Should I Let My Infant Cry it Out? The CIO Sleep Technique Debunked.
Will I ever sleep again?
Congragulations New Parents....
Welcome to sleepless nights full of tears (both yours and baby's), smiles, coos, and the enjoyment of watching your infant grow into a toddler.
Now down to business and those important questions......
- Will you ever sleep again?
- Will you use the highly controversial sleep training method known to many as "Cry-it-Out" or the CIO method to get those much needed Zzzzzz's?
- Will you be able to handle your infant crying in an attempt to self soothe?
- Is it ok to let your infant cry?
- Are you damaging your infant by letting them "Cry it Out"?
Let us explore what the cry it out method is, how it is intended to be used, if it ever works, and the many different opinions on whether "Cry it Out" is harmful to your new family member.
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What Does it Mean to "Cry it Out"?
The "cry it out" method, while popular and controversial is a vague explanation of what the cry it out method is.
The cry it out method should be tailored to a child's age as well as a parents tolerance level.
To let a child cry it out simply implies that a child is put to bed and left there to cry until they fall asleep indefinitely.
This IS NOT (or should NEVER) be the case.
Many variations of the cry it out method have surfaced since the idea's inception. Some parents have had luck while others find it doesn't work for their family. The most important thing to making anything work for one's family is an understanding of what all is entailed.
A typical bedtime routine could include....
- Baby massage
Cry it Out Technique Example
- Carry out your regular bedtime routine, so that your child is comfortable and drowsy.
- Place baby in crib and say goodnight.
- Leave the room.
- Wait approximately 3 minutes.
- If baby is still crying return to the room, pat baby and utter soothing words.
- Do not pick baby up.
- Leave room.
- Repeat step 4 and 5 adding 2 minutes to each interval until baby falls asleep.
Should I Let my Infant "Cry it Out"?
Research seems to disagree.
All to often there is never a definitive answer when a controversial topic is presented. Of course there is supporting evidence to support both sides of the issue as there is with any issue.
To see supporting evidence both for and against using the cry it out method of sleep training keep reading.
After deciding what you believe to be the truth, ask yourself if your decision is the right one for your family, and if you can live with it either way.
When to Start Sleep Training or the Cry it Out Method
When you bring baby home it is not time to start sleep training. This time is time for everyone to adjust to each other and get to know one another. At this time baby is just experiencing the outside world and mommy and daddy are just experiencing baby. Sleep training can wait.
As mommy, daddy, and baby become more comfortable in a routine (which should be implemented as soon as possible - for everyone's sake) you can then decide what the right age is for you to attempt sleep training.
How Long is To Long For "Cry It Out?"
Hearing your infant wail is torture to any new mother or father. In fact so much so that anxiety levels in parents rise within seconds of hearing their infant cry.
How long should an infant be allowed to cry?
The truth....there is no scientific research that I was able to find supporting the exact amount of time that is considered to long.
Of course you shouldn't let your infant scream for 6 hours while you sit down stairs sipping wine, watching American Idol. I firmly believe that a good parent is a combination of common sense, knowledge, patience, and love.
Therefore any "good parent" knows that a a baby should not be left to cry longer than mommy and daddy are comfortable with.
When Not To Let a Baby Cry it Out
So you've decided to try the cry it out method with your newborn. Before jumping into the cry it out method there are a few important things to take into consideration. One very important thing to take into account before attempting this sleep training method is ensuring baby's needs are met prior to starting the self soothing cry it out method.
For instance, has baby been fed and changed? Is baby comfortable? Swaddled? All other "normal" bedtime routines accounted for?
If all of your newborns needs have been met and the cry it out method is something your going to try by all means. Again only after all baby's physical needs are met is it semi-safe (depending on who you believe) to engage in the cry it out method.
Pro "Cry it Out" Research
- Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial
- Infant sleep training news: 'Cry it out' does no harm - CSMonitor.com
Infant sleep training study suggests a gentle approach to the 'cry it out' scheduling method does no harm.
More From Dr. Richard Ferber
Research against "Cry it Out".
- Dangers of “Crying It Out” | Psychology Today
Damaging children and their relationships for the longterm. By Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D....
More From Dr. William Sears
- Ask Dr. Sears| A Trusted Resource for Parents
Helping parents become better consumers of healthcare. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting advice from Dr. Bill Sears.
To Cry it Out or Not to Cry it Out?
Would you let your infant cry it out?
Should Every Baby Cry it Out?
In this instance I would have to say no.
Parenting is NOT a 'one size fits all approach.
In some instances it is never OK to let an infant cry. If an infants needs are not being met or if an infant is sick it is NOT OK to let your infant cry for any period of time. It is then that the cry it out method begins to harm the infant/mother relationship.
It's important to realize that someone will always have a better way, your parents, your friends, cousins, uncles, neighbors, strangers, etc. As parents we do what works for us and our family and take in stride what the experts tell us.
More Fun Family Reading
My Experience Two Children Later
Personally I believe that that "truth" to crying it out lies somewhere between harming your child and helping your child.
Surely if all your child's needs are met and you are sure your child is not hurt or suffering in any fashion then letting your child cry it out is harmless.
However, common sense tells you not to let an infant scream indefinitely in an attempt to self soothe.
The cry it out method is used to deter a baby from needing constant soothing interactions to soothing themselves.
BOTH my children were allowed to cry it out to a degree.
Coincidentally BOTH my children were great sleepers from 6 weeks of age on. We would follow our bedtime routine, which included, bath, dress, , rocked, and finally put in their crib for the night. swaddle
The first few nights they cried a little, (more of whimpering) and then they would pass out. After about a week of this bedtime training they would simply close their eyes and fall asleep.
I'm almost certain that the routine we made at night signaled to my infants that bed time was drawing near and they were then able to "prepare" and understand what was about to happen.