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Are You Ready for Cry It Out?

Is Sleep training right for you?

So you’re thinking about cry it out? Maybe you’ve spent the past 2 weeks furiously Googling sleep training (which is probably how you landed here). You’re exhausted and miserable. Your baby is exhausted and miserable. And you’re wondering if cry it out is the answer for you. Well I don’t know if it is or it isn’t. Contrary to what you read on that gas station bathroom, convincing people to embrace cry it out not my raison d’être.

But I do know a lot about it. So before you jump into the CIO side of the pool you should consider this CIO checklist…

Are You Ready for CIO?

01

Baby is 6 months old or older.

For younger babies you have many soothing sleep tools in your arsenal and you should use them with wild abandon. Also younger babies shouldn’t be expected to have mastered self soothing skills. You wouldn’t expect your 3 month old to master potty training, similiarly it’s not fair to ask them to fall asleep on their own either. With CIO, generally, older is better.

02

Baby is chronically sleep deprived.

If your baby is getting significantly less sleep than they should, then they’re probably chronically sleep deprived. And if so, I can guarantee that you are too.

03

You have an object permanence problem.

Cry it out is a technique to solve the basic issue that “baby can’t fall asleep on their own.” We each struggle with various flavors of this (nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, only will sleep with pacifier, etc.) but once your baby becomes old enough, putting your baby 100% to sleep will guarantee that they sleep poorly, wake often, and take short crappy naps all day long.

04

You’ve tried everything possible and it hasn’t worked.

CIO is the option of last resort. You’ve tried everything (made adjustments with scheduling, modified their sleep environment, have a consistent wind-down sleep routine, etc.) and still nobody is sleeping.

05

Baby doesn’t have any medical complications.

Colds, fevers, and teething will all exacerbate cry it out. Underlying issues like reflux may also turn CIO into a long prolonged mess (crying often irritates already inflamed reflux tummies). Which is not to say that reflux babies can’t and shouldn’t try CIO, but to be aware that (like everything else for refluxing babies), it may be a rougher affair than for a non-reflux baby.

06

Baby is in a safe place.

Ideally this is the crib, although co-sleeping parents can also use cry it out as a sleep training technique (more on this later). Couches, adult beds, or any other surface where they could fall and get injured are not OK.

07

You are committed.

Do or not do, there is no try. – Yoda (I’ll be writing more about this in a later post but Yoda sums it up nicely.)

08

The vote is unanimous.

This is not the time to have a marital squat or guilt-trip each other. If you and your partner are in vehement disagreement about sleep training, then you aren’t ready to do it.

09

You’ll be able to maintain a consistent schedule.

Sleep training is not something to launch into the weekend before you hop on a plane to Brussels. Find a time where you’ll be able to maintain a consistent schedule and sleep location for day/night sleep for a few weeks.

10

Consider a night-vision baby monitor

These are expensive items (ranging $100-$200) but if you’re going to try cry it out you are paying for piece of mind. Also they will help you resist the urge to peek.

Did you answer “YES” to all 10 questions? If so we all wish you the best of luck: may be it be brief and effective. Check back in for more post on “how to” and “what to expect” for cry it out.

If some NOs snuck in there then you’re not ready for sleep training. And that’s OK. Keep it on the back burner and continue trying to make things better. Work on removing feedings from sleep, consistency of naps and bedtime, develop a soothing sleep routine that everybody enjoys, and start chipping away at the chronic sleep deprivation.

Anybody wrestling with this decision? Have any CIO stories to share?
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91 Comments


  1. Help! My baby is 10months old and she always wakes up and cry from 1am till 7am and it is really taking toll on my health as I always have extreme migraines due to lack of sleep or lack of good quality sleep. My baby wakes up fine and smiling. Baby is healthy, and I consistently check on her nappy or I try to feed her, but what she only wants is to be hold. She just wants to be hugged all the time. Baby is sleeping in the same room but on a different bed since birth. She always throws a fit when she is sleepy and is used to being always carried and rocked in order to sleep. I don’t know where to start. Please help.

  2. Hello there,

    My 3 month old currently Co-sleeps with me. She is a good sleeper and eater. However I can never sneak out to do chores. She needs me right by her side. I want to start sleep training but as soon as she realize I’m not next to her she Cries her eyes out! What should I do?

    • She’s young enough that you have a lot of tools to work with. When you’re ready to make a change commit. Every time she sleeps with you she’s learning “The way I sleep is with Mom.” Which is why you’re getting stuck as “she realizes you aren’t there and cries her eyes out.”

      Give as much soothing as you can – swaddle, white noise, pacifier, maybe swing.

      Try to have her FALL asleep without being flush next to your body – maybe she’s in the crib with your hand on her belly.

      She WON’T sleep as well this way so accept that in the short-term things will be WORSE. She needs to get USED to a new way of doing things.

      COMMIT to doing things differently. She’ll figure it out!

      Good luck!

  3. Hi Alexis – I desperately need your opinion! My 6.5 month old used to sleep great (I took your advice that I learned with my first and made sure to put her down awake early). She was sleeping 10-12 hours at 10 weeks, with some wake ups here and there (usually coincided with wonder weeks). After the 4 month sleep regression I realized I overlooked a HUGE problem – the pacifier. She now does exactly what you wrote about in “why sleep training didn’t work.” A long stretch followed by waking almost every hour after midnight for paci to be reinserted, eventually not working at 4am and wanting to be up for 1-2 hours. When I leave for work at 6 this is just not working out well. I tried the pull out method and that just INFURIATED her. She is 22 lbs so too big to start on the swing although we have been using that when she won’t go back down around 4am. Is it time for me to CIO? I hate to do it when the problem is just the paci but I know in my gut that is the issue. She goes to bed like a dream, wide awake as long as she has her paci. She takes two 2 hour naps (with paci, white noise, dark room). Do I have to take it away at naptime if I do CIO at bedtime? Your feedback is MORE than appreciated!

  4. My LO is currently 4.5months. She is rocked to sleep at the beginning of the night and almost every night will wake up 45minutes later to be resettled again(doesnt take long dont even need to rock her just need to pick her up and hold her), but then after that she will only wake once a night for a feed. I see her wake up occasionally in the MOTN but she resettles herself (95% of the time anyway) So to be honest Im still getting plenty of sleep, its just the fact that its frustrating to have to resettle after that first sleep cycle and obviously itd be nice to not have to rock her to sleep every night. Sometimes when we put her down she will wake up when she hits the mattress so have to get her to sleep again, once shes asleep I wait 10mins before trying to put her down. My first question is why does her first sleep cycle not connect with the rest of her sleep? And second question, is it worth me attempting CIO once she hits 6 months? I have been reading on the website and facebook page for a few weeks doing all my research, and have been trying to get her into a good bedtime routine and have also taken her pacifier away cold turkey so one less sleep prop to worry about. Her bedtime varies as her awake times and naps can vary through out the day depending what we are doing. Have been trying to wake her up in the morning same time every day to hopefully have her bedtime within around the same time each night. I guess im just worried that if I do attempt CIO and fail, what if she turns into a crap sleeper because of it..then I will be kicking myself because we really dont have it TOO bad at the moment. Would also like to do nap training after night time training complete. Just wanting peoples thoughts or if anyone is in similar situation

  5. Hi there,
    We did CIO with our first daughter last year when she was 6 months old. Our second daughter is now 5 months (and 1 week) and has not been taking any night feedings for the last week or so. We’re hoping to sleep train her in about two weeks, but since she’ll still be under 6 months old technically, do you think that is still ok?

    Thanks so much!

  6. I understand the cry it out for bed time and middle of the night. But how do you tackle naps? Is she just crying all day everyday for a week? So I let her cry it out for an hour for nap time and she doesn’t go to sleep so we go on with our day, do I not let her fall asleep again? She ends up sleeping right afterwards for 30 minutes?? Help I don’t understand naps.

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