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How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime Edition

How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime Edition

Well little baby, here we are. Mommy and Daddy have read every book, tried every technique, bought every sleep aid they could find. The months have slogged by and nobody is sleeping. Daddy is staring stoically out the window. Mommy is curled up on the couch wearing coffee-stained yoga pants and feeling like a giant failure. Everybody feels cranky and sad. And defeated. And the only way out of this pitt of sleep deprivation is to let you cry. They adore you beyond words, but baby, this is happening. It’s going to suck for a few days. But it really is for the best.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that cry it out is the answer(

1) To break out of the desperate pattern of bedtime battles and frequent night wakings and get everybody sleeping a civilized amount during the night.
2) To achieve goal #1 with the minimal amount of crying.

The best way to meet your CIO goals is to embrace the 14 point CIO plan I’ve put together here.

How to do Cry it Out?

1) Buy a night vision monitor.

They’re expensive and not particularly reliable (you may have to buy a new one for each new baby). But I think it’s a worthy investment for piece of mind and would recommend purchasing one prior to CIO. It will give you a safe window onto your baby all night long.

2) Make naps happen

You want your baby well rested going into bedtime because tired babies sleep poorly. So you’re investing in day sleep to help minimize the amount of bedtime crying. Does your baby take great naps in the car? In your lap? While co-sleeping? Great! For the next few days do what you need to to get those naps to happen. By any means necessary.

3) Avoid cat naps.

Your goal is longer naps. So don’t drive to the grocery store at naptime because that 5-minute car nap is working against step #2 (above). For the next few days you are going to be the Nap Master, to the exclusion of all else.

4) Use a solid bedtime routine.

What is a SOLID bedtime routine?

  • Takes 20-30 minutes to complete.
  • Involves decreasing levels of activity and light. (No TV time, no dance parties, activities should be moving towards the bedroom).
  • Everybody should enjoy the activities.
  • Final activities take place in the location your child will be sleeping.
  • Ends BEFORE baby is asleep!


What are you trying to wean your baby off of? Rocking to sleep, co-sleeping, nursing to sleep, pacifier, etc? Whatever it is DO NOT include this as part of your bedtime routine! If it must be part of the routine (ex. food) then make sure there is at least a 20 minute gap between baby’s last meal and bedtime.

Sample Bedtime Routine – Bottle/Boob, Bath (no soap), Massage, Jammies, Book, Song, Bed.

5) Ensure that baby’s sleep location is ABSOLUTELY safe.

Dangling cords within reach of the crib? Unprotected outlets? The crib should be clear of any possible entrapment hazards (no stuffed animals, blankets or pillows!). The only thing in there, other than your baby, is potentially a small lovey. If your child is old enough enough to be out of a crib, put on your anal retentive hat and look at your child’s room. Does the furniture present tipover hazards? Are there toys which could break into sharp pieces? Choking hazards?

Special Case: What about Co-Sleeping?

Yes you can use CIO for a co-sleeping baby if you intend to continue co-sleeping. Most often this is used in the case where Mom wants to stop being used as a human pacifier but is happy to continue co-sleeping. This can be done but it’s challenging. You can’t leave an angry crying baby alone in an adult bed. Even if that “bed” is nothing more than a mattress on the floor. It is simply not safe and shouldn’t be done under ANY circumstance. So, where does that leave you?

If this is your goal, it leaves you IN the room with your angry crying baby. I realize this may sound like I’m joking but I assure you, I’m not. You put your child on your bed, preferably between you and the wall. Then you lie down on the bed facing away from your child. Then you bite your knuckles hard enough to keep from flipping over and nursing your crying child to sleep.

6) Use your words.

Your baby’s receptive language develops far earlier than their expressive language. This means they understand what you are saying long before they can speak themselves. “It’s time for you to sleep buddy. Mommy and Daddy love you. We’re right next door. We’ll see you with big hugs and kisses in the morning. But for now we’re going to leave so your body can get the sleep it needs to be strong and healthy. I love you little baby!” Use the same words every night as part of your bedtime routine.

7) Give baby as much soothing as possible!

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

8) Leave the room.

There are some books that suggest that it is more gentle to stay in the room so that your loving presence can help provide helpful soothing. In my experience staying in the room has the opposite effect, making your baby more upset, “WHY AREN’T YOU PICKING ME UP! HELLO?!? I can SEE you sitting RIGHT THERE!” It also has the unintended consequence of potentially creating a new object permanence problem for you in that they will expect to see you sitting there when they wake up throughout the night. For these two reasons I suggest that once you put your baby down, you get out.

9) Mom or primary care giver should leave the house.

Decide which parent (if there are 2) is the most likely to turn into emotional jelly at the sound of their baby crying (generally this is Mom). The emotional jelly parent should get out of the house and leave things to their more stalwart counterpart. Lots of parents feel that they need to sit in the hallway, curled into a fetal position, crying tear-for-tear with their baby as some sort of penance for their failure to teach baby to fall asleep. Crying in the hallway serves no purpose other than to make you miserable. Worse, it creates the opportunity for the dark strains of guilt to muddle your thinking. “I feel horrible! Maybe I’ll just nurse him to sleep one last time?” Backsliding won’t solve any problems and even worse, guarantees you even more crying in the future. A good way to avoid backsliding is to simply leave it to your partner and get out.

10) Commit to Check and Console or Full Extinction.

Personally I recommend the Full Extinction or Weissbluth method. However as I was unable to find any research that backed up my theory that this method results in less crying, you’re welcome to consider both and determine which works best for you.

If you start the CIO process planning to Ferberize or check and console and THEN determine that your visits are making things worse, you CAN switch methods to the Weissbluth full extension method. However DO NOT switch from the Weissbluth full extension method TO Ferber or check and console as this generally leads to LOTS OF CRYING!

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.

12) Put baby back down awake. Or don’t.

In my experience the key with sleep training is to put baby down awake at BEDTIME. If you feed your baby during the night AFTER that point, it is generally OK if they fall asleep in your arms and then go back into their bed. I have not found that it is critical to wake baby up enough to “put baby down awake” at 2:00 AM. However if they do not organically fall asleep during the feeding I would not encourage you to rock them to sleep in your arms intentionally and THEN put them down asleep.

13) When baby wakes up early?

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

14)

If you’ve started down this path then in almost all cases the worst thing you can do is to cave in halfway through. Night #1 will be stressful for everybody. But what happens if you go to your baby to rock/nurse them after 45 minutes of crying? You’ve failed to let them figure out how to fall asleep without rocking or nursing. But you have taught them that if they cry for 45 minutes, you will come and rock or nurse the to sleep. Which means that the next time you have a go at cry it out (and trust me, there is ALMOST ALWAYS a next time) it will be longer and rougher than it is right now.


The truth is that there are a thousand frequently asked questions about CIO but I’ve narrowed it down to a few hot button questions which I’ve answered below:

Cry it Out FAQ

1

How long will the crying last?

I suppose “it depends” is not a particularly useful answer. If you follow all my advice then you’ll generally find that kids will cry ~1 hour at bedtime on night #1, ~20 minutes on night #2, and 10 minutes on night #3. They may continue to grumble at bedtime going forward but it will generally be only for a few minutes. Some babies will only cry at bedtime. Some will wake up periodically and cry for 20-30 minutes throughout the night. As long as you aren’t trying to night wean via CIO, the middle-of-the-night crying generally stops after night #1.

2

When will I be able to put my smiling baby down for sleep at bedtime?

When do you smile when scrubbing toilets? Never? Well there’s your answer. Most kids will not enjoy bedtime until they are old enough to have their OWN kids at which point it will quickly become the favorite part of their day.

3

Am I a bad parent?

I don’t know, are you? I don’t believe that CIO makes you a bad parent. I do believe that you have tried everything you can to avoid letting your baby cry. And that nothing worked. And nobody is sleeping. I also believe that your whole family will be happier and healthier when you are all able to get the sleep you need at night. Cry it out is a bummer and nobody likes to do it. But 3 nights of unhappy baby are a worthy tradeoff.

4

Can I use CIO for naps too?

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

5

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

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

6

If I can’t use CIO to night wean, how DO I get out of night feedings?

Once you are done with crying at bedtime and things have become a bit more predictable, you can use these gentle night weaning techniques to gradually get out of night feedings. The bad news is that depending on the age of your child and the # of feedings this may take 1-3 weeks. The good news is that it’s surprisingly effective and tear-free.

7

What if my baby throws up?

Some kids can get themselves so worked up they throw up. It sucks when this happens. You’ll need to quietly go to them, clean them up and get them fresh jammies/bedding, ideally with as little light and fuss as is possible. Put them back in their bed, use your words, and leave.

Anybody have any experience they would like to share? Words of wisdom, kind advice, and lessons learned are very welcome!


1,164 Comments


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  1. Hi I’d love some help! We are on day 5 or 6 of full extinction CIO with our 9 month old daughter and we’re seeing no results 🙁 we got rid of her dummy and music thingy and have given her a lovey instead but shes still crying for at least 30 minutes each night and is now starting to wake at about 10pm too which is waking my 3yo up! I never had the guts to do CIO with my eldest and i’m starting to get upset now as she just isn’t getting it’ but i’m pregnant with #3 so desparate for some sleep and i don’t want to be co sleeping with a toddler and a newborn! Please help!

  2. Ok so I’m at a loss. What do you do when, during night 2 the extinction method, your 19 month old screams (and I mean the kind of noise you ordinarily associate with horror films) for up to 3 hours? And bangs his head on the cot? And then wakes up every 20 minutes (if he even went to sleep in the first place, it’s debatable) and starts the screaming all over again? I can do CIO, it’s been successful for him before at a much earlier age, but how much screaming is TOO MUCH screaming?

    My nerves (and my husband’s) are raw. I’m worried I’ve overlooked some game changing element like a developmental delay or even autism and that CIO is making him worse. Help!

    • I need more history honestly. Did he previously sleep well and fall asleep easily? What happened to muck that up? What time is bedtime? When is he napping?

      • Wow! My 17month old does the exact same thing! SCREAMS!! I’ve been to GP and they say he’s normal and health visitors also say the same. He doesn’t appear to have any allergies and developmentally he’s on target if not advanced. He’s recently had 2 ear infections one after the other and been on antibiotics so maybe that’s what has messed our boys sleeping as he was ST at 8 months which worked a treat at first.

  3. Hello,

    I just discovered your site, and boy am I wishing I’d seen it before. My son is 8 months old, and as per a couple of your articles, he is waking frequently through the night and FIGHTING going to bed. No amount of rocking can convince him to sleep and finally, at our wits end, my husband and I have decided to try CIO (which admittedly, kills me a little inside).

    I have a couple questions:
    1) Mr man has a tendency to hyperventilate and start choking when he gets worked up, do I leave him that way?

    2) He’s rolling all over his crib, flipping onto his belly, pushing himself up on his toes with his head on the mattress (like he’s trying to do a headstand) and slowly inching out of view of the camera (there’s no where else to put it so we can see better), I’m worried about him hurting himself, he gets his arms through the slats of the crib too. Do I interfere or just leave him?

    3) We do room share, and I’m not sure if protocol is different there. You mentioned co sleeping and baby’s own room. We recently switched him from a playpen next to our bed, to his own crib next to our bed (we thought it would be too big which is why it started off as the playpen). If he wakes in the middle of the night are we going to have issues because we’re in there and he knows it?

    We got into the habit of topping him off in order to help him sleep longer at night, so now he has an 8 oz bottle when we go to bed around 10/10:30, so he’s not had middle of the night feedings since he was less than 4 months old, in that sense we’re lucky.

    SO… any additional comments, advice, tweaks? Need more info?

    • Also, sometimes my son wakes up crying around the time we go to bed and feed him. Will that ruin our progress?

    • I can totally relate to you. My 9 month old is just like that. I have to rock him to sleep whenever he wakes up. Sometimes when he wakes up it will take me 5minutes of rocking to put him back to sleep and sometimes up to 2hrs!!! He wakes up about 5 times a night! I want to try CIO but this kid screams bloody murder and starts banging his head on the crib from anger. His tears could flood the room. Also we share a room with him. His crib is right next to my bed I could literally stretch my arm and bump into his crib. How do I let him CIO if I’m in bed and he sees me. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t slept in 9 months.

  4. I’m sorry if this was already asked and I missed it, however.. I started the CIO process on my 1 year old son this week. He goes down after about 30 min of fussing/crying and then stays down until about 2 am. When he gets up at 2.. am I suppose to let him just fuss/cry it out until he goes back down again on his own with no soothing what-so-ever? Or should I go in, rub his back and attempt to calm him (assuming picking him up is a no-no) and then leave again.. I worry that he could be waking up because something is wrong (he’s cold/hot, pooped, etc.) Am I being counterproductive by going in and checking on him?

  5. My 8-month old goes to bed no problem. Sometimes he’s awake, sometimes practically asleep. He wakes up 2-4 times night and I usually nurse him back to sleep. I want to start working towards night-weaning by cutting feedings down first. We had made some great progress to feeding just once per night (by letting him cry) but then he got sick and we’re back to square one. My question is, will he get confused if I let him cry at some waking so and feed him at others? My thinking was that feeding him at a certain time (and not others) will create a habit, so he will stop waking up at the other times. But I also wonder if he’ll just get confused…Thoughts?

  6. We made great progress with check and console cry it out. We thought it would be a nightmare, as our classic Sears’ “High Needs” 7.5 month old was going to sleep every night with a pacifier, swaddled, rocked to sleep. He would sleep for 1.5-2 hours in his rock and play, then need to cosleep (we were taking turns sleep on a mattress pad on the floor of his bedroom) but would still be up every hour or so throughout the night, with one remaining feed which we gradually weaned down to 2 ounces prior to sleep training, which was anywhere from 3-4 am. Every time he woke up required picking him up and rocking him back to sleep. We knew it was time to end the madness!
    We cut everything cold turkey. One night, after his routine of bath, bottle, two books, and prayers, we zipped him into a sleep sack, said “night night” and plopped him in his crib, for the first time in his entire life! He cried hard until the 5 minute check, I went in, patted him quickly and told him to “go night night” and he cried hard for a few more minutes before starting to settle down, crying on and off for a few more minutes before falling asleep. The entire episode lasted only 14 minutes! He woke one more time the rest of the night around 3 am, and only needed one more check.
    Every night since then, bedtime has been extremely easy. He never cries for more than a few minutes. He usually sleeps through until about 3 am, will make enough noise for us to hear him on the monitor, but puts himself back to sleep within 15 minutes. The problem is that after about 5 nights of falling back asleep and sleeping until 5:30-6:00, after about night 6 this morning waking moved up to 4-4:30 am!!! We have been treating it as a night waking and letting him cry-it-out, initially with checks but now with no checks. We have been doing this for the past 3 mornings…. the first 2 mornings we let him go an hour before rocking him back to sleep and bringing him to bed with us, this morning we let him cry with no checks from 4:20 until 5:45! He will show a few attempts at self-soothing during these scream fests, but really shows no signs that he is going to fall back to sleep.
    What, if anything, can we do to fix this issue??? I don’t believe he is hungry, because we are holding out on the morning feeding until 6:30ish regardless of what time he gets up to keep him on his schedule, and he is only fussing before that because he is tired, not hungry. In my opinion, he is just a persistent, strong-willed “High Needs” baby who is “set” to wake up at this time of the morning, and he has gotten enough sleep to have enough fight in him to cry for hours at that point. He is definitely still tired, because he falls right asleep as soon as he gets what he wants (comfort). I think there is nothing we can do right now besides accept it, we have tried for 3 days with no improvement letting him cry after what I would call an honest effort of 1-1.5 hours plus. If you have any ideas let me know!

    • Also as far as naps, we have not nap trained yet, we tried the first two days of sleep training morning naps and they were both miserable failures. But he gets 3 to 3.5 hours total of naptime during the day, generally split between two 45 minute naps in the morning (one of the naps is in the stroller while walking the dog and the other in the car before or after running errands). The afternoon nap is 1:30ish until 3:30ish, usually lasting 1.5-2 hrs. Bedtime is 7:30 at the latest.
      Also, is taking him into our bed at that 4 am waking going to screw up all of our efforts if you don’t think letting him cry it out at that time is going to work??? Do you think this is something he will learn to work through???

    • Hi! Don’t worry, I think most babies are unlikely to easily fall back asleep at 4/5am without some kind of soothing. check out what alexis says about early wake ups:
      13) When baby wakes up early?

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

      also, the podcast: https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/when-baby-wakes-up-too-early/

      I know you mentioned you don’t want to offer a feed at that early wake up, but perhaps the benefits of offering the feed (getting a few more hours of sleep) would outweigh the schedule tweak? My baby was the same, would wake up early anywhere between 4-6 and having the bottle was a quick and easy way to get a few more hours of sleep. Good luck!

      • Thanks Sam, my fear is that reintroducing the feed at that time will set us back as far as progress. I truly don’t think he is hungry, because he can go to 6:30 without getting really upset, the fussing and crying he does when we get him out of his crib is definitely because he is still tired and wants to go back to sleep. I am also afraid, however, that bringing him into bed with us is going to set another bad trend, and that’s what he will be looking for for a loooong time if we reintroduce it.

        • Have you got block our curtains? Which season are you in? I found my 9 month old started waking at this time, for a week and then realised the sun was rising earlier due to it now being summer! As soon as we installed black our curtains within 3 days he was back to sleeping till 6:30am/7am

  7. What age can you start using CIO?

  8. Hi,

    I have a 3.5 month old and am trying to be proactive. She sleeps great through the night, typically a 8 hour stretch followed by a 2 hour. I am nursing to sleep. My issue is naps. She will not nap longer than 20 minutes and is so tired all day. Would you recommend CIO for naps? If I CIO for naps do I have to stop nursing her to sleep at night too? I don’t want to mess with her night sleeping. Is it too early for all of this?

    • I wouldn’t recommend sleep training for naps but I would keep an eye on:
      – Are we giving her enough soothing at naps? Chances are she needs MORE.
      – Are we trying for naps at the right TIME (too early/late can muck things up).

      Eventually yes she needs to stop nursing for night and you want to help her learn to fall asleep at night without sleep training, NOW would be a great time to start chipping away at making gradual changes (nursing till drowsy, put down, rub belly till asleep, that sort of thing).

  9. Thank you thank you thank you. we are on day 6 and seeing improvement like crazy!!!! love this website and podcast!!!

  10. Hello,
    I really appreciate your approach to CIO and labeling it as a last ditch attempt for most parents. This went a long way to easing my guilt. We’re on night 2 I’m halfway through a giant bag of M&Ms rote reading this post. Thank you x

    • Curious how your past few nights have been? Getting ready to start…

      • Hi,
        So I’m not sure if it’s gone great or if we failed… We decide to use the Ferber-ish: night routine of bath, boob, book, song, and bed; then check in at 5mins, then 10. We go in and pat on her bum (she sleeps on her tummy) for 1-3 minutes. So the first two nights we only had to check in three times before she fell asleep but both time she fell asleep while we were patting her bum. She slept through the night both nights. She cried about 15 minutes total but by day two she completely lost her voice! It was brutal listening to her broken cry on the third night so we didn’t let her cry but only had to pat her bum for her to sleep (a huge improvement from hour long breastfeeding, rocking etc). Now we’re bk to CIO-ish where we let her cry but she always falls asleep when we go back in after crying and pat her bk. it’s probably still a sleep association but she’s been sleeping great, waking once a night for a feed and bk asleep.
        I’m glad we haven’t had two hour crying sessions and I hope it goes well for you too.

  11. Hi,
    Thank you for such useful and realistic information! My baby is 5 months old and has been awake every hour from 7pm to 7am this has gone on for 2 weeks now. Her day time naps all last between 30-60mins.
    I feed her at 12am and 5am and just try to rock and shush her to sleep with a dummy on the other night wakings.
    Is it too early to try CIO ? I really don’t know what else I could try as we don’t have a swing and can’t afford to buy one now. She never self soothes and always falls asleep with a feed. Her routine and sleep patterns used to be excellent in both the day and night.
    She is combination fed formula and expressed breast milk. On some occasions I have nursed her myself in the night just to feed her quickly to sleep.
    Thank you for any help

    • 5 months old is not too young, but is probably the youngest age at which you should start. Sounds like the “4 month sleep regression” which can happen anytime a from 3-5 months and last a few days or up to a month. Looks like this comment is a few months old so I hope things have gotten better for you!

  12. My 4 month old has been waking every 1.5 hours at night for comfort. She will only go back to sleep if we give her a pacifier or I nurse her ( which most times means she suckes herself to sleep and eats very little). We are starting sleep training not to get her to sleep through the night, but mainly to get her to sleep between feedings and also stop relying on a pacifier to fall back asleep. My question is naps… I tried dropping the pacifier for her naps as well and it was a train wreck. She cried for 45 minutes until I put it back in. Can I let her keep a pacifier for naps but take it away at night?

  13. Hi there,

    Our 7 month old has never been a good sleeper but is at the worse now. He has occasionally slept through but now needs constant resettling that can take anywhere from 2-4 hours (no exaggeration) in the middle of the night. We resorted to co sleeping and husband in the lounge but Im still getting no sleep as he wakes every few hours and wakes me and then goes back to sleep. We have dabbled in CIO a couple of times unfortunately. Once a month ago and he cried for 1 hour with us going in every 5 then 19 then 15 then 20 mins so we gave up. Then last week tried once again but he went on for 1.5 hours.
    We are desperate to change the situation but fear we have ruined our chance to do CIO with co sleeping and dabbling in CIO?
    How long should you keep doing CIO before you stop at night? 2 hours? Less?
    What can we do?
    Thank you

  14. Hi there,

    Looking for some insight.

    We used the full extinction method at 9 months and after 3 awful nights my son was beautifully putting himself to sleep for 8 hours at a time. We ended up moving houses when he was 11 months and he has been sleeping awful ever since. My husband works away and I started bringing my son to bed with me.. need less to say this was a horrible idea!!! He is now 14 months and pretty well sleeps attached to my breast all night. He also nurses to get to sleep. Horrible.. I know. I went back to trying the extinction method about a month ago and just couldn’t handle it – he cried for an hour which resulted in bringing him to my bed. Tonight I tried the ferber method, letting him cry for 5 minutes – comforting him for 1-2 and then adding 5 more minutes each time I left the room. We won’t be doing this again as I believe he got more worked up every time he saw me. I am planning on trying the extincting method again but wondering how long I should leave him crying before I go to him? I feel like over an hour is a really, really long time to leave him cry. I am feeling so down about this and I know if we can get back on track everyone will be so much happier and better rested. I also want to night wean but was planning on giving him up to 2 feedings as needed to start until he has settled into his crib and gradually weaning from there.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice!! ❤️❤️❤️

    • He is used to co-sleeping and using you as a human pacifier. THIS IS THE HARDEST THING TO GET OUT OF. Also now he’s a toddler, so throw “has very distinct opinions on the matter” in the mix.

      Honestly there is no easy path out of being a human pacifier. It has been done but it’s hard. CIO is the most direct route but it’s not going to work if you go to him. No checks. No rescuing. YES HE WILL CRY LONGER THAN AN HOUR. I can almost guarantee he will. 1-2 hours is not unusual for a toddler who is used to using mom as a human pacifier. Sorry – not going to sugar coat it. This is the reality of where things are at.

      So that’s my advice – NO VISITS. No checks. No rescuing. 3 nights. Hard stuff no doubt. But nothing you and he can’t do.

  15. My sweet baby girl is nearly 8 months (Jan 1) and sleeps 4 hours at a time MAX! I currently nurse/rock her to sleep and put her down sleeping in her crib around 730-830pm. She typicallys wakes around 1130-1230 and my spouse gives her a bottle (expressed milk) which I think is way too soon! She goes back down in her crib (most nights). The next time she wakes it’s in bed with me and I’m used as a human pacifier. Many times she’s in bed with me after the first time waking. I’m aware that we have made a habit of feeding her too soon after doing down for the night. I’m confident she will cry it out for hours! So if she cries let’s say 4+ hours and I’ve determined is she actually hungry should i nurse or have him give her a bottle? Based on experience, when is it no longer too soon to feed the baby?

    • Hi! If you are going to do CIO, you have to separate nursing/rocking to sleep (or any other negative sleep prop) from bedtime. So depending on your current bedtime routine, you could do nurse, bath, book, and then put in bed awake. If she is used to feeding a lot overnight, you should continue doing the night feeds until she has learned to fall asleep on her own at bedtime. Once she’s falling asleep on her own, you can start nightweaning. She may surprise you and cry less at bedtime than you are expecting. However, she will probably cry a lot if she wakes up overnight hungry and you don’t feed her. Good luck!

  16. Your site has been such a help! We are doing extinction with my 7 month old breastfed baby. Weissbluth says that you should continue night feedings (as do you) but he also says not to go to baby immediately and let them cry for a few minutes to see if they’ll self soothe back to sleep. What do you think about this? If I let her cry for 5 minutes and then nurse her in the middle of the night and then pick up a screaming baby and nurse her, am I reinforcing the screaming at bedtime? I’m struggling and need your wisdom. Thank you so much for the amazing resource your site is!

    • Hi! Based on Alexis’ recommendations, I believe that how the baby falls asleep AT bedtime is the most important. so if she’s falling asleep independently at bedtime, it is ok to feed her when hungry at night. Waiting a few minutes before you go in to feed her is a good idea, bc she may fall back asleep on her own! Is she used to nursing a lot overnight tho? If so, you may have to gently wean instead of just ignoring the wake ups completely bc she is used to eating a lot overnight and will cry a lot then. Good luck!

  17. Hey Alexis –
    A huge THANK You for this article, which finally empowered me to choose CIO after months of my own inconsistency, resulting in many night wakings and fitful co-sleeping. (It suited her just fine, but her writhing, rooting, hot little body disturbed me just as much as getting up to rock!)

    Night 1: (Christmas night!) 32 min crying, 5am wake
    Night 2: 9 min crying, 6:30am wake
    No extra night wakings, at all!! Wow

    I am so grateful to have decided and plowed ahead!!

    The only caveat: She is 4 months old this next Sunday. Very young for CIO. I am not second-guessing, since I trusted my gut, decided, and it seems to be working well, but please clarify what I might want to anticipate in the next months. I think she had already begun the 4-mo regression. When 6-mo Object Permanence sets in, will we likely have to re-train?

    In your sage experience, are there common pitfalls later on for those who successfully train this early?

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts! I’m grateful for any response you can give.

  18. Hi,
    We started sleep training 3 weeks ago ( controlled crying with check ins)with awesome results. Our bub now sleeps 7.15ish-5/6ish ( early but we can deal). Our problem is she still fusses, grizzles and cries on and off for up to 30mins before she falls asleep. The crying varies in intensity but we don’t see hard crying for longer than 1-2 mins before she calms for a bit then starts up again. Is this just her winding down?
    She was going down for a while and falling asleep with only a little fussing but in the last week it has increased again. We haven’t changed anything in her routine etc. She is 6 months so could it possibly be separation anxiety.
    We don’t want to stop sleep training as the sleeping through is amazing- it is just getting hard to listen to her cry and grizzle for 20 or so mins each night.
    Any advice would be most appreciated!

    Thanks!

  19. I just found this article as I’m listening to my 18 month old daughter screaming it out. I am an attachment parent and had a perfect experience wth my son who is now 3 years old. I’ve co-slept with both children and nursed on demand. I weened my son in one night. Simply didn’t let him nurse as he cried for 15 minutes and fell asleep in our bed.

  20. Thank you so much for the great instructions. My wife and I had been trying everything with our 8-month-old son, but due to a combination of a kid who’s been a bad sleeper from day one and the bad habits we developed to survive, he’d just gotten worse. For the last few weeks, he went from waking once or twice a night, to waking every couple hours, to waking pretty much every hour. None of us were getting enough sleep. So I did some Googling, stumbled on your website, read your 3-part “what you need to know” series, read this article, and we decided it was time to put on our big boy/girl pants and commit to a full extinction CIO plan. I think deep down we knew we should have done it months ago, but I guess we were just scared that it was cruel or that it would blow up in our face and he’d be up all night or something.

    So we decided to do it last night. We followed the instructions as best we could: my wife let him nap in her lap during the day to ensure he was well rested, she nursed him 20 minutes before bedtime, we did some reading and low stimuli play in the nursery, kissed him and said goodnight, put him in the crib, my wife went shopping, and I sat down with the video monitor. He stood at the rails and screamed for 20 minutes, crawled around crying and fussing for another 20, and then spent about 5 minutes with his head in the corner trying not to fall asleep. He ended up passing out on his hands and knees with his head against the rails. Once I was sure he was asleep I re-positioned him and he slept for 6 straight hours! He woke up for a 2:00 feeding, fell asleep on his own once again after a few minutes of fussing, my wife smelled poop and changed him, he fell asleep on his own AGAIN (I emphasize this because we’ve never gotten him to do this before) and then he slept for another 4 hours with just a brief 5-minute fuss (followed by putting himself to sleep AGAIN!).

    So all in all, it was such a huge success in just the first night. I’m sure there will be setbacks here and there (we only have 2 teeth so far), but this is a huge step in the right direction. And if any parents are considering this option but are afraid their child will hate them, let me assure you that he woke up this morning all smiles and showing just as much affection for us as ever. Thanks Alexis!

    • Update for night 2: More progress! After a crappy 45 minute CIO on night 1, he was much calmer going down night 2. He crawled around fussing for a few minutes, and fell asleep with his head resting against his security stuffed monkey after about 5 minutes. Just like the night before, he slept for 6 hours, woke up to nurse, and slept another 4 hours, waking up briefly a couple times and falling right back asleep. He must be a fast learner. This is seriously a God-send. The lack of sleep was starting to affect our health and general disposition. We’ve felt better rested the past couple days than we have in months, and the little guy is happier and doesn’t fuss as much around nap times and bed time, so he’s definitely feeling better rested too. Thanks again!

      • “We’ve felt better rested the past couple days than we have in months, and the little guy is happier and doesn’t fuss as much around nap times and bed time, so he’s definitely feeling better rested too. ”

        ^^^^

        GOLD STAR for you all. Well done!

  21. Help! Everything we’ve read says don’t let your child cry for more than an hour. And testimonies from parents who say, “after 48 minutes they stopped!” What happens if they just keep crying? We’re doing CIO with our second (5mo old) and it’s not going well. She’ll keep crying to the point where her voice is raspy and after 4 days we’ve basically thrown in the towel because it feels like we’re being inhumane. After all our research and reading, we’ve never found a suggestion for what to do if they keep crying over and hour. We we’re doing interval soothings, 5 min, 10, 15 etc. But what happens after the hour?

    (Sorry for any grammar or spelling. Writing this at 4am after being up for the last two hours)

    We also have been using this method for both naps and bedtime and that was a mistake. Moving forward we are going to nix this method for naps (at this point) and try and get her to take 3 good naps throughout the day. So our other question is, should we continue with cry it out at night? Nights have always been the most difficult, we would need to rock her every 20 min and she would wake up after laying her down. We created some pretty bad sleep associations and are paying for them now!

    Thanks in advance! We are so grateful we came across this info!!

    • Hi! I would definitely suggest that you go thru extinction CIO. No more checks. The checks can encourage more crying from the baby instead of less. I believe Alexis recommends extinction over checks for this reason. Good luck!

  22. My almost 2 year old hates bedtime. We are currently trying the full extinction method after trying everything else we could find to try. We are on day 16 and she is still screaming for a minimum of 30 minutes, some nights well over 2 hours. Most nights she is waking 1-4 times and screaming herself back to sleep.

    HISTORY: She was a great little sleeper (day and night) until we moved her from a cot/crib to a bed at age 15 months after she climbed and fell out. She has never fallen out of the bed but we can’t get her to stay in bed since we moved house and she went from having her bed in the lounge (small apartment) to having her own bedroom.

    NOW: She climbs out every night (before I even leave the room) and sleeps on the floor (carpet) at her bedroom door (which is baby gated so she can’t get out as she sleepwalks occasionally). I could probably deal with that if it looked like CIO was helping. We have a bedtime routine but she knows that it is her bedtime routine and once that starts the crying starts and fighting starts. She is very aware of the time and will often say about half an hour before her routine starts “I’m not going to bed” without anyone mentioning it. She used to nap in the bed but will now only nap in the pram or car. I’m not overly worried about that as she naps 1 1/2 – 2 hours but bedtime is a problem.
    Is it supposed to take this long? It’s emotionally draining for all of us and I feel awful doing this to her but she is two weeks off her second birthday and still not sleeping well.

    How long should this method take with a toddler? Is there anything else I could be doing to help along the process?

  23. Hi,
    We tried full extinction CIO last night for the 1st time with our 10 month old daughter. She cried for 30 minutes straight, all while standing up in her crib, and then fell asleep standing up! She would cry/sleep/cry/sleep for another 35 minutes before my husband went in and laid her down but she stood right back up and started crying all over again. She’s still learning to sit down on her own so I think she’s getting stuck standing and can’t lay down. Within a few minutes, she fell down, screamed for a few seconds and then fell asleep and stayed asleep all night! Any advice on what to do with a standing baby who won’t lay down??
    Thank you!!!

  24. We completed cry it out while I was on a two week break from work. It went well; getting significantly longer stretches of sleep. Probably is now that I am back to work now and she’s waking up 3 hours after going down. Currently, she’s been crying for nearly two hours. I’ve fed her twice tonight (we broke cosleep when we introduced deep training). Of course, I think she’s up and screaming bc she wants to be near me. We all need sleep. But I’m feeling really bad right now. So, is this common? Tonight is worse than the first night we introduced it!

  25. Hi everyone,
    So glad I found this site, we are struggling BAD with getting our almost 11 month old sleep trained in his crib. He has coslept with us since he was born, with occasional nights of him in his bassinet next to our bed. We continued cosleeping because he had heart surgery in July, and we felt better with him right next to us afterwards to make sure he was okay. He is fully healed and in perfect health, and for the past month we have attempted the CIO method and still have not got any results! The second he lays eyes on his crib he screams and flails around, and screams and cries for hardcore for about ten minutes. There have been nights where he goes down in ten minutes, and nights where after an hour I give up and lay down with him. Can anyone tell me when this phase will be over and when he will love his crib? I feel like a horrible mom sitting and listening to him cry, and I keep telling myself it’s for the best for all of us, but I’m starting to feel defeated :/ anyone have any tips or advice??

  26. HELP PLEASE!

    We’ve started sleep training (with 10 minute checks) with our 6.5 month old who was previously a poor sleeper and used me as a human pacifier for the last month. It’s now night 6 and she’s still crying for 45-60 minutes each night. She’s fed, she’s changed, she’s had decent naps through the day. After she finally sleeps, she does sleep through for about 5 hours then wakes to feed. However, putting her back to bed again sometimes results in an hour of crying. Everyone says while sleep training that their babies are happier in the mornings. My babe seems like she’s angry with us. My husband and I feel awful for putting her through all this. How much longer before we change tactics? Is it ok that she’s still crying as much (and sometimes more) than night one?

    Thanks so much for your time and any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!

    -Angela

    • Checks can make things worse. If you are coming back in to check on her every 10 minutes, she is expecting that now and will keep crying knowing that you will be coming back in. I would definitely recommend that you consider stopping checks completely and go the extinction route. Do the same after her feed- feed, put her back down, and then don’t go back for a check.
      Also, how long is she awake between her last nap and bedtime? It may be possible that she needs a little bit more awake time between the two in order to be tired enough for bedtime. Good luck!

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