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CIO, or cry it out, is a controversial subject and one that has been dividing parents for at least 2 decades. But in the opinion of our expert sleep consultants, the larger problem with CIO is that some parents assume ALL sleep training is CIO; they assume that sleep training is just letting your baby cry until he/she stops waking up at night and stops waking early from naps.
Cry It Out Is Not Sleep Training
You can imagine how frustrating it is for our team to combat this misconception. We talk regularly to families who have avoided sleep training for years because they thought it would mean hours of wailing. But in reality, that’s not true at all! Cry it out is not sleep training; it is merely a type of sleep training. And that means that there are many other types of sleep training, most of which are less intense and extreme than CIO.
Don’t Like CIO? You’ll Probably Love FIO!
So you’ve decided cry it out isn’t for you. That’s no problem; there are still many ways you can sleep coach your baby or toddler to better nights and rested naps. In our experience, parents who want to avoid CIO do very well with what we call FIO.
What is FIO? It stands for Fade It Out (as opposed to cry it out). With fade it out, you use a gentle, fading approach to weaning your child away from sleep associations and to work towards your child falling asleep without help at bedtime and after any night wakings or early nap waking. The pace of the fading is up to you, which makes FIO a very flexible option.
In addition, FIO allows you to keep any and all age-appropriate nighttime feedings that you choose. While CIO can lead to premature night weaning, and can result in a baby who is fully night weaned before mom and dad are really ready for that, FIO is different. With FIO, you are gently helping your baby learn to fall asleep without your help, which means that your baby eventually learns how to fall back to sleep without you when he or she wakes briefly during the night, between sleep cycles (which is normal, and which we all do). But it also allows your baby to wake and cry for feedings. With FIO, you can separate out sleep coaching and night weaning, something that many families really want to do.
How To Try FIO At Home
FIO is really a variation on the fading method, which is a pretty gentle form of sleep coaching. It works like this: to begin, you help your baby fall asleep, but you set up “rules” as to how you will slowly take yourself out of the equation. If you think about how you have done most of the work of helping your child fall asleep until this point, now you will develop rules to follow that will shift the “work” gradually to your baby/child.
For instance, if you have always rocked baby all the way to sleep, you might rock him/her for a little less time on the first night and put him/her in the crib drowsy, but awake. This provides your baby with the chance to try falling asleep independently. If your baby gets worked up, you try to quiet and soothe him/her using other methods until he/she is asleep. Each night, you do less and less “work” to help your baby get drowsy, and your baby should do more of it. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where your baby can fall asleep without help and then fall BACK to sleep when he/she wakes between sleep cycles.