Crying during sleep training is a touchy subject, but it’s one that’s worth addressing. Why? Because most parents aren’t aware that crying during sleep training is a spectrum.
Many families who are new to The Baby Sleep Site® mistakenly assume that sleep training is nothing BUT crying….heartbreaking, seemingly endless crying.
However, while a very small percentage of parents are okay with nonstop crying, the vast majority aren’t.
Most of the parents with whom we work accept that there will be some fussing during sleep coaching (even the gentlest methods may produce a bit of fussing), but they want to minimize crying and offer their babies soothing and comfort during the sleep coaching process.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to sleep train that will put you between ‘nonstop awful crying’ and ‘soothing baby back to sleep every time he so much as makes a peep.’ And we’re going to explore those further in today’s blog post!
What Is Cry It Out?
The definition of cry it out tends to vary, depending on who you ask. True cry it out, also known as extinction, involves laying your baby down at bedtime and then letting him cry himself to sleep. However, many (MANY) parents who’ve used cry it out (also called CIO) will tell you that they do check-ins with their baby, and don’t simply shut the door at bedtime and then re-enter the room the next morning.
It’s important to remember that cry it out is NOT intended to be a replacement for parenting and caring for your baby. You shouldn’t leave your baby to cry it out in his crib if he has a wet or dirty diaper, if he is ill, is in pain, etc.
In other words, parents who use cry it out responsibly allow their babies to cry at the start of and during sleep, in order to learn how to fall asleep independently, but they also make sure their babies are well-cared for and nurtured.
What Are Ferberizing and Controlled Crying?
Surprise! Ferberizing and controlled crying are actually the same thing. 😉
With Ferberizing and controlled crying, you essentially allow your child to fuss and cry at bedtime or at the start of a nap (or after a night waking or a too-early nap waking), but you plan to check in with your child at regular intervals. What’s nice about this one is that it gives your child plenty of space to practice self-soothing, but it also allows you to provide soothing and comfort, and to reassure your child. Even better, since you set the intervals of consoling, you can offer comfort as often as you’d like. Most parents start with relatively short intervals at first (going into the room every 3 to 5 minutes, for example) and then gradually extend the intervals as sleep training progresses.
What Are Some No-Cry Sleep Training Methods?
I should mention again that it is virtually impossible to sleep train without at least a little bit of fussing on your baby’s part. You can keep the crying very minimal using gentle methods, but if your goal is zero crying know that may not be achievable.
Two of the gentlest sleep coaching methods include Fading and Pick-Up-Put-Down. You can read more about these methods in our sleep training cheat sheet. With gentle methods like these, you work to teach your baby new, healthy sleep habits while supporting her throughout the entire process.
Cry It Out, Ferberizing, Controlled Crying, No Cry: Which Sleep Coaching Method Is Right For You?
It can be tough to select just the right sleep training method for you and your baby. The choice about how to approach sleep training is a deeply personal one and requires you to understand and account for your baby’s temperament as well as your own parenting style. Keep in mind, when choosing a sleep training method, that the best method is one that works for your baby AND FOR YOU. Most parents forget that second part. Even if you are positive that a gentle sleep training method is what your baby needs if you can’t sustain that approach and stay consistent, your sleep training plan is bound to fail.
Resources to Help You Choose a Sleep Training Method
These resources can help you determine which sleep coaching method is the right fit for both your baby and you:
- Baby Temperament and Sleep Series
- 5 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night
- Will Sleep Training Damage Your Relationship With Your Baby?
- Sleep Training: From Cry to No Cry
A few pointers to remember, as you choose a sleep coaching method:
- Gentle methods tend to take longer to produce meaningful results, so prepare to be patient if you opt for a gentle approach.
- Staying in the room at bedtime works great for some babies, but for others, having mom or dad nearby is actually more upsetting. If you plan to stay in the room during sleep training, try it for a few nights, but be flexible: if your presence is more upsetting than soothing, it may be better to stay outside the door.
- The pick-up-put-down method can be a great gentle sleep coaching method, but some babies actually get more upset by this method – all the “manhandling” is upsetting instead of soothing.
- You can start your Ferberizing with short intervals, but don’t go much shorter than 5 minutes; intervals shorter than that don’t allow your baby enough time to practice self-soothing.