Forget CIO; Why Not Try FIO?

CIO baby sleep training FIO

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.

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6 thoughts on “Forget CIO; Why Not Try FIO?”

  1. I started FIO 4 days ago. I end the nursing before she is asleep, put her down and put my hand on her belly and sing (she does scream but much less on day 4). She holds tight to my hand. Is that ok?

    We co-sleep and she always needs sooo much physical contact, all night long. The closer, the better. Even then she wakes up 10 times a night. She is 14 months old. Very exhausting…

    Is putting a hand on her belly creating a new sleep prop? I thought of doing it like this first, and later on working on falling asleep without my hand. Hopefully she will need less contact during the night in the future and be able to get back to sleep without my touch or without nursing.

    And another question: do i need to do the exact same thing with every night waking? So, only using my hand and never allowing her to fall back asleep while lying close to me?


    • Hi @Nele – Thanks for writing, and I am sorry to hear that your sweet little girl is waking 10 times per night (or more?)! That’s so tough, and we understand! It sounds like FIO is going well for you which is great! You leaving your hand on her can also be considered part of the fading! As she gets used to this, you can slowly fade that too! What you do for the night wakings is up to you, and how fast you want to move through fading it out! Go at your own pace, and fade at your own pace too! If you’d like one on one help with this, we’d love to work closely with you as you continue. Please just contact us if you’d like any information about our email or phone + email consultation packages!

  2. My babe is 8 months old. If I usually nurse him to sleep would I just nurse him one minute less than usual every few days?

    • Hi @Larissa – Thank you for writing to us about your 8 month old! You are free to proceed with FIO (Fading it out) in a gentle manner that works for you and your baby, but you do not necessarily want to reduce any feedings. You can start the feed a bit early, and still have a full feed as is age and developmentally appropriate for your little guy, but end that feeding while he’s not fully asleep. So, he’d still get the full nursing session, but he could also start to work on putting himself to sleep without feeding to sleep. I hope that our information and articles help and that everything goes smoothly!

  3. With FIO how much crying is truly involved? If baby gets worked up and you have to use another method to soothe rather than rock or nurse what can you use that’s not creating a new prop?

    • @ Erin – That depends entirely on how gentle you want to make it, but generally, FIO involves very limited crying because you step in to offer comfort when your baby gets worked up. Now, you can certainly use FIO at first and then transition to another method (maybe you use FIO for a week, let’s say, and then, once you feel your baby is starting to “get it”, you transition to a check-and-console approach), so the level of crying is dependent on how much patience and persistence you have. Straight FIO does take time, but it is very gentle…so there are pluses and minuses. Does that make sense?

      As for HOW you soothe your baby with FIO, the goal of your soothing is to soothe until baby is comforted but NOT asleep. In other words, you don’t soothe your baby by rocking her to sleep; you soothe her by rocking her until she is calmer, and then you lay her back down drowsy, but awake. If you stick to that principle, you’ll avoid creating any new, bad sleep habits that have to be undone later.

      Thanks for your question, Erin; feel free to ask more, if I haven’t explained myself well in this response!

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