Some families resort to the Cry it Out Method, but how do you know if it’s right for you and your baby?
This is a topic that we get lots of questions about in our Sleep 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.
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 Method 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 gentler 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 of 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…
1. DO explore other methods, because cry it out is many parents’ last resort. There are a number of other, gentle sleep training methods that can work well.
2. 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.
We are 100% committed to using this kind of holistic approach to sleep, which is why we NEVER jump straight to cry it out sleep training.
3. 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!
4. DO find a support system to help you through. Make sure your spouse or partner is on board. (This is 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 to which you can turn to for help and/or to vent. And, of course, you can always turn to us for compassionate support and a sympathetic ear. You’ll also receive expert advice on how to make sure cry it out goes as smoothly (and as quickly) as possible.
5. 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.
6. 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. Even at 4 months – 6 months, you will likely want to go for gentler approaches.
7. 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. Similarly, don’t wean from breastfeeding altogether at the same time.
8. 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. Be sure that while you are using cry it out, 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.
9. DON’T wait until you’re at your wit’s end and do it. Parents who resort to cry it out because they’re practically cross-eyed with exhaustion tend to do it without a plan. This can ultimately end up sending mixed messages and inconsistencies. (See the previous point.)
10. 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.
11. 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.
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. 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. 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. This can give 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. You won’t be left 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. They 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. It simply means that you will need to proceed with caution and 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. We’re here and ready to offer you compassionate, caring support that is 100% personalized to your unique situation. Whether you want to start with gentle methods, or you want personalized recommendations about how to proceed with cry it out, we can help. We’ll always use approaches that mesh with your goals, your parenting philosophy, and your child’s personality and temperament. Let us start working on your Personalized Sleep Plan® today!
Browse our sleep support packages here.
32 thoughts on “11 Cry It Out Dos and Don’ts (Plus How Your Baby’s Temperament Affects Cry It Out Sleep Training)”
My 9 month old sleeps well through the night. No crying no fuss. We put her down awake and she puts herself to sleep for the night. She sleeps 11-12 hrs a night. But for naps she is incredibly fussy and hard to soothe. She goes down for a morning nap after several minutes of crying. Then for her afternoon nap she may cry for even longer. What can I do to teach her to soothe herself to nap like she does for bedtime?
Thank you for checking out The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with naps. The first thing to do would be to doublecheck that your daytime schedule is age-appropriate, and your baby isn’t over or under-tired going into nap time. We have a sample 9 month-old schedule here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/9-month-old-baby-schedule/
If your schedule is set, then you can use any sleep coaching technique at naptime to help her learn to fall asleep at naptime independently. We have an article series on sleep coaching here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-from-no-cry-to-cry-series-part-1/
And we also have an e-Book on the topic here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/diy/#bundles
I hope this helps! Good luck 🙂
My almost three year old who’s turning three in few days was sleep trained and has been sleeping really well. Then he had a pretty bad 2 yr regression so we sleep trained him again using extinction. He’s been sleeping well since then. I just gave birth to our second son and my three year old started refusing to go to bed and waking up in the middle of the night. I tried to let him cry it out but it doesn’t seem to work. His voice has become so raspy from screaming and crying so much that I’m scared to use extinction again. He wants me to stay in his room until he falls asleep or come into our bed and sleep. I don’t want to do that because I’m afraid it will become a habit. How can I get my three year old to sleep again? Can I do extinction again? Thank you.
Hi @Andie – Thanks for writing, and happy 3rd birthday to your little one! Sorry that his sleep has regressed so much! It sounds like you may have already tried some cry it out/extinction, and said that it did not work out well, so you may want to re-group and come up with a new plan. This article can help you determine what’s going on with his new sleep challenges: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddlers/toddler-sleep-problem-or-toddler-behavior/
Then you can decide how to proceed with helping re-learn to sleep. Maybe something more gentle to start?:
Or something in between that would be a good fit for you all? We’d love to help come up with a Plan just for him! Please contact us for more help!
Hi! We’re on night two of CIO with our second boy. He’s about to turn 16 months. Up until a few weeks ago he was good just being put down in the crib after a bottle and getting himself to sleep. He’d wake up between 5 – 6, so less than ideal, but he’d sleep through.
A few weeks ago we hit a bumpy patch of teething, being on vacation, and what I would imagine is a sleep regression. He wouldn’t fall asleep without one of us having a hand on his chest, and he slept with us two nights on vacation. He’s been sick the last week and started amoxicillin Thursday. Confident it wasn’t a pain issue, we started training last night (Saturday).
Poor guy was up, crying from 8ish – 12ish and then was up again at 4:30 and crying until 6:30 (when we got him up). We went in at increasingly longer intervals last night, but they just seemed to piss him off when we turned to leave again. So we’re going without visits now and going forward. But we wanted to see if anyone else has had experience with multi-hour cry sessions. Even though he’s dead tired (he had a 45 minute nap when he first got up and then 2 hours midday), I’m worried he’s going to have another night and just be a complete wreck at daycare tomorrow.
Hey @Ben, I’m so sorry to hear! It sounds like you didn’t have the best weekend over there. 🙁 Hopefully things were a little better last night. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to get your baby sleeping through the night that you may want to check out: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
If things don’t smooth back out in the next week or so (I’m sure vacation along with sickness and teething is a big contributor to these issues) let us know and we’d be happy to help you from there. Feel free to reach out to us anytime at [email protected].
Hang in there!
Thanks, Janelle! Knock on wood (please, for our sakes), the little guy managed to go down after about 45 minutes last night. He was up again at 1:30; I walked over, put his pacifier in and laid him back down. It only made it more angry (so we probably won’t be doing that again), but fortunately he again only took 30 – 45 minutes before going back to sleep, and then was out till 6:30.
So fingers crossed that this was him learning and not being dead tired. We’ll see how night #3 goes…
@Ben, thanks for the update! Sounds like you are making progress! I hope it continues. 🙂
We started cry it out about a month ago for my now 9 month old. He naps from about 9-11 and 1:45-3 and then we put him down for the night around 7 (give or take 30 minutes depending on when his last nap goes until). Sometimes he doesn’t cry, sometime he cries for 5 minutes, but about half the time he cries for 30 minutes. He’s also waking around 4:30-5am, which up until the past week his wakeup time has been 6am. Any ideas for us to try??
Thank you for writing to us! Sorry to hear that you have been struggling with some inconsistent crying! Finding the right schedule can be challenging, especially for little ones that are not consistent. You are not alone! We would be happy to help! You may want to consider our eBook: Mastering Naps and Schedules. This eBook includes over 45 sample daytime nap and feeding schedules, as well as tons of tips on everything schedule related.
You can read more about this here:
Hang in there and good luck!
My son is 16 months old and all the sudden for the past 3 months refuses to sleep last 430/5 he use to sleep until 630/7. Any suggestions? When we let him cry it out he will cry for an hour or 2 until it’s time to get up
@Lindsey – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village and for sharing. Early waking can be a difficult cycle to break, for sure, especially when it’s been going on for many months. We feel your pain! It can be caused by a number of factors at this age such as scheduling, feeding, environment, developmental, etc. – we don’t have enough information to say for sure. Check out this article giving you tips on helping when your baby is waking to0 early: https://www.babysleepsite.com/how-we-sleep/baby-waking-too-early/ You can also consider connecting with one of our consultants who can help you through this – you can read more about them here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/about Hang in there, Lindsey!
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