We’ve said a lot over the years about cry it out sleep training methods: we’ve defined cry it out and shared ages to try it (if you feel so led), differences between controlled crying and cry it out, how to determine if you should try cry it out, and whether or not cry it out will change your baby’s personality.
But nevertheless, this is a topic that we get lots of questions about in our Helpdesk. Specifically, lots of parents ask us when they should/shouldn’t try cry it out, and how cry it out is going to work with their babies’ personalities and temperaments.
Well, you’ve asked – and now we’re answering! Keep reading for 11 vital dos and don’ts of cry it out sleep training, as well as tips to help you decide whether or not cry it out will work with your child’s temperament.
11 Cry It Out Sleep Training Dos and Don’ts
A quick note – please don’t take this article to mean that we are recommending you try cry it out over other sleep training methods. We’re not! We know that most families really prefer to try gentler methods, and can’t stand the idea of hearing their babies cry…but we also know that some families end up needing to use cry it out, for a variety for reasons. That’s why we share information about cry it out sleep training – because we know that some of you will need it.
And that transitions us nicely into point #1…
- DO explore other methods, because cry it out is many parents’ last resort – and there are a number of other, gentle sleep training methods that can work well.
- DO establish a strong foundation first – make sure your child’s environment is sleep-friendly, and that you’ve made any necessary changes to your child’s sleep and feeding schedule at least 1 week before you start sleep training. You’ll also want to rule out any other cases of your child’s night waking or short naps before you try cry it out. Our team is 100% committed to using this kind of holistic approach to sleep, which is why we NEVER jump straight to cry it out sleep training.
- DO make sure you are prepared to follow through. Cry it out requires a lot of resolve – you have to be ready to go down that road!
- DO find a support system to help you through. Make sure your spouse or partner is on board (that’s key to cry it out success, as you both have to respond to your baby in the same way in order for sleep training to work). If your spouse isn’t supportive, make sure you have a friend or other family member you can turn to to vent. And, of course, you can always turn to our team of expert consultants for compassionate support and a sympathetic ear, as well as expert advice in how to make sure cry it out goes as smoothly (and as quickly) as possible.
- DO make a plan ahead of time. A plan is critical to any kind of sleep training success, but it is especially key to cry it out success. You need to decide ahead of time how you’re going to handle your baby’s crying, and what your overall timeline for sleep training looks like.
- DON’T try cry it out sleep training too young. You should always use gentle methods to help your baby learn to sleep well during the newborn stage, and even at 4 months – 6 months, you will likely want to go for gentler approaches.
- DON’T night-wean at the same time you are using cry it out. Why? Because doubt about whether or not your baby is crying out of hunger, or crying because he wants help falling asleep, will eat away at even the best of plans.
- DON’T send mixed messages or be inconsistent in your approach. Stick to your sleep coaching plan for at least a week or two before you make changes – and be sure that while you are using cry it out sleep coaching, you are as consistent as possible in how you respond to your baby. If you’re inconsistent, it’s unfair to your child – not to mention confusing.
- DON’T wait until you’re at your wit’s end and do it. See, parents who resort to cry it out because they’re practically cross-eyed with exhaustion tend to do it without a plan, and then ultimately end up sending mixed messages and being inconsistent (see the previous point).
- DON’T do naps and nights at the same time. This just ends up being too much crying for your baby AND for you, and that can make it nearly impossible to follow through.
- DON’T have high expectations that you will be “done” in 3 days. While that’s true for some, it’s not true for all. Instead, plan for a realistic timeline before you start.
Cry It Out Sleep Training And Your Baby’s Temperament
It’s important to remember that trying cry it out sleep training with your baby isn’t just about whether or not you’re ready to try it – it’s about how your baby will handle the process, too! The truth is, certain temperaments respond much better to cry it out than others, so knowing ahead of time how your baby’s personality will mesh with cry it out is important.
You can read our entire baby sleep and temperament series for specific details on how each temperament trait will work with cry it out, but here’s a quick summary to get you started:
- Slow to adapt, persistent, and intense children may have a harder time with CIO and cry too intensely, because cry it out can be such an abrupt change from what they’re used to.
- An adaptable, easy-going baby will likely cry very little, if at all.
- With consistent babies, it may be easier to time up bedtime and nap times, giving you more confidence that your baby is ready for sleep at bedtime and at nap time. That, in turn, will make it easier to stay consistent with cry it out, because you won’t be wondering if your baby is crying because she’s not tired enough for sleep.
- High-energy babies may need longer wind-down times before sleep, and may also have more energy to cry longer, which will obviously make cry it out tough.
Now, this isn’t to say that you CAN’T do cry it out with a baby who is slow to adapt, persistent, intense, or high-energy – that’s not the case. It simply means that you will need to proceed with caution, and to have appropriate expectations.
All this said, if you’re struggling with sleep training your baby – whether you’re considering cry it out or not – you may need help from an expert. Our team of expert consultants is ready to offer you compassionate, caring support that is 100% personalized to your unique situation. Whether you want to start with gentle methods, or whether you want personalized recommendations about how to proceed with cry it out, we will work with you, and use approaches that mesh with your goals, your parenting philosophy, and your child’s personality and temperament. Let our team start working on your Personalized Sleep Plan™ today!
Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to log in and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!
What are your thoughts on the dos and don’ts of cry it out? We want to hear from you!
Our Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
For those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.