Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 5

Sleep Training Series, Part 5: Check-And-Console

This article will outline two sleep training methods, including what many people know as “The Ferber Method”. If you are just joining in, you may want to start from the beginning at Part 1 of my Baby Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) series.

You may be interested in reading about the age to do cry-it-out and how cry-it-out will not change your child’s personality.

The Ferber / Check-and-Console Method
(aka Ferberizing)

This sleep training method entails allowing baby to cry while checking on him at intervals. The goal here is to reassure him ever so often to a) make sure baby is okay and to reassure yourself and b) reassure him you hear them and are there for them. When you go to check on baby, you are not supposed to pick him up nor engage them much, but simply reassure using your voice and a loving pat for 2-3 minutes, tops (watch the clock!). The goal is NOT to help baby to sleep! That is what he is learning to do on his own! The idea is that he falls asleep in the same “environment” in which he will awaken periodically throughout the night (we all do!). The knowledge of how to fall asleep unassisted at bedtime will pave the way for him/her to go BACK to sleep throughout the night.

Here is an example of how night 1 might go:

  • Bedtime is 6:30 pm (make sure bedtime is sufficiently early and don’t make the mistake of “tiring him out” first. This leads to more crying, not less)
  • You do the bedtime routine, as usual, starting at 6pm. At 6:20 p.m. you put baby down DROWSY, BUT AWAKE
  • Baby begins to cry immediately and you set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • At 6:25 p.m. you go in and reassure her.
  • If she is still crying, you go back in at 10 minutes and then every 15 minutes until she falls asleep.

Each night, you increase each interval by 5 minutes. If you can’t start with intervals 5, 10, and 15, start with 3, 7, and 10. It doesn’t matter as long as you increase intervals nightly and be CONSISTENT.

Cry It Out (aka CIO or Extinction)

This is basically when you follow the same rules above, only you leave baby completely alone to fall asleep. Some feel this is cruel, however, many feel this leads to less crying, overall, and not cruel since you have already implemented a bedtime routine and she knows what to expect. Again, this will depend on your philosophy as a parent and your baby’s temperament. At night, you do not put a limit to the crying because if you allow her to cry for let’s say 30 minutes and then “rescue” her, you have all but guaranteed that much crying or more next time and you also don’t want them to learn to cry for a predetermined amount of time. It is imperative that you be 100% consistent and follow through. If you don’t want to let your baby cry, that is 100% OK, just choose another method.

You can use one of these methods or a variation of your own. You can try one and then switch to another after a few days. For some babies, going in there periodically only “teases” them and they get angrier that you won’t rock them or nurse them or do whatever you’ve been doing to “help” them to sleep. I do not have hard-core facts to say how long your baby will cry, on average. All babies are different and temperament and level of strong will definitely plays a part. In my experience in helping other parents, the average seems to be around 30 minutes. Some babies cry 5 minutes and sleep the rest of the night. Others might cry over an hour and wake several times in the night. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what yours will do, but I’m sure up to this point you have a good idea about the personality of your child. Many people are pleasantly surprised by how “little” their baby cries and wonder why they didn’t try sooner. They were prepared for the long haul and she may have “only” cried 20 minutes. Of course, as you know, 20 minutes to a mother or father can be excruciating, especially at 2 a.m.

Crying methods generally take 3-4 nights to see marked improvement, however, it isn’t always a cure-all. Sure, there are some babies you read about who, after 4 nights, sleep through the night forever and ever. And, then there are those who don’t and you have to keep letting them cry it out. Well, the important thing is to consider what your alternative is. If rocking/nursing/etc. to sleep was not working, there is a reason you started down this path and thus, you may just have a challenging sleeper who requires more “work” than others.

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Sleep Resources That WORK

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In part 6, the last part of this sleep training series, I share my story.

Have you used The Ferber Method or Cry It Out / Extinction? Share your experience below!

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36 thoughts on “Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 5”

  1. We did the CIO method with my 7.5 month old and he usually sleeps through the night or wakes once for a feed. we attempted to apply the CIO method to naps the week we did sleep training at night, but his naps have progressively gotten worse. I fell back into rocking or nursing him to sleep because he would cry for more than 30 minutes and not fall asleep for his naps. Now he fights being rocked or nursed to sleep. I feel unsure what to do next. Would you recommend trying the CIO method again for naps?

  2. My 5 month old falls asleep great at night. We have a consistent bedtime routine and he’s in bed at 7. He falls asleep by himself with little or no crying. My issue is at night. He’ll usually wake up at about 10-10:30. I’ll feed him and he’ll go back to sleep just fine. He use to get up only one more time through the night to eat. Now he’s up every 2-3 hours and will only go back to sleep and stay asleep if he’s laying next to me. I’ve tried letting him cry it out but he will cry on and off for an hour. Finally, I give in and just feed him even though I know he could go longer. What do I do? Do I keep with the crying at night?

    • @Amanda, Thank you for commenting! I am so sorry you have been struggling with your son’s sleep. That is great he is falling asleep on his own at night (initially)! You’ll want to make sure that if he wakes up and needs to eat again that he is still going to sleep on his own to avoid developing a sleep association. Here is an article that explains sleep associations a little more:
      We don’t expect 5 month olds to sleep all the way through the night just yet (some can, but most can’t!), and there may be times they need more calories through the night from all the growing and moving they do during the day, but if you find he is waking up just to have you put him back to sleep again, and not actually eating, it is likely a sleep association and not the need for food, so you will want to teach him how to go to sleep for those wakings on his own, in the method that you are comfortable with.
      I hope that helps, thank you for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource for sleep!

  3. Hi Denise,
    He sounds like he may be over tired. Try putting him to bed a little earlier, and see if that helps!
    Best of luck!

  4. my 9mo old tries to sleep. His little eyes are closed and he clearly wants to sleep, but he is so restless. He tosses and turns, but can’t seem to get comfortable. He’ll lay on his stomach and keep switching his head from side to side. After a while, he gets fustrated and then just sits up and cries. Is it common for a baby to be so restless?

  5. I have a 4 month old boy. We have to still swaddle him to sleep at night and for naps because he will wake after 15/20 minutes. How can I work my son away from swaddling? Also, at what age is it appropriate to try the crying methods? Can I still have him swaddled to try a crying approach?

    • @ Nicole- I hope your daughter’s sleep has improved! Did you kick the pacifier habit? The gentlest way to go about it is to stay with her and soothe her as she learns how to sleep without it. You can swaddle her still at night if it helps her sleep, but I would leave one or both arms out of the swaddle and swaddle her torso and legs so she can get to those fingers!
      Best wishes, hope all is well!

      @ Carrie- If you and your baby are ready to lose the swaddle, start by swaddling him with one arm out, and leaving it a few nights. Then unwrap the other arm for a few nights. Next unwrap his legs, so the only part you are wrapping is his torso. This will gradually get him used to sleeping without the swaddle. If you are going to start some sleep training, I would recommend at least having one arm unwrapped, so if he chooses to suck his fingers or hand to begin to soothe himself that it will be easily accessible. Good luck!!

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