The phrase ‘cry it out’ is the most well known sleep-training tactic, but is often misunderstood. Those that follow this method aren’t leaving their babies to cry alone in a dark room all night. Instead, the idea is that babies can cry for short, calculated intervals before mummy or daddy checks in to reassure them that everything is okay.
The most famous ‘cry it out’ approach is from Pediatrician Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. If you’re interested in trying this method, here’s some general advice below. But remember, you really have to stick it out, and it’s tough – so be prepared.
To try this method:
Put your baby in her cot or bassinet when she is drowsy, but not fully asleep. Lovingly say goodnight and leave the room – prepare yourself for tears.
After three minutes of crying (or however much you’re comfortable with – just stick to a regular schedule), go in and quietly reassure your baby with a few pats and shushes, but don’t pick her up. Quickly leave the room again, even if your baby is still crying.
Five minutes later (or any amount of time longer than the previous waiting period), repeat the same routine. From that point on, wait 10 minutes to check in until the baby is finally asleep. It’s not uncommon for the first night or two to take up to an hour.
The most important part of this approach is to be consistent. Caving in and rocking your baby every now and then will only confuse her, which is counterproductive to your training.
Most experts promise that after three or four nights of hellish torture for the parents, the majority of babies will fall asleep without a peep. For some it might take up to a week, but the process has an extremely high success rate.
Tips and advice:
There’s not a doubt that this method of sleep training is absolute torture for the parents helplessly listening to their little baby’s cries. It’s best to have a partner, friend or family member around for support and distraction.
If you’re on the fence about abandoning your efforts, give it a good solid two weeks before throwing in the towel, only because all of your efforts (and your baby’s tears) will have been a waste. While it might be excruciating to endure, the ultimate goal is more restful sleep for everyone involved so keep that in mind.
Also realise that there will ultimately be circumstances that set back your efforts, like teething, illness, traveling, moving and developmental milestones like rolling, sitting and crawling. You very well might have to start over from the beginning.
Skeptics accuse this method of being cruel, unnatural and betraying of your baby’s budding trust. Remember, even ‘cry it out’ experts do not support long bouts of crying without any kind of parental comfort. If done consistently, this is one of the fastest-working approaches without any substantial evidence that it could be damaging.
Not comfortable with this logic? Don’t ever do something that clashes with your parental instincts.