm)

    I just find it weird that things were on the improve and now they are worse again

    Here are the cry times:

    Day 1- 45min
    Day 2- 30min
    Day 3- 19min
    Day 4- 18 min
    Day 5- 10 min
    Day 6- 24 min
    Day 7- 25 min
    Day 8- 18 min
    Day 9- 8 min
    Day 10- 4 min
    Day 11- 18 min
    Day 12- 30 min
    Day 13- 30 min

    The only other thing I wondered is whether the fact that I have fed her to sleep for 2 of her 3 naps the last 2 days could have messed things up. Normally I rock her to sleep in the rocking chair with the vacuum cleaner on (I know- weird) but out of desperation the last couple of days I ended up caving and letting her feed because I didn’t want her to be overtired by the evening if she skipped naps. She used to feed to sleep at night (was one of those glued-to-the-boob co sleeping babies until we started extinction in order to move her to her cot in her own room.) I thought I had read in one of your other posts that you should just do whatever you need to do to “make naps happen” in order to make the cry it out process more successful (ie not going into it overtired). I have only fed her to sleep a handful of times when she has been really stubborn and wouldn’t nap any other way.

    There’s nothing else that has changed in terms of her bedtime routine that I can pinpoint.

    Thanks in advance


    • Nursing naps didn’t muck up bedtime. Truthfully she’s doing GREAT. But 30 minutes is a touch long and you’re right – a quick experiment would be to simply push bedtime back 30 minutes for 2-3 nights. That will quickly tell you if this is a “bedtime too early” issue. 6:00 PM is pretty early which is why I think it’s quite possible. Give it a try and report back!

  22. Hi all – am in similar boat as others here and so SORRY for the LONG POST!!!!

    Am sleep training my 5 month LO and we started with night training 7 nights ago with nap training starting the following day. She cried the first 2 nights but starting the 3rd night she just fussed and slept for almost 11 hours straight. Since then, the nights have been pretty good (with some fussing here and there but no real crying) until the 6th night where she woke up almost every hour and cried for a few mins. or fussed for a while (like she couldn’t fall asleep but was trying).

    Here is the issue:
    First 3 days: for naps I let her CIO for first nap and CIO for second nap but if didn’t sleep for second nap, I would nurse her to sleep so she got enough sleep for the day.

    Fourth day: I let her CIO for both naps and she did terribly but that night seemed ok.

    Fifth day: realized she might need 3 naps so started with a morning nap (just put her in the crib) and she just slept for 1.5 hrs!!!! Then for another 50 mins. and then her 3rd nap was total pits! I put her down a little early for the night but she slept terribly.

    Sixth day: (today) since she slept terrible last night (guessing cause of the naps) I woke her up an hour early in the morning to nurse (as she doesn’t nurse at night). Then she got an hour catnap with me in the bed (I move her a bit away from me after nursing so she doesn’t fall asleep nursing). I put her down for her morning nap and she cried for about 20 mins., slept 30 mins., and then just woke up and looked around for another 10 mins and I just picked her up as she didn’t seem sleepy. I just put her down for her second nap an hour and a half later since she only slept 30 mins in the morning and she seemed very sleepy – she cried 10 mins, slept 30 mins, and woke up and cried for another 10 mins. and then fell asleep.

    My questions are:
    – Was the poor night sleep on 6th night (she was extremely tired) an extinction burst or due to poor naps during the day given CIO for all 3 naps.
    – Should I continue the nap training or scrap it until nights become solid (or are they already good)?
    – Are the naps messing up the night time? If so, should I just CIO for 2 naps and give her a pacifier or nurse her for the 3rd one so she can sleep well at night?

    I don’t want to push her bedtime up too early if she doesn’t nap because she doesn’t drink at night and I try to keep her bedtime to around 7/7:30 latest.


  23. My baby is 4 months old and at this week’s doctors appointment the pediatrian recommended or gave us the okay to start sleep training. We are on our second night of cio, with check ins and soothing at certain intervals.
    One concern I have is that the doctor also notes that my son is not sleeping nearly enough. So at the same time as sleep training I have been trying to make sure he is not awake for more than 1.5 hours at a time.
    What I need help with is:
    1) how do I leave him to cry it out at naps? If he gets in a 45-minute nap but wakes up crying should I leave him in there and let him cio until he sleeps for another cycle? Or do I take him out? I’ve been leaving him in and noticed that overall he’s not as playful or cheerful the past couple of days.
    2) at night, the first night he went to bed at 6pm just exhausted but woke up half an hour later and cried for 1.5 hours, we checked on him twice to give him the pacifier. He is still swaddled as recommended by the dr. After the last soothing (just patting, not picking up) he fussed and moved around his crib for another hour before falling asleep. He then woke up after 3 hours, and had several wake ups after that but none as intense. I’ve noticed he’s the most restless or wakes up the most between 3-6am.
    On our second night, he again fell asleep with little protest at 6 but woke up 40 min later, cried and fussed for about an hour and fell asleep until 10. He then woke up crying uncontrollably and wouldn’t settle until my husband did a check in after 30 min, he settled for 5-10min and started up again. We then picked him up, fed him a little and put him back down. Was that wrong to do?
    Can we do cio while he is still swaddled?
    He is an intense baby and he takes a long time to come down after these long cries. Should we keep going??
    He really needs to get over the 45 min sleep cycle transitions. I’m absolutely exhausted! Please help!

    • Hi! I know that for a lot of babies, short naps are common until they are older than 6 months when they mature a bit and start to naturally take longer naps (assuming they are falling asleep independently for those naps by then). at 4 months old, his short naps of 45 min might just be all he is capable of at this age.
      As for his night sleep, CIO won’t work if he’s falling asleep with a pacifier, being nursed close to sleep, etc. He needs to be falling asleep 100% independently at bedtime. It seems that he’s waking up overnight during the transition in sleep cycles. if he fell asleep with a pacifier or fed close to sleep at bedtime, or rocked close to sleep, he will wake throughout the night looking for those things.
      Check out the whole section on sleep training on this blog, especially all 3 parts on what you need to know about sleeping thru the night:
      since your baby is still young (under 6-8 months) you could try different, gentler methods of sleep training like using alexis’ baby swing method, or the no-cry approach too.
      Good luck!!

  24. Hi Alexis – we are on day 5 of CIO witv my 4.5 month old. My little one goes down fairly easy, only fusses for a few minutes. The problem is the middle of the night she will wake and will be up crying for hours. I go in to soothe and comfort her but she crys for about 1.5 hours. How do I stop the middle of the night issue. Should I go back to feeding her? She weigh 14lbs.

  25. First off, awesome blog. I have spent countless hours on here researching and reading through comments and generally getting up the courage to help my 8-month old fall asleep alone. Thank you Alexis! After trying Pantley’s “no-cry” gentle techniques for MONTHS (which resulted in lots of crying, go figure) and stalling out at the shush/pat in the crib stage, we’re finally at the point of no return. My “help” was just getting in his way.

    I’m hoping a smart reader (or maybe this “sam” person?!) might read this comment and have an insight. I’m trying to figure out when to switch from Ferber to extinction. We’re on day 6 of CIO Ferber-style, and crying has gone from 1 hour, down to 10 minutes on days 3-4, and now back to 1 hour the last couple nights! I decided to do the checks (against my better judgment) because I was feeling too weak for total extinction. But how long should I stick with Ferber before I give up and re-assess? I’ve managed to stick with the plan and let him fall asleep totally alone each night (while screaming, sweating and shaking)…tough stuff. But I can’t listen to 1 hour of crying for many more nights, too painful.

    I should mention that everything else seems in place – naps are fine (we do nurse to sleep for naps), bedtime is around 7pm, bedtime routine has been in place for months, nursing is sufficiently before bedtime, he’s being put into the crib awake, etc etc. He nurses twice at night (12ish and 5ish) and I’m not attempting to night wean at this point. Before we started he was up every 2ish hours all night, and now he’s basically down to 2 night wakings for feedings this week, plus maybe one other where I just comfort him, so that seems good. I’ve stopped worrying that it’s the trauma from crying helping him catch that 5-6 hour stretch, and trying to just enjoy the rest. 😉 Anyone been in this spot, and have any advice to share?

    • Hi! Based on what I’ve read/learned, I believe it’s ok to switch from Ferber-style (checks) to extinction-style, but NOT vice-versa. If you feel that the checks are making it worse, then extinction is a good option. I know checks make things worse for my baby. Also, just make sure- he’s awake long enough before bedtime? Good luck!!! it sounds like you made great progress and are almost at the end of the tunnel!

      • Hey Sam check it out you’re getting a well-deserved reputation 🙂

        Anne Sam is right – you can go Ferber to extinction and I would encourage you to do so. You don’t mention how long he’s awake before the 7 PM bedtime but 1 hour of crying (even if it’s an extinction burst) on day 6 is a little unusual. You could ASSUME it’s an extinction burst and see if it resolves organically within ~2 days. Or you could switch to extinction. Or additionally you could extend wake time (by pushing bedtime later, to say 7:30 PM) and see what shakes out. good luck!

  26. Sam and Alexis, thank you so much for the input! Lightening fast, too – much appreciated.

    Baby only takes 2 naps (and sometimes fights the second despite all efforts to hit the best wakeful window) so I wasn’t worried about too-short wake time before bed. I decided to wait it out a couple days and extend out (but not eliminate) the checks, knowing that once I go extinction, there is no going back!

    Well, the next night was 30 minutes with one brief check, and then the following three nights were <10 minutes with no checks and only one night waking! (Insert happy dance here.) Coincidentally he skipped his afternoon nap and had a 630 bedtime all of these nights. So I was all jazzed up and ready to come back here and report success to all those weary mamas scrolling the comments…BUT…

    Last night (night 10 of Ferber) we had ONE HOUR AND 50 MINUTES of crying! After about 1 hour 15, I was really concerned so I went back and took him out of the crib, turned on a soft light, checked him over, and re-did the bedtime routine without excessive cuddling and put him back in crib awake. No dice. I still didn't help him to sleep, he cried himself to sleep alone again. Clearly I am developing a heart of steel in order to accomplish this. 🙁 He had two naps yesterday (830-10am and 330-415pm after we attempted and failed the 1pm nap.)

    Anyway, I'm hoping we're in a low dip of an upward trend, and will keep on keeping on. Maybe a second extinction burst?! Planning to go full extinction starting tonight. Husband is ready to give up but I'm convinced that there is no good alternative. He turns 9 months next week, and rocking to sleep is no longer the answer. Here's hoping I'll be back in a couple weeks with a real success story. Stay tuned!

    • oh wow, 1 hour 50 min! You are strong!! You mentioned that bad night is the day the afternoon nap ended at 415pm, and I believe bedtime is 7pm? And the other nights he didn’t cry much is when he skipped his nap? So the short wake time before bed the bad night may have been the culprit? Can you try making sure he’s up by 4pm (even if it’s already a short nap) and have a 730pm bedtime? Hope things are getting better on your end!

      • Sam, just coming back around to say thank you. You are so kind to try to help me, and you were right – keeping him awake at LEAST 4 hours before bedtime was a key part of the puzzle. He goes to bed alone every night now. Thank you so much!

        And to anyone reading and looking for answers, it can take a couple weeks in my experience. The checking only helps parents feel better, not the babies…or at least my baby. So go full extinction and don’t give up!

        • Hi Anne! I’m so happy to hear that things worked out for you! That’s so encouraging! Now enjoy your well-deserved sleep =)

  27. Our 9 month old for the past 9 months has been EXC. BF, and I nursed him to sleep for naps and bedtime always, or we rocked him. In the middle of the night he was glued to my boob, if he wasn’t, he was awake. We started CIO 2 nights ago as well as quitting nursing, he refused to take bottle and it was not ideal because I have to work… So it was alot of change for a little guy I know, but I was getting max 2 hours of sleep a night and my nipples were RAW (TMI I know) We took him to the doctor before doing CIO a couple days ago and everything was good. The first night he cried for 1hr 30min and woke 2 times and cried for about 45 min each time, at 6 am he took a bottle and was wide awake.
    The second night he only cried for about 45 minutes before going to sleep but woke 3 times and cried much longer.
    My husband has been staying home and working lately while I am away at work and he said the past two days my son has been very upset about everything and at nap times he will cry for almost 2 hours and only sleep for 30 minutes…

    I feel like he thinks I dont love him because I wont nurse him now and I wont rock him to sleep…. HELP.

  28. Hello! First of all, I am a huge fan of this site and the podcast, and recommend them to all fellow tired parents. Alexis, you helped me sleep train my first child 3 years ago, and the whole process was (relatively) painless, so thank you! I am now trying to sleep train my second (he’s almost 7 months), and honestly he’s being a bit of a jerk about it.

    We originally tried extinction when he was 5 months old – after ONE MONTH, he still was crying anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes a night before falling asleep – and not fussing, but really angry crying. There was no improvement or logic to it: we would follow the same routine every night (boob, bath, then bed), and some nights he would cry a little, and others he would cry a lot. I wanted to incorporate story time in there too, but he gets so fussy and squirmy that I haven’t been able to manage it yet. His bedtime would vary a little depending on when he woke from his last nap (don’t get me started on his naps!!) but it was always between 6-7PM. We also tried extinction with checks (Ferber), but that would just upset him more.

    We recently went on vacation, so we decided to take a break since ST obviously wasn’t working, and try again when we got home. Which maybe wasn’t the best decision, because now I am in a situation where he only falls asleep under 3 circumstances:
    1. He sleeps with me and sucks on my nipple all night
    2. We leave him to cry however long it takes him to finally fall asleep or
    3. I nurse him until he falls asleep, but I can only put him down in his crib once he unlatches and stays that way, which usually takes a minimum of an hour.

    He refuses to take the pacifier, and is using me as a human pacifier. I was hoping that by using extinction he would break that habit, but it feels like he’s getting worse, not better. Please help – I am feeling so totally discouraged at listening to him cry every night.

  29. I tried the cio method for 3 nights and each night I failed. I failed because he cried for 3 hours without any sign of getting better. I really should not say cry I cried he screamed. Why is it not working everything I read says they may cry for as much as 1.5 hours nothing says 3. I can’t let him cry for that long but I also can’t have him waking every 45m and being in my bed. Help!!

  30. Hi Alexis,

    First of all, I want to thank you for your blog. Its so informative and to boot, gives me a much needed dose of humour! This is truly your calling.

    We are on day 4 of CIO with our 5.5 month old baby girl and its been so so. We’ve been cosleeping for some part of the night since she was 1 month old or so, and long story shirt its time to change!

    Her wake times had been all over the place and nap times short (30′) unless I was sleeping with her. I will continue to cosleep naps/have stroller/car naps until nights are sorted, as per your recommendation. Here’s a breakdown of the last few days:

    Day 1: bedtime routine start at 6:30
    Nurse, bath, a little more nurse, rocked until drowsy, in bed awake at 7 and cried 40′ to sleep
    Awake 11:00, nurse and very drowsy but cried 25′ and asleep by 12
    Awake 3:00 to nurse, cried 10′ and slept until 6:50am

    Naps were 30′ long with 2 hours between each – don’t remember times of day!

    Day 2: out for dinner (stupid) and she fell asleep in car at 6:30 – left her in car seat until she woke up at 7:00 – jammies on, skipped bath, shirt nurse as I fed her lots at 6:15pm and she cried 40′ and asleep at 8:00
    Woke up 1:00, nurse and out cold so down asleep at 1:30
    Woke up 4:20 am (body clock 5:20) and nursed – cried 40′ so up for the day
    Napped 4 x 30′ with all 2 hours apart and last one finished at 3:00

    Day 3: bedtime routine at 5:30 (will move back 15′ each day for DST) nurse, bath, jammies, short nurse and rocking * she was fussy during her bath which is very rare – she loves the bath – and NOT happy while putting her jammies on and rocking until drowsy * Cried 40′ again and asleep 6:40
    Woke up 10:20 (body clock 11:20), nursed and I rocked her and put her down asleep where she stayed until 2:00am. I nursed her and she went down groggy but was then awake and screaming until 4:00am!!!! It was terrible 🙁 She then slept until 5:50am at which point I got her up for the day to try to establish a consistent wake time.

    Up to present time! She got tired at 7:15am – I gave her a little milk (exc. BF), popped in her so it her soother, brought her into my bed and she’s been asleep here beside me ever since 7:30 – its now 9:07!

    I am wondering if bedtime is too early or late? Why the heartbreaking hour cry session 2:30-4:00? Any tips for tonight? So far I’m just VERY thankful she’s having a nice long nap at the moment. Too bad I’m too obsessed with her sleep to nap with her!

    Thanks again. So happy a fellow mom and friend pointed me to you 🙂

  31. I have a 6 month old and we have tried the cry it out method a few times and ended up giving in every time because he starts crying to hard and starts to cough and just gets worse and worse. Is this normal ? Also when he wakes up in the middle of the night to eat do I let him cry it out to go back to sleep after he eats ?

    • Hi there! We are letting our 8.5 month old cry it out after she eats during the middle of the night. This seems to be a much shorter cry than when we put her to bed. We’re only a week in, but so far her middle of the night crying, after eating, has gone from 1 hour to just 3 minutes. I think Alexis suggests doing what you need to get them back to sleep during the night, but this has worked for us. I’m not sure about the cough, but hang in there! Everyone deserves a good nights sleep!

  32. I’ve been practicing extinction for only a few days, but I’m very confused by what to do with naps. She slept for 13.5 hours last night with only crying an hour when I put her down. Which is a huge improvement from the night before when she cried pretty much the entire night. But her naps! She has always been a terrible napper, never longer than an hour. I now lay her down sleepy but awake, and leave the room. If she cries for an hour I go get her at the end of the hour. My question is, if she sleeps for just over an hour, when she starts crying, do I go get her? Also, what if I pick her up and she falls back asleep in my arms? Thank you!

  33. Hi.

    We have an almost 6 month old who used to cosleep and bedshare for nights and is used to being rocked to sleep and held for naps. This wasn’t how we wanted to start off, but our LO had acid reflux. Now acid reflux is gone and we have used CIO for sleep training at night in her crib, which is working out so far. We decided to conquer naps too and have been using CIO. We place her down tired, but awake and have noticed that at first she cries out and then rests her head like she is going to fall asleep, but then she will cry and rest off and on, with the resting time getting shorter and shorter until she had worked herself up to being adrenaline pumped and crying the whole time. We have been giving nap attempts 60 minutes and only attempting two times for her first two naps. Then we try to get her sleep however we can as to not affect night sleep. We are on day 4 and she has gone 4 hours awake and cried the entire time for the first two nap attempts in crib. Prior to starting her emergency nap I tried to put her in crib and pat her and she was really worked up. The minute I started her routine for her emergency nap she passed out in my arms. Of course this was a short nap because she was so overtired.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I’m not seeing any progress with naps and CIO. I don’t believe she is learning to self soothe at all. Can you offer and advice. We are desperate at this point…should we continue with CIO? Or try something else because she seems to work herself up? She also never used to get a much night sleep as she does now, 11 to 12 hours, so not sure if this is affecting her either.

    • So naps are waaay harder to sort out than bedtime. Day 4 is nothing. Commit to 3 weeks. I’m not sure what you’re doing for the emergency nap but ideally it’s not what you’re trying to work out of. And ideally it’s not overly long (typically the 3rd nap is shorter anyway).

      As night sleep improves the wake time between naps generally extends so make sure you’re trying for nap at the right time. Honestly I know this is hard but I don’t believe you’ve really given it enough time. She can do this, but it’ll take time.

  34. CIO is halfway working for naps. She will fall asleep on her own after being placed in the crib drowsy but awake. She then sleeps for 30-45 minutes and wakes. I do not go in there, but let her soothe herself. This tactic worked for us at night. Am I doing this right? I’m not supposed to go in there until the desired time for her waking up from the nap? I didn’t know if soothing her for a few seconds would help. To me, she gets super excited and alert when I go in there, so I avoid it typically. However, the extinction thing isn’t working when she wakes up from a short nap. Her cries aren’t alarming… it’s more like a step above fussy. Thank you so much for your help! Seriously… I read this site almost daily.

  35. Help!? We started CIO with our 5.5 month old 4 nights ago, doing checks every 5 minutes then every 7. He’s up at least 3 hours after his last nap before we start putting him down around 7. We get him into pajamas first, then sleep sack, book, and some singing while we rock him to get him a little sleepy before putting him down awake in the crib. He’s always slept in the crib, but we’re dropping the swaddle and pacifier as part of this – the pacifier was becoming a big problem, having to replace it every time it fell out countless times throughout the night. The problem is that CIO doesn’t seem to be working – at all. He’s been crying uncontrollably for 2 hours every night to get to sleep. It’s been so bad that my husband just gave in on night 4 and is upstairs rocking him to sleep now. The first night he slept a couple of good stretches after finally getting to sleep (6 hours then 4), but the following two nights he took forever to get to sleep after crying and was still up 3-5 times throughout the night. We did controlled crying using the same approach with our first son, but he started off a considerably better sleeper to begin with – this one has us ripping our hair out so he’s a much greater challenge. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated!!

    • Hey Allison,
      I can’t say for sure where things are going off track but this is what jumps out at me: checks.

      Anytime you’re doing checks it tends to prolong things. And based on what you shared that’s where I would make a big change – no checks.

      Then the first night you had a good night after he fell asleep – waking up for 1 feed. Then the next two nights you had a hard time and again, what jumps out at me is the checks. Checks almost never help. I also would stop rocking him till drowsy before putting him down. I totally get the instinct and that it comes from kindness but I think it may not be helping here. Then you rocked him to sleep last night which is rough.

      Assuming he’s healthy and all is going well I would make those changes and maybe push bedtime later to say 7:30. Report back?

      • Well, we’re following the advice. Put him down at 7:30, but we’re going on to a second hour of crying. The first was truly a more hysterical crying that was difficult to sit through. He seems to be starting to calm down every once in a while, but doesn’t necessarily seem too close to sleep. Is there a max amount of time we should go to with this? I know we’ll be undoing all that we’ve done if we go intervene, but I’m not certain how long we can feel ok about letting him cry to this degree, so I’m worried that we may still end up in a rough spot.

        • I wish I had a better update. We’ve diligently stuck to no checks for 5 nights now. It’s working…and it isn’t. Getting to sleep hasn’t had much improvement – it’s taking well over an hour each night. However, once he does go down, he’s having great stretches. The thing is, as nice as the long stretches are in the middle of the night, I can’t imagine listening to our baby cry over an hour each night being a fair trade off for him sleeping better throughout the night.

  36. My daughter is 4.5 months old. We have been doing the ferber method of CIO for the last two weeks, for naps and bedtime. We had gotten into a bad habit of bouncing her to sleep. Once she was asleep she would generally sleep well at night and 45 minutes 4-5 times/day for naps, and always in her own crib. But the bouncing kept getting longer and longer. Started with 5 minutes and then progressed to an hour, our bodies were falling apart.
    The first week was brutal, but by the end of the week we thought she was getting it. We were able to put her in her crib for several naps and some bedtimes and have her fall right to sleep. Or she would cry for 5 minutes and we would go in and soothe her by resting a hand on her cheek and she would calm and be asleep within minutes of us leaving the room. We still had a few prolonged cries, but not many. Then the second week the prolonged cries seemed to be greater than the easy naps/bedtimes.
    Now we are into the 3rd week. She has mastered rolling from her back to her tummy and now as soon as we put her in the crib she rolls onto her tummy. She plays a little bit, sometimes, and then cries. When we go in to check and soothe we roll her back onto her back and try to rest our hand on her cheek. She will no longer calm down this way, she just struggles to roll over. So then when we leave the room she is still upset and rolling back to her tummy. The only way we have been able to calm her during these checks is to pick her up and bounce her. This now does the same thing the hand use to do. It calms her and she immediately closes her eyes and snuggles into our arms. Then we set her back in the crib and she’s asleep within minutes of us leaving the room. We haven’t had an no cry nap/bedtime all week.
    Are we assisting her too much?
    We have been considering CIO for the middle of the night feeding(currently we feed her at 6:30 before bed, between 11-2 and sometimes a second night feeding between 3-4), but since it doesn’t seem like it’s headed in the right direction we are afraid of weeks of struggling with her again.
    Should we try to master the naps and bedtimes before moving on to middle of the night?
    I’m emotionally exhausted, will it “get easier” soon?
    Friends of mine have suggested that she may be too young for CIO. But these friends also wake up every 2-3 hours to feed and are happy to wear their babies in order to get them to nap. (Not trying to be judgmental, just not something I’m willing to do.)

  37. Hello there!

    After devouring basically your entire website and completely stressing myself out even more than I already am, I am writing in hopes that my email will get read and possibly responded to. I’m optimistic. I also have an egg in a sock hanging in my daughter’s nursery.

    So here’s the drama-

    My daughter is 7.5 months old. She was what everyone called “a great sleeper”- slept 8-10 hours at night with zero work on my part. I had to adjust her bedtime a bit during the 4 month sleep regression (putting her down drowsy but awake and moving bedtime up to 7:30) but she was doing 7:30-5:30 peachy keen until we hit 6.5 months. All of a sudden my great sleeper started waking up 3,4, suddenly like 9 times a night. And not just waking up, grumbling a bit, and falling back asleep, which she’s done all along. I mean waking up and sobbing until me or my husband went in and rocked her back to sleep.

    So, this has been going on for about a month. My initial thought was that it was teething- after all she decided to cut 4 teeth at once. But literally no teething remedies, Tylenol, camilia drops, frozen teethers, etc worked. I got desperate. After the first few pick up/put downs my husband gave up and brought her to me, and I, in an attempt to get ANY sleep, carried her into the guest bedroom and co-slept until morning, waking up every 1-2 hours to reassure her and cram a boob in her mouth to comfort nurse for 15 seconds before passing back out.

    So it’s been a month now. She’s getting worse. Last night she was flailing about in my husbands arms to get to me. When co-sleeping she crawled up so her face was next to mine on the pillow because she had to be THAT CLOSE to feel ok. I’ve got to end the cycle. I don’t want to start sleep training until both of us are here (my husband is traveling for work for the next 2 weeks) but I know it has to start because I am a freaking ZOMBIE.

    Important points-

    1. Her naps are great. Maybe 10-15 minutes after she eats she starts rubbing her eyes so I (or my mother in law, who watches her while I’m at work) we pop her in the crib or pack and play, dim the lights, put the noise machine on and leave the room. She usually plays around for 5-10 minutes then crashes. Average is 3 naps a day. First one around 8:30am for 30-45 minutes, second around 11am-12pm for 1.5-2 hours, third around 3-4pm for about 30-45 minutes. Occasionally she catnaps in the car when I’m driving her home (like a 10 minute drive around 5pm).

    2. Her initial falling asleep at night is great. Around 7pm I dim the nursery lights, put on some chill music, change her diaper, put some lotion on, nurse her, put her jammies on, play a little cuddle, turn off the lamp/put the nightlight on, and then put her in the crib. I tell her I love her and goodnight, she watches me walk out the door, and then I watch her on the monitor wiggle around and fall asleep.

    3. I’m terribly afraid I made it worse by cosleeping & “boobing her into submission” as my husband refers to it. I probably did. I was desperate- So I accepted crap sleep over no sleep. I failed the sleep test

    But I want the real sleep we used to have, and I’m sure she does too!!

    When hubs is back in town in 2 weeks we want to start this. If we can have a happy sleeping kid by Christmas, it would be the biggest holiday miracle I can imagine.

    I’m prepared to do what it takes. In other words, I’m stocked up on vodka.

  38. Hi

    I desperately need help 🙁 On day 1 of night time extinction CIO with my 7 month old. We’re now at hour two for crying and I feel like I’m going to give in and go to him. He’s a very strong willed little boy, and has resisted all other sleep training methods we’ve tried. He sleeps in our bed with us and I’m just so desperate for a proper nights sleep. Is two hours too long? In one hour I need to go and breastfeed him as he still eats a lot at night and I don’t want to starve him…

    Is two hours too long to cry? Not sure what to do now. Should I stop? How long is too long? Feeling like a rubbish mum.

  39. Hi,

    My son was sleep trained and slept great for naps and nighttime. He goes down to sleep wide awake for the first 5 months of life. All of a sudden he is now crying every time I put him down to sleep whether it be naps or bedtime. I don’t know what to do. He is almost 6 months now and is starting to learn about object permenance. Is this the reason? Or is it because I’m not getting his wake time right? He is awake for 2hrs then down for naps. Bedtime is 7pm-7am, wakes up once to nurse and back to sleep at 2-4am. Tia!

    • I am currently go through the same thing! Object permanence can certainly be a factor, as now he realizes mommy can walk away. If you have any concerns about illness, you may want to have his ears checked. Babies with ear infections will cry when laying flat due to increased pressure. Never hurst to be sure! Hang in there, this too shall pass… at least that’s what I tell myself!

  40. Please help! We started CIO at 5 months. Baby is now over 7 months old and she still screams violently almost every night. At first, CIO was worthwhile because it worked. It got us out of the 4-month-sleep regression. But now I feel like she is suffering when she still screams every night. Usually she falls asleep quickly, but it’s an early night-waking that’s the problem. Sometimes she still screams at bedtime though. Am I still supposed to ignore her? We usually do, but I have a very hard time letting her go more than 15 minutes after 2 months of this. One problem now is her blossoming, yet limited, mobility. She presses her head against the crib and cries and seemingly needs rescuing. As the weeks and months go on, I have a harder time justifying CIO….the times I have “rescued” her–is that really causing her to scream on a nightly basis? I am not convinced. Please help! It’s heartwrenching. I want to do what’s best for her.

  41. Hi,

    My 6.5 month old son has been sleeping through the night for almost 2 months. We did a variation of CIO and it worked well. Of course naps are much harder. My question is whether or not to CIO for the 3rd nap of the day. My son goes down fairly easily for the first two naps, no crying up to 5 minutes of fussing. About 2.5 hours after his second nap (he usually can only handle 2-2.5 hours of awake time) he is extremely cranky and clearly tired. Should I try CIO for the third nap in hopes that he will eventually fall asleep?? Or do I skip a third nap as he continually fights it? I usually let him cry for 30 minutes and if he doesn’t fall asleep by that point, I grab him. I don’t let him cry the full hour, as I am only trying to get a catnap in so that he can last until his bedtime. Thanks!

    • Hi! Can you force a 3rd catnap in the swing, stroller walk, etc? I did that to force a short catnap in the evening until my baby was ready to stay awake 4 hours until bedtime. Hope that helps!

  42. Hello,

    I have a 5 month old daughter. We rock her to sleep for naps and she sucks my breast ( no milk ) to sleep at night. This used to work up until 1 month ago. For the last month she wakes up pretty much at night and we decided to train her.

    We start on January 1st with the Ferber. We first decided to train for the night sleep since we rock her to sleep in the day time and she sleeps in seconds easily.

    It did not get easier but harder. Last night she cried for 2 hours. We are doing the ferber checking her every 10-12-15 minutes but i am about to give up.I heard you should not let a baby cry for more than 1 hour but my husband did not accept it.and he says in oder to we should cıo for naps too.

    we started that today with our babysitter since i’m working. first nap rocking her to sleep, second nap cried for 20 minutes 1 hour of nap, third nap cried for 5 minutes 20 minutes of nap

    my questions are:
    1 – is it ok to cio for nights only? rock her to sleep in daytime since it’s easy and she can sleep more when you rock her at 45. minute hving a total o 1,5 hour of nap. or is is more effective when you do cio for both night and day?

    2- is it ok to let her cry for 2 hours at night and how much for the day naps?

    thank you

  43. Hi, I know there are a ton of these posts, but I just don’t know what to do anymore. My 6 month old son will only sleep being held or rocked. We have been doing CIO for 2 weeks now with absolutely no success. It was getting louder and worse. He throws up or chokes because he gets so upset and then I have to change his clothes and start all over again. He isn’t a fan of being set down even during the day. He cries for so long and if I do ever pick him up, he continues to cry and whine for a long time. We gave up and put him in the swing this week, but have been taking shifts watching him because I keep reading to not let them sleep in it alone. I’m exhausted. I’ve gotten 3 hours a night for the past few weeks. We were doing great when he was swaddled, but he rolls now so we had to pack it up. He screams the second he touches the crib and even swing. Nothing works. Isn’t there a way to make this less stressful for him? Please help.

  44. Hello,

    I have been trying to sleep train my 7 MO for over two weeks now and she still cries for about 30min each night. The shortest she cries is 15 minutes. There were a couple times I picked her up in the first 1.5 weeks, could this be why she is still crying? My husband insists I stay away and let him sit with her, he sits on the other side of the room and occasionally shushes her. Tonight she cried for 40 minutes, and we tried extinction, my husband left the room. He returned once, but she cried worse so he didnt return after that. My questions are:

    How many nights should we continue this? My husband says indefinitely but I can’t do that. I feel like our night time routine is finally in good shape, except I just read that I should not be feeding her last thing. I am concerned she will wake for a night feeding since she is used to sleeping on a full stomach.

    Is it counter productive to feed her if she wakes at 2am? The times I have not fed her she cries for over an hour. One time I did feed and then dad put her in crib it was only 20min.

    Is it really bad that I bring her into the bed if she wakes at 5am?

    thanks for any help. I am not sure how much longer I want to do this, but the alternative is holding her all night…

  45. I would just like to leave some positive encouragement for those whose sleep training quests seem to have no end. My son was about 8 months old (he is now 2.5) when we were left with no other choice but to let him cry it out. I don’t remember the night by night details however I do remember it was a solid 3 WEEKS of screaming 45 minutes at a minimum to a peak of an hour and 20 minutes for a few nights. After the 3 weeks it dropped down to about 10-20 minutes of crying before bed for another 4-5 weeks. After those 2 months or so he became the perfect sleep child. Zero crying. Happily started his bedtime routine. he has been a fantastic sleeper since then. And a much happier child when he is awake. Those first 3 weeks were really tough though and my husband and I continuously questioned whether or not we were doing the right thing. Having a video camera sleep monitor in the room was great to keep us from going crazy. Staying consistent was key (and still is). Distract yourself . In hindsight it was the best thing we could have done for our son and our family. Stay strong! Especially if you have a particularly stubborn child like we do. I promise it will get better! And that everyone will be happier for it.

    • Thank you for writing this. We are into the 4th week, down to 20-30min of crying, but I still question if this is the right thing every night. Most people say it takes only a couple days. It is good to hear that it can take longer and still work.

  46. I’m on night three of CIO with my 6 month old daughter.

    She was extremely colicky for her first four months, so we got stuck in the “whatever it takes” approach to sleep. I tried managing her awake time and having a loose schedule (both worked for my son), but she wasn’t showing any improvement. We finally couldn’t handle the sleep deprivation and it was obvious she was sleep deprived too.

    So, my husband took a two week vacation and we got to work. Over those two weeks she went from sleeping in her rock n play swaddled to sleeping unswaddled in her crib. We also stopped feeding to sleep before naps and bedtime. We did those things without crying because I didn’t feel comfortable letting her CIO until she was mostly used to her crib.

    Anyway, she was still waking anywhere from every hour to every couple hours… that’s when I decided to try controlled crying. We decided we’d go in after 5, then 10, then 15, ect. and increase the increments every night. We have been picking her up instead of just patting her though… crying always causes her to have to burp a lot and I’m afraid her tummy might hurt.

    On night 1, she cried for a little over an hour and then slept four hours. We fed her and put her back down awake, she cried for maybe 10-15min then slept the rest of the night.

    On night 2, she only cried for maybe 10 minutes and then fell asleep, but she woke up 20 minutes later and started again. She cried for 45 more minutes and then slept 7 hours. She didn’t cry at all after eating at 3am, but she didn’t fall asleep until 4am. She just laid in her crib.

    Today is night 3. She cried for around 20 minutes and then fell asleep. But, again, she slept for about 20 minutes and then woke up. She cried for almost an hour and a half before falling asleep again.

    Also, for naps we are still rocking to sleep and holding while she sleeps. This is what we did with my son when we did CIO. I’ve always read that you should do everything you can to maximize daytime sleep because being overtired will just make the crying worse. She also still uses a pacifier for naps, but can’t quite figure out how to keep it in her mouth by herself. She does have two pacifier animals and a lovey in her bed with her at night.

    Her naps have gotten shorter since starting CIO though. The day before we started, she slept for about 3hrs during the day. The last two she has slept for barely 2hrs. She also wasn’t fussing at all before naps before CIO, but now she cries for a couple minutes even when I’m bouncing and giving her the pacifier.

    She only averages maybe 12 hours of sleep a day. There have been some really bad days that she’s slept less than 10 in a 24 hour period. The most she’s ever slept is 13-14 hours a day.

    I’m just wondering if there is anything I should be doing differently. The google gods seemed to always have answers for questions I had about my son, but she is so much trickier.

  47. Hi Alexis!

    Thank you for SLIP! It’s helped save my sanity!
    But there is a bit…recently my 8 month old has started waking up about 3 hours after she goes to bed (7pm bedtime) and she will cry for an hour, sometimes even longer before going to sleep again. She goes down with no problems. And when she feeds after 12, same, no problems going back to sleep without more than a whine. What gives? I feel so sorry for her, but I’m not going to give in and ruin all the progress we have made. Is there such thing a a mid night extinction burst?
    Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • Good morning! Is your baby falling asleep at bedtime independently? no sleep props?
      If she is falling asleep independently, is she taking 2 or 3 naps? If she’s still taking 3, it may be time to drop the 3rd nap. The 3rd nap could be interfering with her ability to stay asleep. Good luck!

      • Hi Sam! Thanks for the reply.

        Falls asleep independently.
        No sleep props.
        Two naps a day.
        Naps do equal about 4 hours a day. Should I not be letting beer sleep as long during nap time to crest more sleep pressure? There’s about 4 hours between her last wakeingnuo from a nap and bedtime.

  48. Hello!
    I am sleep training our 6 month old. It’s night 6 and we’ve had mixed success. Bedtime is around 745. He used to wake every 1.5 to 3 hrs, and the past few nights, he has had 6 to 8 hours stretches…that part is amazing. The issue is, the crying at bedtime is still LONG. The first 3 nights were promising- 1 hr, then 30 min, then 15. But nights 5 and 6 ramped back up to an hour! Despite the long sleep stretches, I can hardly stand to keep going!! Is this simply. It working, or what could be the reason behind this? I need a reason to continue!

  49. My baby used to sleep 11 hours. That was at 4 months. He’s now 6 months and we’ve started sleep training to cut out his 2-4 night feeds. He goes down no problem. By day 4 he was sleeping 6pm to 4am then crying for ~1 ht until I go in at 5am before leaving for work (dad takes kids to daycare). Day 5 introduced a regression with a 2am waking. Thinking it’s extinction burst but also wondering if I’m just a weak, cruel mother who should just feed this poor baby because clearly he knows how to sleep and would if he could but cannot for some reason. We do not have the horror nights that many described above so am I just being selfish trying to get him to sleep the way he used to?

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