If you are unfortunate enough to consider letting baby cry it out (because let’s face it, none of us PLAN to let their baby cry it out when they are still in the womb or anything! It’s typically the last resort for most of us.), many people want to know when it is okay to do it. Some people would answer “never” and that is their right.
Here at The Baby Sleep Site™, I understand that all situations are unique and what works for you might not work for others and what works for others might not work for YOU! I am here to help you develop the plan that will be most likely to succeed based on your baby’s temperament and personality and your parenting style and philosophy. If your philosophy goes against cry it out, simple DON’T DO IT (it won’t work anyway).
First, let me define what I mean by “cry it out” because it means different things to different people.
What Cry It Out Isn’t
- Cry it out is not replacement for feeding when baby can not comfortably sleep all night without food.
- Cry is out is not meant to be used when baby is hungry, wet, very sick, in pain, etc.
- Cry it out does not mean throwing your baby into a room, closing the door and ignoring baby forever and ever.
- Cry it out is not replacement to parenting when baby needs it.
That last one some would say is always true, but I disagree, but we’ll get to that.
What Cry It Out IS
- Cry it out is a sleep training method to break poor sleep associations.
- Cry it out is setting limits on what you will and won’t allow your baby to do (at nap time, all night, etc.).
That’s it! Sometimes it’s just about setting limits that you will not nurse all night or replace a pacifier 10 times per night or rock your baby in the rocking chair for 3 hours and then every 2 hours after that (like my son wanted me to do). Those are all sleep associations that sometimes need to be broken (and not replaced with a new one).
The act of crying does nothing to teach baby to sleep and it won’t change his personality. Cry “it” out is simply letting baby find his own way to fall asleep and allowing him to cry out his frustration about not being able to get that pacifier replaced for the 10th time. None of us get better at something without practice.
OF COURSE, some parents can nurse all night and it works great for them. Others can rock their baby for 10 minutes and he sleeps all night. But, many of us are simply not that lucky. If baby cried being in the car seat, would you take him out while driving because he was crying?
It is hard for many of us to break habits, but the longer you do it, the harder the habit is to break, right?
Cry It Out – What age?
So, what’s the right age to allow baby to cry it out? Once again, this answer will vary. I try to empower parents here on this site. You know your baby best! At some point you know that your baby is very capable of putting herself to sleep, but prefers you to rock, bounce, nurse, etc. her to sleep. There is not going to be a magic age, but one day you will realize what baby once NEEDED to fall asleep, now she simply WANTS it. That is the key to finding the “right” time. You are simply at your wits end and just can’t do “it” anymore.
Having said all that, if your baby’s temperament is “easy”, sometimes all it takes is for you to just get out of the way a little bit and allow baby to fuss for 5 minutes or less and that can be done when he is just a newborn. Aside from a little fussing, I usually don’t recommend finding a cry it out method to formally use until at least 4 months old. The ideal age is usually before 8-10 months. I’ve had parents tell me they feel they waited too long by only waiting until 10 months old. Once baby can pull to standing, it gets harder (but not impossible) and personalities only get stronger, so it’s great to lay the foundation before that time.
How to Cry It Out
There are NUMEROUS variations to the cry it out method and it’s important to be responsible about it. It is unfair to just “snap” one day, let him cry and then go to him the next day, on/off, on/off. You need to make A PLAN. I also never recommend to allow baby to cry it out when she is still swaddled, because they need to find a way to self-soothe by finding their fingers/thumb. Also, you should ensure your baby does not have any health problems by visiting her pediatrician before starting any formal sleep training method such as cry-it-out. If your baby changes sleep patterns abruptly, it can be an ear infection or reflux or another issue, so those should be ruled out, first. Generally, if your baby has had “sleep problems” for several weeks / months and there have not been health issues, that is when you may want to consider the cry-it-out method.
If you are confused about how to go about letting your baby cry it out, please do some reading on this site or buy my e-Book, The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep which outlines various methods and has pros and cons of each method. It’s a step-by-step guide in helping you through the process and how to achieve maximum success. If you want help developing a plan you can 100% commit to (consistency is key!), I also offer sleep consulting services.
What does Cry It Out mean to you?