The Saturday Question: Should You Let Baby Cry It Out?

sleeping-baby-1Emptying the compost bin, washing the cloth diapers, and tending the garden are all regular green lifestyle routines, but they’re tough to keep up without sleep.  Some parents are resolute about  nursing on demand and happily sacrifice sleep for a few years. Others declare that letting baby learn to self-soothe by crying it out is best for everyone in the long run.  What has your experience been with sleep (or the lack thereof)?


  1. This is a great explanation of why CIO is bad for families:

  2. I had a hard time reading books like Babywise, especially because they said they’d let babies CIO at only a few weeks old. I couldn’t do it. I put the book away and refused to finish it. We’ve just stuck to a “bedtime routine” and our sweet baby girl is sleeping 6-8 hours now at 2 months old. We’re grateful for such a good baby, and that we didn’t try to let her cry it out.

  3. I wrote this post so I have to cop to the fact that we did “sleep train” our oldest when he was 5 1/2 months old. We co-slept with him before that and loved the cuddling and easy night time nursing. But for our son he reached a point where he enjoyed bellying up to the bar every hour or more just for some comfort. I was exhausted and so foggy that it felt hard to be a good parent, let alone drive an automobile without swerving off the road. We made sure to establish a loving and consistent night time ritual and then did have him cry it out, but we checked on him frequently to reassure him. It took two nights and then he slept beautifully by himself in his crib. We couldn’t believe the shift in our overall feeling of sanity and well-being.

    In general though, I’m leery of declarations that one method of sleeping is the absolute best and that others are harmful. We have friends who co-slept through their child’s third year and had a great experience and other families we know never had the baby in bed with them and are glad to have kept baby in her own room. The most important thing for every family is to find what works best for them.

    My second child is now four months old and is nursing continually all night long. It’s complex because I’ve just gone back to work and she doesn’t want to eat during the day so she makes up for it at night. But it’s both physically and mentally exhausting so we’re going to try to transition her at least to a co-sleeper and in a few weeks to her crib. I wish she didn’t kick me in the belly or punch me in the chest while we sleep or I would keep her with us for longer! Please feel free to share what you did with your child. We welcome all stories!

  4. I have a five week old and read both Dr. Sears’ and the Dr. Ezzo (Babywise) on infant sleep and how to deal with it. I started off with breastfeeding my baby on demand but found that she ate all the time (or so it seemed). I was sleep deprived and of course that affected my ability to cope as a new mom as well as wife. I read the Babywise book and decided to implement the feed/wake/sleep schedule but chose not to let my child cry for twenty minutes just to see how long it would really take. At this point, if she is crying for any length of time, I feel the best thing for her and for me is to comfort her and try again to get her to sleep while she’s calm rather than frantic.
    I find that every day there are situations that call for various responses. Sometimes I need to pick her up and get her out of the bed, other times I can let her cry for a few minutes while I sit next to her with a hand on her belly to let her know I’m there. Just as there is no “one” solution to every situation, I agree with Joy that there is not one single method to use (and that is one other place I disagree with Dr. Ezzo…his method is not for all babies for all times).
    This is a great question and hope many others answer as I know I can use all the ideas possible…we are still in the beginning phase of establishing a good sleep pattern.

  5. oops…I just looked at the book again. Gary Ezzo is not a doctor; his co-author, Robert Bucknam, is.

  6. I have as Dr. Sears would describe a “high needs” baby when it comes to sleep. CIO will not work. We haven’t exactly tried it, but we have had times when we had to put him in his crib to cry so we could take a breather.

    CIO simply won’t work for our family. His sleep (and mine) could be much better, and I’m hopeful that as he gets older, his sleep will improve. It already has somewhat.

  7. First of all every baby and family IS different … clearly not one method will “work” for everyone.

    Part of what we’ve done with our 2 boys is try really hard to respond in a caring and loving manner that felt “right about in our gut” if that makes sense.

    Sometimes a little uncomfortable fussing felt necessary to test the waters for myself and our babies… to see what might work better, when things hard clearly stopped working for us – I think when you’re at that point where Joy seems to be… doing/trying SOMETHING new feels better than the horrible never lifting fog of sleep deprivation.

    It can become very depressing to feel like you aren’t able to do anything well… parenting, mothering, working, being a good spouse or even a safe driver. That’s when I have found myself desperate to come up with a new way… an new plan.

    Even if the 1st new thing doesn’t work… keep trying and set your expectations low 😉 Every little step in the right direction is worth it – your sanity and beauty sleep IS vital!

    P.S. I have also found that sometimes a 1/2 a glass of wine in the evening helps me take off that edge of stress and makes the nite go MUCH better.

  8. As a result of three months of traveling, my 8 month old has developed some less than desirable sleep habits, (mainly crying every time his back touches the crib and desperately wanting to sleep in my arms, which makes me sleep poorly). Having read (and highly recommending) Elizabeth Pantlys No Cry Sleep Soulutions we have decided to let him cry. We would never had done this with him when he was small, but I know that he can (and has) slept through the night and go down easily, so it is a matter of getting him to do it.
    As this point checking on him only makes the crying worse as he hate to see people leave. We have a set a maximum time for crying (an hour) after which we go and rescue him. He has made it there once.
    I fully admit to having only a vague sense of what I am doing and find it interesting and helpful to see what others are doing.

  9. Leigh,
    That is EXACTLY what has happened with my second child! After staying up with her all night last night trying to ensure that she sleeps in her cosleeper, we feel like we’re the victims. She only slept for three hours total in it and that was with me having to pat her and put in her binky at intervals. Finally, we ended up sleeping with her in our arms just because we were so exhausted. When she’s in my arms she nurses almost constantly. It feels like I’m back to those first tough weeks of breast feeding a newborn! She’s a bit small for crying it out so my husband and I may just be weeping for the next few weeks until we can work on sleep training.

  10. I am NOT a fan of cry-it-out. I believe babies cry for a reason (teething, hunger, lonliness) so I just resigned myself to co-sleeping and being tired for the first year. After she was weaned and sleeping in her own room she went through a phase of waking up a bunch of times at night, so I decided it was time to get her back on track. My friend taught me this method (she calls it “spirit breaking”) and it is much more gentle than cry-it-out.

    Every time she would wake up, I would go in to her room and lay her back down. She would completely freak out and stand back up, only to be laid back down again. Every time I laid her down I would say “shhh, time for sleep”. Finally she would be too tired to keep standing up so I would rub her back or whatever until she fell asleep. The first night it took an hour to get her to sleep, then I had to stay in the room because when she heard my footsteps on the floor she would wake up. There were several nights when I would fall asleep on the floor next to her crib with my hand on her back through the crib bars. Now she is back on schedule. This went on for almost two weeks, but it got easier and easier as the days passed. Now she sleeps all night again. My kid HATES to sleep, so this was a big deal for us.

  11. I swore I wasn’t going to ever let my baby cry it out. My husband wanted to try it and I actually got angry with him for suggesting it…
    I thought the only way to get my baby to sleep was to walk/bounce him. I spent most of my days and nights for 3 months trying to get him to sleep and then laying him down only to have him start wailing the moment his back hit the bed. Just when I thought I was going to lose my mind, my mom came for a visit and one day made me leave his room when I was trying to put him down for a nap. I did hear about 10-15 minutes of crying…but then it stopped. I thought she had picked him up but when she came out of his room I found out that she instead had laid him down on his tummy (controversial I know, but he is almost 4 months now and can flip over if he wants to anyway) and patted and rubbed his back until he fell asleep. This is the way he has been sleeping ever since. Now if he gets the slightest bit fussy, all I have to do is put him down in his crib and he falls asleep on his own. I even leave him awake sometimes and he doesn’t even need me to pat/rub his back anymore….he just falls asleep (something I never thought possible). If he doesn’t settle down within a few minutes then I know he’s not sleepy and something else is bothering him, so I pick him up and we figure it out from there. I also should mention he’s a thumb sucker (has been almost from birth) and so he can soothe himself to sleep that way.
    I know the risks of putting a baby down on their tummy to sleep…but honestly everyone I know slept that way as a baby and we all survived it somehow. My baby is a lot happier and actually seems to like to go to sleep now…he takes more naps then ever before and sleeps for longer periods during the night (although sleeping through the night is still something that happens only occasionally). So I am a total advocate of finding what works for you and your baby…flipping him over to his tummy and letting him cry for a little period of time really worked for us (but I understand that it wouldn’t work in every case with every baby).

  12. Still co-sleeping, still night-nursing at almost 22 months. But when I get close to my limit (and I have, several times), I turn to this article: I haven’t tried it yet. But I feel a whole lot better knowing that I have another (non-CIO) option if I need it.

    I also picked up The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers, but the library made me give it back before I was done. I really have to request it again; there was some good stuff in there.

  13. Wow, I want to say THANKS to all of you. Our baby is almost 5 months old and we are trying to do a soft bedtime routine and make him stay in his co-sleeper most of the night. It is odd, but he was fine in it for the first few months – esp. when swaddled. He even went through a month or so of sleeping 5 hour stretches at night, then feeding, then another 2-3 hours stretch. Since we stopped swaddling him, he too has started wanting to eat every couple of hours or more and sometimes wakes screaming when I put him back in the co-sleeper. (Usually, though, he just ends up in bed with us b/c I fall asleep while he is nursing, though I am very careful with my position and the sheet position, since I know that I might doze now that he is feeding SO often.) We have started on rice cereal mixed in the breastmilk for one of his last feeds and he is a big fan. So far, though he won’t take it in the bottle but only from a spoon. He finds the spoon so exciting! He is a big boy for not even 5 months, esp. since babies in my family are usually so small and I am supershort, so I think he is ready for solids and our doctor suggested it. He is almost 27 inches and 17 pounds, but not real pudgy. So far, it does not make him sleep any longer at a stretch at night, though. Anyway, I am getting offtrack here. We are interested in some gentle sleep training, and I plan to bookmark this thread so I can refer back to it. Such good ideas! He is such an easy baby, that when he cries it really gets to me. Even a minute and I give in. Its like when he cries, he cries tears quite quickly and looks so distressed (since he is usually so calm and/or playful) that I just can’t take it. He usually only cries like that when he is in pain (like gas) or sometimes during diaper changes if he is tired, so I don’t want to MAKE him cry like that to go to bed. But I know, never say never, we may have to try to let him fuss and even cry a little so he learns to put himself to sleep. Last night I noticed he was sleepy, but happy and babbling to the ceiling fan again, so I left him in there with dim light and he fell asleep on his own. So his trick might be we need to leave him alone when he is sleepy and happy so he does not get overtired and cranky. The other problem is his two short naps (30m – 1 hr) and one long nap (2-4 hrs) have converted to 3-4 short naps (20-40 minutes). Makes getting work done (since I work at home) really hard! Lately, I have tried putting him down when he seems to be getting sleepy and fussy, and he just gets mad and it seems to take him longer to get to sleep and then he sleeps less, so I wonder if I need to go back to nursing him until he naps or walking him in the ergo til he naps for now. Any more ideas?

  14. We tried cry it out all of twice and it broke my heart. I tried all of the sleep books and nothing worked. She is now 2 yrs + 1 month and she still often wakes once in the night, but it is manageable and I am glad we co-slept and let her learn to sleep well in her own time. When you are in the midst of it and so tired and emotional it seems it will never end but it does!

Speak Your Mind