BIOBaby: Cry It Out

August 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog It Out, Baby

There are reasons being a parent is the hardest job in the world:

– It’s hard without any real instructions. I don’t care how many books you read by doctors and other experts, there are never any cut-and-dry answers. Well, besides the obvious “don’t put your baby in the microwave” or “don’t drown your children in the tub.”

– All kids are different. What worked for Kali may not work for Jack, and what worked for either of them may not work for any of yours.

– The rewards are massive.

As I follow many bloggers who happen to be Moms (I hate the term “mommy bloggers), I’ve come across one phrase over and over – “cry it out.”

“I don’t let my kids cry it out.”

At first I thought this meant that they don’t let their kids cry at all. But as I did some research and read several blogs, I found that they are referring to the method of letting your child cry themselves to sleep.

Jack has “cried it out” twice. He was about 5 or 6 months old and for two days he just gave me a fit at nap time. (I’m a firm believer in scheduled naps, by the way.) Normally, he’d go right to sleep while nursing or by being left alone on the bed. (And by alone I mean, no rocking or patting. I remained on the bed with him.) But one day he just wasn’t having it. And I tried EVERYTHING.

I knew he was tired, but it was like he was fighting sleep. He cried and cried no matter what I did. Donny and I had decided while I was pregnant that we weren’t going to start bad habits that we couldn’t stick with. We based this decision on 1. successfully raising Kali with the same methods and 2. watching other parents. We did not want to be those parents who were slaves to the child. You know what I mean. The poor child won’t sleep unless someone is holding him at a 45 degree angle, standing on one foot, and singing Ave Maria in C sharp.

The first day, I put Jack in the pack-n-play next to my bed and he cried for maybe two minutes. Then he laid his head down and went to sleep. The next day, I did the same thing and he cried for maybe one minute… and then went to sleep.

Did I feel good about it? No. Mothers don’t like hearing their babies cry. That being said, I don’t know that I’d try the “cry it out” method again, especially when we decide to transition him from co-sleeping to sleeping alone in his room.

Like spanking, it’s just not for me. Advocates against the method probably see little difference in what I did – rocking the pack and play, cooing at him, until he stopped crying and fell asleep – and leaving the crying child in his crib with the lights out to fall asleep alone. And that’s okay. We’re all just doing the best we can, when we can.

Here are some interesting blogs on the subject at

Cry It Out (CIO): 10 Reasons Why It Is Not For Us

Cry It Out (CIO): Is It Helpful or Harmful?

Next week we’ll discuss “crying it out” in other situations.

But for today, what do you think of the “cry it out” method when trying to get your child to sleep?

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18 Responses to “BIOBaby: Cry It Out”
  1. Rogue says:

    Personally, I dont like the crying it out method to sleep. I dont like hearing babies cry. And although I understand the concept of not wanting to start habits you dont want to continue, I feel crying to sleep isnt healthy. I do it as an adult and it hurts, I can imagine as a baby who cant express their feelings. Granted, they might be fighting sleep but I’d rather they tire themselves out than to hear them crying themselves to sleep. It just really bothers me.

    Who knows maybe as a mother, things will be different and Ill end up letting them cry it out. Right now, Ill be that person that gets them “añoñado” or umm well best way to define that word, spoiled(???, any spanish person who knows how to translate that feel free to correct me!)

  2. Denise! says:

    How ironic because this is a on going issue for our household. I’ve always put Logan to sleep in my bed and once she was sleep I put her in her bed. Sometimes she wakes up and cries to come in my room (I let her). Lastnight Logan could not sleep. She was sleepy but just couldn’t go to sleep. She cried and cried. I knew what she wanted and so I brought her into my bed, held her and rubbed her back until she fell asleep. When it’s nap time she’ll cry when I put her in her room and sometimes she doesn’t.

    If you heard Logan cry, you’d wish you were deaf! I don’t know where she gets those lungs but I can’t even attempt to let her cry it out. It’s just not an option. To each it’s own…but not me.

  3. Stephy K says:

    Crying themselves to sleep only worked with 1 of my kids. The other 2 would just cry until they were all worked up.
    I am NOT a Farber Mommy.

    I do believe in self soothing though.
    My kids never went to sleep with a bottle. If they did fall asleep I woke them up and took the bottle away. If they fell asleep at the boob (during day time hours) I woke them and snuggled and THEN put them to bed. At night, well I was a co-sleep person and it is so easy to just pop a boob in their mouth and drift back off.

    I did not go running when the baby cried. I always gave it a minute so, so that they could learn to figure things out for themselves.

    The best advice I ever got as far as baby sleeping goes…

    Do not let a baby sleep for more than 2 hours at a time during the day. Wake them, change them, sing a song, then if they are still tired put them back down for a bit longer.
    Also, keep the noise level in the house at a normal volume during day hours.
    I laugh at parents who do not flush while the baby is sleeping and then wonder why the baby wakes up at every single noise. My kids can sleep through a damn tornado.

    I think for the most part I have done an OK job at the whole Mom thing. Made mistakes, got a few things right and am pretty happy at how they are turning out.

    • nina says:

      Kali could sleep through anything. Jack? Not so much. We did the whole, “keep the noise level normal/high” to get him used to sleeping w/ noise, but it didn’t really work. He’s hit or miss. I’ve seen him sleep through us playing Rock Band, but I’ve also seen him wake up if I sneezed or yes, flushed the toilet. Depending on what I got going on, I’ll play along. If I have a paper to write or homework to do, then I may not flush/play loud music/talk on phone, etc. to chance him waking up and me not getting done what needs to get done.

  4. Alegra says:

    I’ve known some people to do the ‘crying it out’ method to a very strict degree and it was like torture for Dan and I to watch. Putting a one month old swaddled and left alone in a room because it was ‘time’ for him/her to go to sleep seemed really unfair to me…especially considering that little bub barely realizes he/she is separate from his Mama until he is how old?

    With Sol even if we had felt okay wiht it, crying it out was not an option. He would have screamed until his head popped off, he is just wired that way. Zaviera, as she has gotten older, we allow to have a moan here and there…but when she was a baby she didn’t often have a hard time falling asleep and we wouldn’t have had the heart to leave her alone and crying. We have always tried to follow a schedule but not a rigid one. Like, for example, people who will only feed the baby when it is the scheduled feeding time.

    With this baby we will play it by ear again. The only difference probably being that we are now on the third round, we are more seasoned parents and we definitely need our sleep…so we might have to be a little more tough in some areas (she says now…)

  5. Let us not forget that most parents do not set out on the parenting journey expecting to use the “cry it out” method. Many who do end up using it are, if for nothing else, trying to see if it will help them get some sleep.

    Saying that, I don’t think any baby has to cry to go to sleep. I wrote my thoughts on this in my post “holistic sleep training”.

    Now, saying that, I have a 9.5mth old that has been an awesome sleeper right from birth (not that she slept the night at birth, but was a good sleeper in general). As she gets older and wants to play with the bigger kids, when it’s time for her day time naps she has started “crying”, “fussing”…I don’t know what you want to call it. I put her down and by some internal fear that the natural twitter moms will somehow be able to hear her, I start counting 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi…I usually stop at three, one time I have gotten to 5…yup 5 seconds and a great 2-3 hour nap that ends with a smiling, happy baby when she gets up.

    There have been times when the “cry” changes and I go and get her because obviously something else is wrong that I didn’t consider.

    I have three other children who are home all day…a baby (notice I didn’t say newborn) who doesn’t sleep on their own ever is just not an option in this house.

  6. I don’t have any kids yet obviously, but I remember not being able to stand my little brother and little sister crying themselves to sleep for hours. I doubt I could do that to my child, but who knows?

    My question is, what’s a pack and play?

  7. Cassie says:

    I don’t let any small child in my care cry if I can help it….but I don’t have to be with them all the time.

  8. Lisa says:

    I think there’s a huge difference between an overtired baby fussing for a few minutes with mom/dad holding them or nearby to pick them up if leaving them doesn’t work & cry it out/controlled crying/ferberizing/babywise. The first one can help with a baby that just needs to stop being stimulated to get some sleep. The second is cruel & never necessary, imo. The most important thing babies need to learn is trust. How can they ever learn that if their cries are ignored. I think, for me, the argument that makes the most sense is “If your partner or parent was unable to speak & they were crying, would you close them up in a dark room alone or would you comfort them?” Why are babies any different? If anything, they need more comfort & attention.

    • Alegra says:

      I agree. This sort of summarized what I was thinking but didn’t put into words, so I had to chime in! With my second child I learned that sometimes she needed to have a good cry before going to sleep – just to expel excess energy. But there is a definite difference between learning these cues/personality types/individual needs (including taking into consideration parental exhaustion!) and enforcing a rigid code on a baby.

  9. Raeleen says:

    I held my daughter to go to sleep until she was about 3 and I could barely lift her anymore. She just did not fall asleep with out being held, not bottle, not pacifier just needed to be snuggled, I layed in bed with her for about 10 minutes rubbing her back for years after, that it is what works for her. My son on the other hand needed to be put in his crib awake to go to sleep. If you tried to rock him or rub his back he just wanted to keep going. I don’t remember either of them crying themselves to sleep ever.

  10. Deb says:

    We used the Ferber method with both kids–at eight months and six months, respectively. It was horrible to listen to the crying, especially with the first. But it worked. Within a week, we could just put them down when they started looking tired and that was that. No “standing on one leg” BS. They were 100% more pleasant during the day being well-rested at night, and went down for naps without a fight. I’m glad we did it and wouldn’t take it back. I know people with 2 and 3 year olds who still get up at all hours to rock and bring milk and all that nonsense.

    I’m not saying crying it out is easy or fun or right for every family, but it was successful for us. My kids, now 15 and 28 months, sleep from about 7:45 to 5:45 without a peep 90% of the time. When they do wake up at night now, it’s usually because they’re sick, teething, or having a nightmare. We get up and comfort them for a few minutes, get some ibuprofen if they need it, and put them back to bed.

  11. Maven says:

    I can remember the PB and I standing outside TH’s bedroom door fighting because he wanted to go in and I was adamant on letting him cry it out. In the end, neither of us could take it and TH only cried it out a few times. Knowing what I do now about attachment, I’m glad I relented.

    The PB and I have actually been incredibly laid back in our parenting style – we’re kind of old hippies in an updated non pot smoking way – and we still managed to raise an honour student with no current criminal record.

    I figure as long as you love them lots, tell them there’s no one in the world better, and insist on respect for self, parents, property and others, you’ll raise great kids.

    As you know with Kali, the time they spend crying is over in the blink of an eye, but the things you do to create those love bonds when they’re tiny last a lifetime.

  12. Issue close to my heart this one.

    My son is an appalling sleeper. I mean REALLY bad. We’ve tried a lot of things but leaving him to ‘cry it out’ is not one them.

    It’s not that I’m against it so much, I think it probably works fine for SOME children. But I am never, ever going to think that leaving my baby to sob hysterically and work himself up to such a state where he is sick (which was the result the few brief times we experimented with it) can ever be a good idea. It is also not the way I want to teach my baby to sleep, or what I want to teach my baby ABOUT sleep. Kai needs what he needs, I can’t change him (nor would I want to) and for him part of what he needs is contact and reassurance at night. I’m ok with that.

    I do believe in self-soothing, but only when the baby is ready. I think it is ok for baby’s to need their parents at night when they are little, that parenting shouldn’t end at 7pm. So we’re going with the slow and steady approach, letting Kai set the pace – and it’s working! At 12 months old Kai is transitioning well from co-sleeping to cot sleeping, learning to settle himself, sleeping longer stretches.

    I don’t judge parents that resort to ‘crying it out’ though. God only knows I have had so many nights when all I wanted to do was shut the door and walk away – we all have our limits.

    I blog a lot about sleep if anyone is having similar issues (sorry Nina for the plug!)

    • nina says:

      Plug away. Link your blog if you like. I’m coming back later to really respond and engage in some of these comments. Good stuff!

  13. chynachicka says:

    I’m a little up in the air when it comes to the crying it out thing. Our newest addition to the family recently made his debut and I wouldn’t let him cry it out just because he’s a adapting to life and a new environment. So, I do things now with him that I know our developing bad habits, but habits we know that aren’t hard to break. Like Dad will let him lay on his chest to fall asleep. I snuggle up next to him and let him feel my warmth to fall asleep.

    Now we also have a two year old son. He doesn’t always want to lay down when he is tired. He can be rubbing his eyes yawning bout to fall out tired and will not just lay down and rest. So, there have been times where I’ve placed him in his crib and allowed him to cry it out. I don’t think it’s ever lasted longer then 7 or 8 minutes then he’s out for the count.

    I think in each situation it’s different. Parents know their child(ren) best and know what is going to work and what isn’t. If it’s better to let them cry it out versus you doing something ignorant and landing in jail, I say let the kid cry it out. But if your just being lazy then I say suck it up and take care of your kid.

  14. Laken says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting a child fuss before going to sleep. My little guy (who is 10 weeks old) has been fighting sleep HARD for the past week. But I can tell the difference between his weak “I’m tired but don’t want to go to sleep” cry…and a real “I’m pissed off so come and get me!” cry. There’s no way I would let him stay in a room screaming his poor little head off, no matter how tired I was. IMO, if a baby is crying they need something…even if that something is to be cuddled by Momma! There’s a huge difference between a child fighting sleep and fussing themselves to sleep…and a child who falls asleep because they’re exhausted from crying so hard.

  15. I’m certainly not a parent, but I’ll weigh in anyway. Could it be that these babies that won’t stop crying are trying to communicate something and getting frustrated? Like, “This blanket is scratchy!” or “It’s a little too warm in here!” or “Can you turn up Tyra? That episode sounds really good!” That’s why I’d love to teach my (unborn) children baby sign language. Then my baby could tell me when to turn up the music she likes and stop crying during naptime. Being a mom sounds so hard. I do believe it’s the hardest job in the world.

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