The Cry-It-Out Controversy and My Family’s Sleep Story

I’m coming out. My name is Alice, and I sleep-trained my daughter. I let her cry while she learned to go to sleep on her own. Yes, I let her cry-it-out.

I have since learned that letting babies cry is very controversial. Spend a little time on parenting forums or blogs, and you will find that some feel cry-it-out (CIO) is akin to child abuse. Recently, there have been several online articles that claim there is scientific evidence that CIO can cause lasting damage to a child’s brain. The Psychology Today article by Darcia Narvaez (Dangers of “Crying It Out”) was widely shared and retold to huge audiences on Babble, Huffington Post, and Yahoo Shine.

I read these articles with concern. Many, many families use some form of CIO and find that it helps everyone in the family sleep better. As the theories about CIO and brain damage bounced around parenting communities, I wondered how many families were second-guessing the choices they had made. Were their kids really at risk for brain damage and long-term relationship problems?

Closer to my heart, had my decisions put BabyC at risk? My love for my daughter is beyond words. The focus of my every day is on doing the best thing for her, and to me that means being sensitive, respectful, responsive, and patient. Some days, I am overwhelmed by the weight of that responsibility, but that is motherhood, isn’t it? When someone tells me that I may have harmed my child, I take it very seriously.

Sleep is intensely personal, and writing about this topic is hard for me, but I feel that CIO is something that I have to write about. When a parenting practice becomes controversial and “hot-button,” as CIO has, we often shy away from talking about it. None of us like to feel judged, and I personally have no interest in judging others. While the loudest voices continue to shout rhetoric, many parents internalize the self-doubt and then feel paralyzed with fear that they are making the wrong choices for their kids. I want to write about this topic with open-hearted honesty and respect for all the different ways families find to get sleep.

This is the first in a series of at least three posts on sleep and stress in babies. In future posts, I will focus on what science tells us about the risks and benefits of sleep training. My goal is to provide parents with an honest interpretation of the science so that they can make informed decisions about sleep in their families. This is important to me, because while I have seen many articles citing science in discussing the risks of CIO, all of these writers have an obvious anti-CIO bias and are not presenting a balanced view of the research with all its limitations. (As a rule of thumb, if you ever read an article citing scientific evidence that doesn’t mention its limitations, the author has not presented the full story.)

Of course, how sleep looks for any given child depends on age and temperament, as well as parenting philosophy. For example, families that choose to co-sleep may find there is never a need for CIO, but co-sleeping is not right for all families. Even with co-sleeping, there is sometimes a need for a transition (less nighttime nursing, for example) that is faced with resistance from baby. My hope is that my posts on this topic will empower parents to focus on trying to understand and respect the needs of each child, within the context of their family, rather than worry about someone else’s opinion about how you and your baby should get sleep.

One problem with talking about CIO is that it has many definitions. Some assume that CIO means putting the baby down for bed, shutting the door, and not returning until morning, but I think that very few families actually try this method. Most families use some version of the method popularized by Richard Ferber, which involves letting the baby cry but returning to comfort her at gradually increasing intervals. Other families may allow the baby to cry but stay with her during this time, perhaps gradually removing that presence as the baby becomes more comfortable falling asleep on her own. There are countless variations of “sleep training” and CIO, because all babies and all parents are different in the way they handle this transition. I use the term CIO, but to me, it means asking the baby to fall asleep, at some point without parental presence, and accepting that some crying may be involved in this process. I also want to separate this discussion from night wakings. We can ask babies to fall asleep on their own but still respond to their needs for food and comfort during the night.

What did sleep training look like in our house?

Beyond the first week or two of her life, sleep did not come easily to BabyC. She rarely fell asleep while nursing, and while my friends’ babies were lulled to sleep in the car, BabyC screamed through entire car rides. The one magical combination that worked to sooth her and help her sleep was to swaddle her, put her in a sling, and bounce on an exercise ball. Husband and I spent more time bouncing on that ball, day and night, than any other single activity during the first few months of BabyC’s life.

Soon, BabyC knew of only two ways to go to sleep: going for a walk in a front carrier and bouncing on that damn ball. We took lots of walking naps during the day, but I couldn’t walk all night long. And so, we bounced. As BabyC got older, she required more and more bouncing to get to a deep sleep, often 30-60 minutes by the time she was a few months old. Then we would stealthily ease her into her bed, but she would often wake up as soon as the bouncing stopped, and we’d have to start the process all over again. She was also waking about every 45 minutes between her initial 9 PM bedtime and midnight. At these times and later in the night, I would see if BabyC wanted to nurse, and then we would go through the bouncing routine all over again to get her back to sleep. It is one thing to bounce for an hour at 9 PM, but at 3 AM, it is an entirely different endeavor.

At this point, we had already “sleep-trained” BabyC. We had trained her (or she had trained us, depending on your perspective) to need bouncing in order to sleep. I hated the thought that her brain only knew how to transition to sleep when it was bouncing up and down. And I hated the feeling that I was trying to trick her by bouncing her to sleep and then sneaking her into bed, fingers crossed that she wouldn’t notice that the movement had stopped. Of course, all babies have developed strong sleep associations by this age. Some require a nipple in their mouth, be it boob, bottle, or pacifier, to fall asleep. Some babies need to be rocked to sleep, and some prefer a mechanical swing. A friend’s baby simply needed to be swaddled in his crib – his eyes drifted shut just as she was tucking in the blanket.

None of these things worked for my baby. In hindsight, I wonder what we could have done differently from the very start so that we didn’t end up in this bouncing dilemma, but I think many new parents find themselves in a similar situation. After all, everyone tells you to do whatever works to soothe the baby and help her sleep. Bouncing worked, until it didn’t.

When she was three months old, we decided that we needed to break BabyC’s sleep association with bouncing. I decided to transition her to rocking to sleep. That at least seemed more restful than bouncing, and I figured we could then slowly work on falling asleep without motion. We would snuggle into the rocking chair for a quiet bedtime routine of nursing and reading. Finally, I held her close and sang her sweet lullabies. And BabyC? She wailed. She cried in my arms for up to an hour at a time before every nap and every nighttime sleep. She was exhausted but didn’t know how to go to sleep. She looked at me, pleadingly, as if to ask, “It is time to sleep – why won’t you just bounce me?” I told her, in my calmest, most patient voice, “BabyC, we aren’t going to bounce to sleep anymore. This is the new way to fall asleep.” I kept this up for two weeks – trying fast rocking, slow rocking, and simply holding her with stillness – but she wasn’t buying it. Letting her cry in my arms wasn’t working, and I had a sense of doom that if it ever did, we would then be saddled with a new sleep association that we would need to break.

At this point, I finally had to admit that my presence wasn’t helping BabyC in her struggle to fall asleep. This is a very difficult thing for a new mother to do. For the first time, I had to accept that I couldn’t buffer her from every struggle in life. She needed a little space to learn to sleep on her own.

And so, one night, after our bedtime routine, Husband and I put a tired BabyC in her crib and told her that it was time to go to sleep. We told her that we knew this was hard for her and that it was hard for us, too. We told her that we loved her more than anything, and then we left. She cried, and we returned periodically to reassure her with a gentle voice and touch. The first night, there was a lot of crying, but by the third night, she fussed for only a few minutes before falling asleep.

Over the course of a few days, BabyC went from being a baby who struggled to fall asleep, despite all of our soothing, to a baby that went to sleep easily on her own and only woke once per night to nurse. (She continued to have one nighttime feeding until she dropped it on her own around 8 months.) She went from having fragmented nighttime sleep of about 8 hours to sleeping 12 hours per night. We would often wake to the sound of her babbling contentedly in her crib after a good night’s sleep, whereas before our mornings began abruptly with the sound of her crying. She was more cheerful and engaged during the day, and she cried less overall, certainly less than she did when I was letting her cry in my arms. I was finally getting some sleep, too, and I no longer had that horrible feeling of resentment that sometimes crept into my heart when I was bouncing BabyC at 2 AM, my back and neck aching. I was well-rested and able to be a responsive, sensitive mom, day and night.

I don’t doubt that sleep training was stressful to BabyC for a few nights, and I would probably do things a bit differently the next time around, but for us, the benefits to our entire family were beyond measure. However, I want to assure you that I did not set out on my research on this topic looking for justification for CIO. Husband and I hope to have another child someday, and I genuinely want to know if CIO is safe before I consider using it with kid #2. And as always, I take very seriously the responsibility of explaining science honestly on this blog.  I did not pick and choose research to support one side or the other – I simply describe what I found and what I think it means.

Stay tuned for my posts on the science of sleep and stress in babies. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you helped your babies get to sleep, whether or not it involved crying. The more stories we can share with each other about what worked in our families, the more we realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Want to read more about my research on infant sleep? I became slightly obsessed with it and wrote lots about it! Be sure to read the comment threads – there is great discussion and parental wisdom in the stories from other parents!

Why Sleep Matters to Babies and Parents

The Importance of Self-Soothing to Infant Sleep (and how to support it!)

Sleep Solutions for Every Baby

Infant Sleep Research: Bedsharing, Self-Soothing, and Sleep Training

Helping Babies Cope With Stress and Learn to Sleep

6 Little Secrets of a Sleeping Baby

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232 thoughts on “The Cry-It-Out Controversy and My Family’s Sleep Story

  1. Alice, great blog post. I think it’s important that we parents find a way to support each other through making some very hard decisions rather than tearing each other down because we disagree or don’t share every philosophy or approach. Unfortunately, there will always be people who criticize, because that’s their character. My family bedshares/co-sleeps, and my son is nearly two. According to some in my circle, I am harming him *immensely* by not training him to sleep by himself in his own room. I have friends who secretely bedshare with their preschooler…secretly not because there’s something wrong with it, but because it is socially unacceptable, not unlike nursing a kindergartener, for example. When I’m asked for advice, I share the no-cry sleep solutions that I’ve found to be successful, and then let. it. go. We all need to give each other space to experiment and find the rhythm that works for our individual families, and respect that we are all doing the very best that we know how to do. Much love to you and BabyC and Mr. Alice!

    • I’m a big believer in the thought that there are many wonderful, healthy ways to parent and that it doesn’t help anyone (certainly not our kids!) to judge others’ parenting as “harmful.” (Within reason – hitting kids, for example, is never OK in my book, but that is a statement that is well-supported by solid research.) It is crazy that we sometimes feel that we can’t be open with each other about how we sleep, because there is probably a lot we could learn from each other about one of the hardest parts of parenting! Just as you have friends who secretly bedshare, I have found myself whispering about CIO in public places, feeling nervous about being judged. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I hope this can help open a non-judgmental discussion here.

  2. We did CIO for our daughter. As an infant she had no sleep problems and was a good sleeper- sleeping through the night, on her own, by 8 weeks! Then there was the dreaded 4 month wakeful period and her sleep went to cr*p. She could put herself to sleep at bedtime with no problem, but would wake up frequently in the night. FInally, after months of sleep deprivation for everyone, her waking every couple of hours and needing to be nursed back to sleep, we decided to CIO/sleep train.

    We knew she could sleep through the night- since she’d done it on her own for 2+ months before the 4 month wakeful period.

    Since we were in a 1BR apartment, there was nowhere for us to go in the middle of the night while she cried. We’d get up, rub her back, shush her, then get back in bed, laying there while she cried. We’d shush her from our bed and she knew we were there, so it was by no means abandoning her. And yes, there were times where she got so worked up that we abandoned the training and picked her up to comfort her. It wasn’t a stringent process. We did what seemed right at the time.

    It took a couple of weeks to get her completely sleep trained- where she wouldn’t wake up in the night at all, or would only want a drink of water or a diaper change before going back to sleep quickly on her own. However, within a few days of starting CIO, her sleep improved noticeably.

    I’m looking forward to your review of this literature. As you said- the vast majority of coverage on this topic has a clear bias, with the most vocal being those who rail against it.

  3. My son still wakes 5+ times during the night. He’ll be 2 in April. I nurse him to sleep and he nurses during his night wakings, too. I tried CIO for 3 nights when he was 9 months old. It always resulted in vomit, and he was getting really sick and had pneumonia. I know they aren’t linked. I felt like a horrible mother when I went to check on him and he was so tired but couldn’t lay down because there was barf all over him and his bed. Night weaning has proven very difficult. I don’t want him to barf at 2 am, and I am also so sleep deprived that I know if I put my boob in his mouth, we can both go back to sleep. So, I’m choosing to wait it out and wean gently, and just hope it’s all over in a year or so. I’m glad CIO worked for your family, I agree that it’s not for every one, or even every baby. The next one might respond differently.

    • Oh, that sounds so difficult – I’m sure I would have done the same thing (if my baby nursed to sleep!). I definitely agree that CIO is not for all babies. It is too stressful for some, and some just won’t respond to it at all. I think when it works, it usually works very quickly. When it doesn’t, your instinct tells you that this is not the way to go and you look for other solutions. Good luck – maybe we’ll hear from others here who have found no-cry solutions that might help you as well.

    • I tried CIO for both of my kids when they reached the 5-6 month mark. My first born never got to the point of getting tired of crying. He just keeps getting himself worked up (he has a stubborn personality) and would always end up vomiting. So I gave up after a couple of nights. With my daughter, I was determined to make it work so I wanted to give it 4-5 days. The first night was tough, she cried for 1 1/2 hours total before finally giving in to exhaustion and slept. For the record, we would try to soothe her every 5 minutes, then 10 and so on as outlined by the Ferber method. The second night, she cried for 2 hours total. The third night resulted with her vomiting after crying for over an hour and that’s when we figured that this CIO thing is really not for our kids. My kids are just fighters and would never give up crying. It was so heartbreaking to hear my baby cry and I would cry with her silently. We were thankfully in the room with her (out of her sight) most of the time so we were able to pick her up right away when she started vomiting. I ended up co-sleeping with my kids and they would sleep 10-12 hours with us. That is how we finally got our sleep. My son started sleeping in his room at age 2 after the arrival of his baby sister. He refuses to sleep in our room now but I do have to lie down with him so he can go down for the night. My daughter is now 1 1/2 and sleeps in her own bed in her room. She sleeps thru the night (10-11 hours). She would sometimes wake up once in the middle of the night but we just need to change her overnight diaper and soothe her and she goes right back to sleep (except when she’s teething). I know a lot of friends that have implemented CIO successfully and more who either didn’t even try or weren’t successful at it. One group shouldn’t judge the other. We do what works for our situation and for our babies’ personality.

      • Hi Kristine – Thanks for telling about your experience and what you found worked for you and your kiddos. I wouldn’t be able to handle the vomiting either. To me, that is indicating that the baby is experiencing severe stress, and it is time to find another solution. And of course, I totally agree that judgement is unnecessary and unhelpful.

  4. Thank you Alice for such a thoughtful post. I had a horrible time getting my firstborn to self soothe and as a pediatrician, I was certain that eventually CIO would be the way to go. Problem is, when I did try with him, I was met with dry heaving, vomiting, red in the face, and no signs of calming down whatsoever. I ditched CIO fairly quickly. But do have to say, he is still a difficult one to get to sleep (and he’s 7!). My second, was and still is, always a fantastic sleeper. Never had to do any of the “tricks” or co-sleep that my son needed. I chalked it up to different temperament and nighttime parenting sleep needs. Sleep certainly is so intensely personal and no one should feel judged on how they find it. I wonder though, in the’s really our children showing us what they need, instead of the other way around. I had to get creative with my son and think outside the box when it came time for bed. My daughter? She needed to sleep and that’s what she did. I hope as you, that parents feel empowered to find the right solution for their own family based on their and their child’s needs instead of being boxed in by any “should dos”…life just doesn’t work that way. And? Hallelujah!! for a sleeping child…congratulations mama :)

  5. I let my daughter, who is a great sleeper (now, she used to wake every 45 minuutes…), cry it out around 5 months old. It took about three nights, and now two years later, other than when she is sick or scared, she falls asleep nicely, and even sometimes asks to be put to bed. I am terrified of transitioning her to a toddler bed soon, as I know she will get up and want to come and find me…and I am afraid that her ability to speak clearly will melt my resolve about putting herself to sleep. It is terrible to hear “I want to sleep in your bedroom, mommy.” and have to say no when my heart is screaming “Okay! Hop in!”. but I know, I am a miserable mother without good sleep…and for everyone in my family, a rested mother is very important.

  6. I love your honesty, Alice! I have 3 kids, with 3 different experiences with sleeping and eating. Baby 3 was my most difficult. She fussed all day long. She projectile vomited after every feeding. The only time she wasn’t fussing or crying was when I was holding her, she was in the baby carrier (front pack), or in the swing. It was exhausting, as I had a toddler and a preschooler to handle as well. Baby 3 was finally diagnosed with reflux and put on medication, which reduced some of the daytime fussing and vomiting, but now I had to deal with getting her to sleep without me holding her in some way. After about 4 nights of CIO, she was able to put herself to sleep. But during those 4 nights, I sat outside her door, or at the bottom of the steps in tears, while Baby 3 wailed away. My strategy was to wait 15 minutes, and then go to her room, pat her back, reassure her and leave again. Each night, she cried less, and I made fewer trips to her room. It was not easy, but certainly helped everyone in the long run. She’s almost 10 now, and a great sleeper! Good luck to you!

  7. Great post Alice . Grace and I have had many talks about this. Massage and stretching can help. A nice warm bath,rubbing lotion and massaging before a story etc.I also look forward to your next piece about sleep.

  8. Bless you for having the courage and conviction to write this. This is our EXACT story. That damned exercise ball became our savior and then the bane of our existence. He could not sleep without it…not even on me/with me/ near me, etc. It was about five days of the worst emotional trauma (for me) of my life, and I did not do it lightly (in fact waiting until he was at least 4 1/2 months old because I so firmly believe that those first 3-4 months are a “fourth trimester”, and they’re just not neurologically capable of self soothing at that point). By the end of the week, he was sleeping like a champ–12-13 hours a night, plus good naps during the day. Now, at 20 months old, he asks for “night night”, happily babbles away in his bed for up to an hour at time before drifting off, plays with his stuffed animals acting out his experiences of the day, and even sometimes asks for a book to “read” before sleep. He loves his crib and his personal time in it, and his Papa and I get much needed rest and personal time. I agree with you that so much of the “research” is coming from clearly anti-cio contingents (and also coming from people who are too black and white in their understanding of what CIO can mean), and I very much look forward to reading your continued information on it. I also love that you are distinguishing between using CIO to help a baby learn to fall asleep vs middle of the night wakings. I use my judgement with each one of those…often he fusses for a minute or two and gets himself right back down, but if I sense that he needs me in any way, I’m always right there. In doing so, I feel like we are able to communicate to him that we trust him to meet his own needs and we’re also there to help whenever he asks for it or feels he needs us. So glad to have found your blog!

    • “That damned exercise ball became our savior and then the bane of our existence.” Yes! Once I decided I was done with the ball, I actually had to move it to a back room of our house so that I wouldn’t be tempted to jump on it all the time and we could learn other ways to soothe! (I still kept it around for many months for “emergency” situations.) Glad we weren’t the only ones. And yes to not taking CIO lightly as well. I don’t think any of us take this lightly.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. They are all important. I may very well need “no-cry” solutions in the future and will draw on the wisdom and experience of parents who have these to work.

  9. I want to thank you for your honest -and brave post. We mamas really benefit when we can share openly and support each other without judgement!

    My first baby nursed to sleep from the beginning, no matter time of day or night. We had an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper next to our bed, and he slept there or actually in bed next to me (depending in my level of exhaustion!). Our doctor encouraged us to sleep train him in his own bedroom between 4 and 6 mos – she explained this was a critical period during which babies must learn to put themselves to sleep. I did not agree that he was ready for this, though we tried anyway. He refused to sleep unless he was next to Mama. Once he was able to sit up, we moved the mattress level all the way down in the Co-sleeper; he refused to even lay down in it. We tried again when he was 9 mos old. He screamed hysterically ALL night long – even though my husband was sitting on the floor right next to him, rubbing his back and soothing him. He even fell asleep standing up a few times, but as soon as husband tried to lay him down he was awake and screaming again. I continued to nurse him to sleep at bed time, several times through out the night and also at nap time. We placed a queen mattress on the floor in his room and that is where we nursed and he slept, day and night.
    He will be 3 this month and sleep is still often a major struggle with him – though it seems to go in phases of better and then worse again..He has a “big boy” (toddler) bed, which he was very excited about and even slept in for a while – but he then returned to throwing tantrums at sleepy time. Some nights we would sit next to his bed for 60 or 90 minutes before he finally fell asleep – only to awaken again in another hour or so and begin the whole process again. As you can imagine, both my husband and I are very frustrated. We try to get things done while our toddler is sleeping – things for ourselves as well as for the home/family. We can’t do this well when we are spending so much of the day tending to a child who is fighting his sleep (yes, he IS sleepy!!), or grumpy because he is not getting enough/good sleep. When I have to do “adult” things while our toddler is awake, then I am not remaining connected with him and the cycle worsens. He is now napping in his bed during the day (often he protests this but I gently, firmly insist) and sleeping in our bed at night. He will usually nap 1-2 hours, but will always wake at least once and I have to go in to comfort him back to sleep. One of us must stay with him while he falls asleep – he absolutely refuses to go to sleep otherwise. I feel like we have tried everything! We are now reading books on “high-needs” and “spirited” children. What else to do?!
    Many of our family and friends chose a version of cry-it-out. I do not judge their decisions; I respect their knowledge of their child’s personality. I am happy that it worked for them – and a bit jealous, frankly! Most are not overtly judgmental of our parenting decisions. However, plenty of comments are made (or certain tones of voice used) that indicate clearly what they think: we brought this on ourselves by not letting him cry it out; we didn’t try hard/long enough; we are too “soft” with him; we should have used a crib. My mother even suggested that perhaps we could contact The Nanny (from that television program)!! I have met other parents who chose to use the “Montessori from the Beginning” (not using a crib is one of the things included in this method) – none have had these issues. I am always questioning – Have I done something “wrong?” Is there some kind of food allergy that is causing him to have difficulty falling/remaining asleep? -some kind of chemical imbalance in his little body? -is that even possible with babies/toddlers?!
    Anyway – sorry for the book! We just had baby #2 on January 1st. I really don’t think I have the strength to go through all this again. I AM questioning whether cry-it-out should be an option for #2. Should we get a crib? My own experience has been that you can not sleep train a child who can freely get up and out of his bed and room … I am looking forward to your follow-up posts on this topic! Thank you. :)

    • I think there is no point in second-guessing ourselves. As you can probably tell from my post, though, I have done plenty of second-guessing myself, even though I am happy to now have a great sleeper! I wish I could give you some advice on your little boy. The one thing I will say is that a child his age can understand if you tell him that you are going to do things a new way at bedtime, even if he protests a lot. As for #2, I hope my coming posts will help you to know whether sleep training is something you feel comfortable with. Or – fingers crossed – you may have payed your dues with #1 and be blessed with an easy sleeper in #2!

  10. Great post. I am really looking forward to your research. I love that you look into this stuff. Sleep is such a big thing in babies and little kids lives. Getting enough good sleep is a skill/trait/ideal for everyone and as a teacher I have seen the effects on children who struggle to get to sleep or who continue to wake often in the night. I looks like you did the right thing for your family.

  11. I had the same experience than you. I was “forced” to CIO out of exhaustion. I try first to stay in the room so he would not feel alone but he got so furious!!!. Then I left the room to cry and he just gave up!. Next day he only cry a few minutes, but he never never accepted me in the room, like it was an affront. My second baby slept through the night since age 4 month and will kick me to put her on her crib. I admire the parents that sacrifice and go without CIO, but I do know that for many babies is a valuable experience and a solution for their parents.

  12. An excellent post! We co-sleep (but do not “bed share”) mainly because – and this is going to sound very selfish – it’s the best way for *ME* to get sleep. I work in a lab….along with needing to be mentally alert throughout the day, my job is very physically taxing – I *NEED* sleep. Co-sleeping, I can easily check on her during the night and if she wakes, I bring her into the bed with me and doze while she nurses. When she pops off, I return her to the crib and I go right back to sleep. When we first brought my daughter home, she slept in a cradle. We have just transitioned her to a crib, but it is still in our bedroom. We did this same process with my 11 y/o daughter….when the time came, we moved her crib into a room that she already knew as “hers”. I’m hoping the move goes as smoothly this time ;^)

    I think part of the “CIO” problem is the overall lack of understanding in the way it should be done. Again, this isn’t for me….More than anything, *I* need to be able to easily check on the baby. I know every family has their own way of doing things and I know things don’t always work out the way we all plan – there’s no reason that even in parenting, we can’t learn and grow. But I think what *really* gives “CIO” such a bad rap is all the people that hear the name or advice from others to let their babies just cry it out and that’s just what they do…..put the baby down, close the door and let her howl till the sun comes up. If only people took as much time to look into parenting styles as they do into buying a new TV!!

    I look forward to reading the rest of your posts on this topic – peace ;^)

  13. Wow a very honest article! I am a CIO mum, however I did it from day 1. I have 2 daughters and am expecting my third in July. I had a very strict routine with my babies and we had no problems. I fed them at certain times and only at those times. I did all my routines in 6 week blocks just to ensure we didn’t have any habits emerge. This would include things like wrapping: I would wrap my baby tight (like they show you in hospital) and after 6 weeks I would still wrap but not so tight, and this went on until by about the 3rd or 4th time she was sleeping without needing to be wrapped. My husband and I work full time and my parents had my babies so it was important for me to establish routines from an early stage, please don’t get me wrong, my babies never went without anything, they just had things at certain times. We had babies that slept through from the beginning, it was hard work but very successful. I agree with the quality for the family and what works best for you and appreciated the people above responding without judgement as I am happy for anyone to do what works best for them but not happy when they comment on my way in a negative way. I did find many challenges with sleep with my friends who had babies as they would pick them up straight away where as mine would be able to self soothe, you do get tuts and little head shakes but in my defence I had a good night sleep and very refreshed days and my girls now are very independent and enjoy a good 12 hour sleep!! Thank you for your article and I am very interested in your future posts. I really enjoy reading about scientific responses about parenting and I do take things on board.

  14. My babe was a fantastic sleeper until about 4 months… well she still sleeps well, it’s just the getting her off to sleep part that changed. But it also seems to change all the time, what worked last week, won’t work this week. A few weeks ago we had to rock her to sleep in a rocker as she just didn’t want to BF to sleep… now (her top 2 teeth are coming in) she just wants to be on me and will fall asleep either BFing or in a carrier (or both at once)… but it doesn’t take long to fall asleep so it works fine, I just take the dog for a walk or do some housework with her in a carrier when it’s sleep time. She sleeps extremely well through the night, but does hang off my boob a lot (again, this is fine by me, I sleep through it). However, sometimes she gets a bit hysterical and the only thing that works is to hold her in my arms and walking around BFing. I have never tried CIO, but also don’t feel the need to because what I do (all the different things) work fine. My friend just swaddles her baby and leaves her in the cot, she chats away to herself for a while and then falls asleep! There’s no way my munchkin would stand for that LOL.
    Thanks for your post, it’s great to hear everyone’s experiences and point of view. No judgements here!

  15. Alice, as always another excellent blog! I always look forward to them, and also the Mommy comments that follow.
    Baby Miller sleeps with my husband and I, and I have never been embarassed or ashamed of it, though many folks have tried to tried to make us feel so. Mil is now nearly a year old, and he has always slept with me. Honestly, my husband and I both sleep well and we really enjoy him being there with us. We do not plan on having more babies so I try to enjoy every moment I have of snuggling and nursing. I love the feeling of my baby falling asleep in my arms while I sing to him!
    We practice a nice bedtime routine, bathtime, lotion and pjs, books with Dada. Then around 7pm I take him to the bedroom and sing him the same lullaby that I have always sung while I nurse him to sleep. He is usually asleep within 5-10 minutes. (I love that we have our own time after Mil falls asleep to watch a movie and be alone together, a great way to end the day!) Miller still wakes once, sometimes twice, to nurse during the night. He never cries, just sits up and says “Mama”, I respond quickly and he is back to sleep within 5 minutes. He generally sleeps for 11-12 hours, which is perfect for us.
    Co-sleeping works for our family, but I understand how it might not for many others. I am a bit OCD and I feel that I need to have my baby near me while he’s sleeping. That’s just me, and thankfully my husband is cool with that. :)

    • Esmee, I love your sweet sleep story. It sounds like you have figured out a way to make sleep enjoyable and, well, sleep, for your family. I think co-sleeping can work well for many families and babies, as long as it is done safely. It wouldn’t have worked for us for a few reasons, one of them being that I actually think BabyC does much better when she has her own space. That said, I miss her at night sometimes! Occasionally she wakes in the night to nurse when she is teething or something. I bring her into bed to nurse and sometimes hope that she will just fall asleep with me – but nope – she will lay there and babble and pick my nose until I finally take her back to her crib:)

  16. What a great piece. I just wish that CIO had worked for us. It worked for a joyous seven weeks where our daughter slept twelve hours a night. Then it stopped working. We have only just managed to get her to sleep in her own bed again now at 23 months and it is taking us two hours a night to sleep and she is up at five every morning. She must be chronically sleep deprived as she is only averaging between eight and nine hours sleep a night! We are wondering if we can try CIO again but we live in an apartment building and while we have tolerant neighbors hours and hours of screaming is a bit much to inflict on others! I await the next pieces on this method with interest.

  17. Thanks so much for sharing your story and creating a forum of exploration. Most importantly, and in particular, all parents need support and in having a child for the first time, we are all learning- and at every stage. My son is now almost 13 but we were bouncers, co-sleepers and I was a nurser (all night long) on demand (or so I thought). I realized a few years later, that in co-sleeping with my son, every time he moved, he had my nipple in his mouth. I was so afraid to let him cry. What happened then, is that he was trained in fact to wake! And nurse at times every 45 minutes all night long. As a result it seemed like there was no other way to rest other than to keep him right next to me.

    I commend you for having the courage to recognize that what you were doing wasn’t working for you, or your daughter. I believed in co-sleeping and attachment parenting and still do, but realize that the line can become blurred between when things aren’t working, or how and when they are supposed to, or will. I would say, when things aren’t working for mom and/or, dad. My husband and I wound up divorced, sadly, by the time our son was three, and a large part of this I’m afraid due to the fact that we didn’t have the skills, or connection to keep it together after things became so exhausting. I have many close friends who birthed, parent, and school their children much differently than I do. However, I find that despite our idealistic differences, these families and children are often harmonious, well balanced, and happy. I RESPECT them for knowing what their needs are, and implementing them without a lot of analyzing or crippling guilt. And I have learned greatly from them as a result.

    One of the most important aspects is consistency and perhaps conscience. If we could first know in our conscience that something is truly needed, then the conviction to carry it out will be greater. From there we can offer consistency to our children, and in your story, clearly these factors came together to help your daughter begin to feel safe, secure, and comfortable.

    I am now an early childhood teacher. I receive children 18 mos- 6 years at my home daily. Part of their day includes nap and rest time. I found that children who rested here, bonded with me and one another in a much deeper and more satisfying and harmonious way. I have had many parents come to me with concerns about their child falling asleep and I have never so much had one child cry it out, or for that part cry at all. When they have had a full day of fresh air, play, and good food, and they are held in the company of their friends, they are ready for rest time. After several months together, our summer program included many long naps on a big blanket under the shade of swaying and breezy leaves.

    If only we could have the confidence and impartiality with our own children that others can have- it all looks so easy.* Cheers! Danielle

    • Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment, Danielle. This parenting job is hard, and most of us get thrown in without much training on the nighttime side of things. We all muddle along with our ideals and advice from the people around us and do the best we can. What a journey you have had!

  18. Great post! I think you’re going to help a lit of new parents out there. I might have to reblig this one!

    My story: we swaddled Chloe until she was 6 months old. And we rocked her to sleep, in one form or another, until she was about… 18(?) months old or so…though the rocking wasn’t always until she was totally asleep. We’d rock her for a bit and then cross our fingers and set her down in her crib. If she started to wake up we’d rub her back, tell her it was time to sleep, and tell her we’d be right there (in the glider in her room). She’d look up every once in a while to make sure we were still there, but she’d eventually settle and go to sleep. Many times I would fall asleep in her room only to wake up hours later and just go to my room to sleep.

    In the last few months we’ve been able to being her up to her room at bed time, tell her it’s time to sleep, and she settles down for the most part and goes to sleep by herself. We do play music for her as she goes to sleep. I had read that can be a problem if they wake up in the middle of the night and then they need the music to get back to sleep again, but we haven’t had this problem… At least not that I’ve noticed.

    I did try the CIO method a few times but did not stick with it. Maybe i should have… But i guess the mights we did try it i always felt so horrible (though exasperatingly tired).

    And I suppose we did the swaddle/rocking since I’d read “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and it seemed like a good plan (as someone who couldn’t ask her parents what to do — they’re deceased — and who’d never taken care of a baby before).

  19. Thanks Alice!!! I appreciate this post because this is one thing that terrifies me, and has already prompted many discussions between Doug and me. I am due with my first in one week and we have decided to keep the baby in the room in an arms-reach co-sleeper for up to the first six months, and then transition to a more independent routine in his/her own room (of course this is the plan, which I am sure will change once baby arrives) . Doug does not want to co-sleep and I do, so the arms-reach seemed like a good compromise. I imagine this plan will still be difficult because Doug gets up early for work (sometimes 4am) and I will take on most of the night routine…which means I will probably end up taking the baby out of the room a lot of the time to let Doug get sleep. I admit that I don’t want to have to let my baby ‘cry-it-out’, but I am open to try it to some extent. I look forward to figuring out what works best for us and I appreciate all of the different posts and styles that people have shared here.

    • Can’t wait to hear of the news of the arrival of your little one! You and Doug are going to be wonderful parents. It sounds like the co-sleeper is a good compromise for you. We used one for the first few months and loved it. I was also often alone with nighttime parenting since Husband was coming and going from work at all hours of the night. Since it was important that he get sleep, and there was only so much he could do to help anyway, he sometimes slept in the guest room:) That may be a better solution for Doug some nights, since taking the baby to another room could be more disruptive to you and maybe over-stimulating to baby. Just a thought. Also, once we moved BabyC to her own room, we still had a bed in her room that I used for nursing her during the night, which made those middle-of-the-night feedings so much sweeter.

  20. I’m really interested in reading your follow up posts about this. My son is three and a half months old. He is the sweetest, most precious, happy baby I’ve ever met. I feel unbelievably blessed to have him in my life. He almost never cries. In fact, nap and bed time are the only time I really hear him cry all day. He seems to lay down and go to sleep at nap time without too much bother. I let him fuss but he’s always very low key about it, (really more of a complaint than a cry), and he puts himself to sleep in about 10 minutes. Although for the past month he won’t nap for more than 45 minutes at a time.

    At night my husband and I give him a bath and I rock him and sing lullabies. He falls asleep without any problem but wakes up 45 minutes later and when he wakes he wails. It’s so strange and upsetting to see him cry since he really doesn’t do it at any other time. I don’t have the heart to listen to his hysterical cries yet, so my husband and I typically walk, rock or bounce him until he falls back to sleep. Sometimes he’ll continue this pattern a couple of times, other times he’ll sleep for four hours after that initial waking.

    It seems like I’m having a harder time putting him back to sleep after he’s awakened then initially putting him to sleep. I’ve considered letting him cry it out when he wakes from that first sleep cycle, but so far I can’t convince myself to do it.

    • @ScienceOfMom – Thank you for this post. I think a lot of people will appreciate the clarity, the lack of ‘black-and-whiteness’ and the courage that it may have taken to share this. THANK YOU>


      I am reading your story as if you were retelling ours. My son was the same – getting to sleep with us sitting by his bed no problem at all, the waking up 45minutes later and crying his heart out. This could happen several times during the night. It was as exhausting for us as it must have been for him. We didn’t (we still don’t) know what was the reason for this, but after some time we agreed that this is not a healthy situation for any of us. We realised that when we were by his bedside as he was falling asleep, he might have panicked when he awoke and didn’t see us there anymore.

      We all wake up during the night, some of us several times, we also go through different phases of sleep but as our bodies (and brains) mature we get so used to it that we put ourselves back to sleep no problem, usually without even noticing that we ever woke up. Babies are different – they are not ready for it yet. But at some point they can learn, and for some it is easier than for others, I believe.

      Having realised that we decided we were going to try and let our little man learn o fall asleep on his own, without us by his side. This way he would know he could do it, and maybe waking up and seeing that we are not there would not be such a scary thing for him. We did it gently and slowly – learning is a process, there are stages, there is a pace that will work for your family and only you know what it is. For some it will be easier, for others it will take time. For us, after a couple of nights of crying (with us returning over and over, and telling him we knew it was hard for him, but we know that he will be able to learn) he started sleeping through the night. No waking, no problems going to bed, a rested and smiling man in the mornings.

      I don’t know if this helps at all, but I think that waking up at night alone is scarier than falling asleep alone. And I believe the two are connected. Also, while I have read all the research that talks about the dangers of letting your baby learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own, I have a feeling that waking up several times during the night looking for mum or dad in the dark might also have an impact. So we have chosen to go with what we felt was better for our family. It is probably an entirely different issue for parents who choose to co-sleep, but we didn’t, and I believe this is a choice that every family should make for themselves.

      Sorry for the novel :) It is a topic that I m very concerned with as well.

      • Thank you for sharing your story with me. I also wonder if he cries out so loudly because he doesn’t see me. It’s particularly strange because he doesn’t do this at nap time, only at night. Perhaps the darkness is a factor. I am very close to a trying a solution like you suggested, but I’m not quite there yet. I am happy to hear your story and know I am not alone.

    • Hi, my (now 14 mo) son also had a period when he was much smaller when would only sleep for 45 mins in the daytime when previously he’d napped well… It obviously may not work, but what I did and it might be worth a try was that because he always managed to pass this 45 minute mark if we were walking, I took him for an hour long walk about 3 days in a row was all it took, and then he seemed to learn to get past that 45 minutes and could then do it in his cot… Maybe if that helps during the day it might have a knock on effect at nightime too… Obviously you don’t want to get to a stage where he’ll only fall asleep in the pushchair but maybe one nap a day try it and another nap let him go in his cot… Or whatever fits with you, but this was something I found to work for us :)

      • I actually just considered this yesterday before reading your response. I noticed he stays asleep in the car seat for much longer than 45 minutes. If I’ve been out and he falls asleep I leave him in it and he continues napping for quite awhile. I was wondering if I could break the habit by putting him in a cozier spot for a few days in a row. I think I’ll give this a try and hope he doesn’t get attached to the rocking motion of the stroller.

    • Although BabyC did great with night time sleep after sleep training, it took longer to get into a good nap routine. We still took lots of walking naps. It seemed like it was harder for her to wind down during the day, and when she did, she often woke after 45 minutes. She seemed to just grow out of that around 5 months, if I remember correctly, and suddenly she was often napping for 2-3 hours at a time. So. Wonderful.

      • A few friends have told me it’s a phase and that he’s bound to outgrow it in the next couple of months. I’m glad to hear BabyC had a similar breakthrough around 5 months. Maybe I just need to give it time?

        • I was thinking more about this 45 minutes nap thing. (SO maddening, by the way – I remember how little I was able to get done in 45 minutes, and she always woke up grumpy from those short naps.) First was that during this period, I could sometimes nurse her back to sleep. I would keep the lights low and offer very little stimulation, and sometimes she just needed a little comfort to return to sleep. When we finally broke through the 45 minute barrier, I did make some changes that I think helped. I read in Weissbluth (I know some people hate him, but I read a lot of books about sleep and found a few things useful from each one) about natural rhythms for sleeping and how babies sleep better at certain times of the day. For babies this age, he recommends trying to start naps around 9 and 1. Before I read this, I was consistently putting BabyC down around 8:30 and 12, and she seemed tired at those times. I tried the 9 and 1 thing, which meant keeping her up longer than I really wanted to, but it did really help to extend the naps, I think. I also made sure she had a full feeding before putting her down. I have also heard people swear by the 2-3-4 rule for timing sleep (I think this comes from Ask Moxie – lots of sleep tips on her blog). Start the first nap around 2 hours after morning wake-up, second nap around 3 hours after nap#1 wake-up, and bedtime around 4 hours after nap#2 wake-up. Just a thought that tweaking the timing might help. Good luck

  21. my first child slept in our bed until he was almost 2. We had decided that it was time for him to be sleeping in his own bed. Well things didn’t go so well. He always fell asleep in a sitting position all the way from birth. so getting him to sleep flat in a bed was hard. So we tried to let him fall asleep in his rocking chair and then put him in bed, it never worked. So we ended up trying the CIO method. He would cry for hours sometimes up to 4 hours a night. After about 2 weeks of letting him CIO he finally was able to be put in his crib and fall asleep. It was a rough few weeks but we made it through. Then I had my second child and not wanting to relive my experience with transitioning a child into his own bed, we had decided that from day one our baby would not be allowed in our bed. Our youngest is now 4 and he has never once slept in our bed. I am so thankful that we chose to make him sleep in his own bed from day one. Now pregnant with our third child it is a clear choice that this baby will sleep in there own bed from day one. :)

  22. Thanks for this, Alice. People do really have all kinds of different ideas about what “CIO” is — and isn’t. When I write about CIO I get all sorts of support — and flames. The key difference I think is when people understand the difference between the research on ABUSE, and how that differs from research on normal developmental stages and challenges. Looking forward to your series! Aloha!

  23. Since you are a very well-educated mother, I wonder if you were ever exposed to some of the scholarly work on infant sleep that says that night wakings are healthy, normal and to be expected, and that babies are “designed” to sleep next to their mother and nurse through the night before becoming a mother and/or before deciding to sleep train? Dr James McKenna at Notre Dame ( seems to be main one working on this.
    I find it unfortunate that we do not support mothers with pertinent information about normal and healthy infant sleep or ways to cope with the challenges of nighttime parenting, and limit the discussion to differences in “parenting styles” and within the framework of misguided cultural expectations and beliefs. I hope you will touch on this in your future posts.
    For us, DS nurses to sleep every night, and nurses as he needs to throughout the night. My husband and I are committed to co-sleeping, be it bedsharing or, as DS gets older roomsharing, then transitioning to his own room when he’s ready. Now at 20months DS sleeps 4-5 hour stretches starting out in a floor bed in our room, then comes into the big bed when he wakes. There is no anxiety that it will never end, or feelings of wanting DS out of our bed. We know that independent sleep is a milestone that is reached in the preschool years and we see no good reason to rush it.

    • Melissa, thanks for sharing your experience. I am glad that you and your husband have found a sleep situation that works well for you. I have read some of James McKenna’s work and think it is really interesting. However, most of his work is on co-sleeping, and co-sleeping simply doesn’t work for all parents or all babies. I don’t think moms and babies were “designed” to sleep any one way. We may have *evolved* as co-sleepers, because that was most adaptive for our current environment. However, we are still evolving, now in a very different environment, and each family has to figure out what is most adaptive for them.

      I do agree that parents need information on normal infant sleep, and I particularly hate the pressure that parents feel to have babies that sleep through the night from an early age. That said, I found that when my baby fell asleep on her own, she cried less during the night. When she does cry, I respond to her, but she often also wakes and babbles happily to herself and then goes back to sleep. I think it is great that she is comfortable enough that she does not always need my help going back to sleep during the night, and I don’t think that is unhealthy at all.

      • I’m I guess it depends on how we see the role of co-sleeping in our evolution and whether or not we have evolved beyond needing it.
        I would argue that we have not evolved beyond needing to co-sleep (or breastfeed or birth naturally or hold our children often…), but that we have forgotten how to! Most of us did not grow up with these things because our culture phased them out, and only now are we beginning to see their significance in physical development.
        So I do not see co-sleeping as something that was done purely as a cultural practice out of convenience or a need that we currently do not still have. For example, we know that an infant’s developing body and brain learns to regulate breathing, heart rate, temperature etc through constant close physical contact. We simply do not yet know the impact of cutting this out for large portions of the day (or night), or at what age this becomes unnecessary.
        We can and do make choices to sidestep these evolutionary imperatives, but they must be informed choices and we must understand the potential risks involved, and ways to compensate for these deviations (if they exist). I hope you can show us that sleep-training and infant is in fact a safe and appropriate way to sidestep evolution, but I have yet to see evidence of this.
        I hope you will consider this perspective by an evolutionary psychologist:
        The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland also offers a great research-based perspective.

  24. Hi! I am a new-baked mum with a 3.5 month old and at the moment sleeping is going well enough for me not to require training (or yet?). I have been trying to make up my mind about whether I am doing the right thing or not, as I nurse my son to sleep most nights and this is working, and furthermore he has been slightly awake a few times when I put him to bed (by ‘accident’) and as long as he wasn’t overtired he seems to soothe himself to sleep – his makes me feel like he is developing his sleeping habits and learning to sleep although I am constantly worried about whether I am nurturing a bad sleeping habit. At the moment, I am inclined to think that every baby is different eg, some babies give pacifiers up easily and some don’t. I am terrified to get this wrong so I keep reading new information on this topic to revise my opinion about whether/to what degree training is needed or not, in any circumstances.

    I definitely think I would have tried some training by now if baby woke up every 45 mins because as you point out, this is not sleep ‘working out’ and good sleep is important for development. and good mothering.

    Apart from the fact things are working at the moment, the other reason I’ve been reluctant to try training is that I suspect there might be a critical age where training is appropriate or when is the ‘best time’ to try it in relation to the baby’s developing sleeping habits. I am looking forward to hearing if you uncover any ‘hard data’ on this and also in relation to a specific method of training.

    • Hey there, I happened to read your post and don’t be terrified! You might just be one of the lucky ones. Baby sleep changes around 4 months and if your baby is waking a little and going to sleep on his own and not having a problem in the night, you may never have a problem. You are very right that every baby is different!

    • I second dnvrmama that you shouldn’t worry! From the reading I have done, I would say that if it is a goal of yours to eventually have your baby fall asleep without being soothed to sleep (and this generally has the advantage that he will need less comforting during the night, since he will know how to go back to sleep on his own), you should try to put him down drowsy but awake. It doesn’t have to be every time, but doing it at least some of the time will give him a chance to practice going to sleep on his own. You are right – some babies just “get” this easier than others and don’t need much help. You may have one of them. While it is great to set up good sleep habits early on, I wouldn’t worry that you have a problem unless it feels like you have a problem!

  25. Thank you for sharing your personal story. I hope that all comments remain respectful of your decision. One question for me remains as it doesn’t seem like it was mentioned in the piece. Did you consider bed sharing or having your newborn in a side car cot?

    • As a newborn and for the first few months of her life, BabyC was in a co-sleeper within reach of our bed. We decided that co-sleeping was not right for our family, in part because BabyC really seems to prefer to have her own space when she sleeps. I haven’t regretted that decision, although I sometimes wish she would cuddle with me in our bed! Whenever I bring her into our bed she just thinks it is time to party:)

  26. This is a well written and thought provoking piece. My ds is now 1 and on my entrance to parenthood the one thing which shocked me more than anything else was the attitudes and judgements of other mothers as to what choices I and my husband made. We were lucky as we had a baby who seemed to put himself into a routine which worked well for all of us from a very young age so CIO was never even a discussion topic – but after months of sleep deprivation and struggling… I don’t know which way I would have gone.
    We have suffered at the other end of the judgement spectrum of me having given up breastfeeding at 5 months due to an (then) undiagnosed tongue-tie. I was berated in forums and by people I knew for this decision and the emotional turmoil this caused me was significant.
    Motherhood is not always an easy ride, we have a number of struggles to overcome, on what sometimes seems like a daily basis. I find it encouraging that there are still those in the world who can hold up their hands and state, against the current tide of opinion, this is the choice I made and why I made it. There will be so many other mothers who have either gone down this route but remain quiet about it or who struggle on in fear of the populus!

    • I’m so sorry for your experience with judgement from other mothers. It baffles me that we do this to each other. I’m glad you told your story. I think we all need to realize that each of us does the best we can and set a good example of empathy, grace, and kindness for our kids.

  27. I like your blog and have been reading for a while so want to leave a comment that both respects your right as a mother and an intelligent woman to choose how you parent, but also includes my own feelings on the subject. It’s not easy! Truly this is one subject where my passion for what I think is ‘right’ runs ahead of itself. I’ll try to add my thoughts as carefully as I can…

    I find it interesting that you mentioned Ferber, but didn’t mention that even he recommends not attempting sleep training on a baby under the age of 12 months.

    I found it hard to understand the jump from bouncing, to rocking, to just leaving her to cry. Was it really like that, or were there other methods tried too?

    You present the idea that baby cried less overall in the day as a good thing. What do you think of the theories that babies who’ve undergone ‘harsh’ sleep training cry less because they don’t think they will be responded to? Your science input AND your feelings as a mum welcome here…

    I tend to parent by my gut. That is, if it feels right I do it. A part of me feels like it’s natures way of ensuring we remain on track. Do you think there’s any validity to the idea that “nature” has evolved us in this way? (That’s possibly a bit off topic here!)

    I’ve talked about this on my own blog, but one of the issues I take with pro-CIO posts is that it implies that it’s “OK” to do this; I worry that this gives both parents to be and new parents struggling with the NORMAL sleep patterns of a newborn baby the nod to try CIO/sleep training straight away. You only have to glance over some of the comments already posted to see parents gleefully admitting they too “trained” from an increasingly younger age (1 day old! oh my.) How do you feel about this?

    I don’t expect a personalised reply to my comment (because I get the feeling that you’re going to be inundated by them) but I do hope that some of this is covered in your follow up posts.

    • Jem, thanks for your comment and your respectful questions. I’m glad we can discuss this, mother-to-mother, even if you have a very different opinion. For the record, I’m still trying to figure out if what I did is right! That’s why I’m up so late with this research:) But although I wonder from a scientific standpoint about the risks of sleep training, BabyC and I have both definitely benefited from sleep training, no question.

      re Ferber – can you provide a reference for that statement? I don’t remember him saying that in his book. I can’t honestly remember what he said about ages, and I don’t own a copy to check, but I want to be sure that he isn’t misquoted here.

      re other methods that we tried: In addition to all the lovely, sleepy bedtime things that became our routine (bath, lotion, nurse, book, lullabies, white noise, swaddling), we tried rocking and walking at different paces and just sitting and holding her while being still. Sometimes after holding her while she cried for a long time, I would bend my knees a couple of times to make a little bounce, and she would almost immediately start to quiet. Bouncing was magical.

      I often hear the hypothesis that babies that are sleep trained do not cry because they think mom will no longer respond. That was not my experience. My baby continued to cry when she was hungry during the night or if she was teething or something was just “off.” I always responded to her, and I’m quite sure she knew that she wasn’t abandoned. She still cried when she was tired or over-stimulated or hungry during the day. I believe that she stopped crying before bed and when she woke in the night (but was not hungry) because she then knew how to transition back to sleep and didn’t need my help. I haven’t yet found any research on this and probably won’t, as it would be very hard to do. All I can tell you is about my own experience and feelings about this as a mother.

      I would never recommend sleep training a newborn. However, having learned from my bouncing experience, I think I would try to not get too set on any one sleep association, or at least think about whether I would be comfortable putting a 6-month-old to sleep that way. I think I would try to pause and listen to the cry, try to understand it a little better before just jumping to do the first thing that I think will make the crying stop.

      • Sod’s law, now I’ve said it (re: Ferber) I can’t find the reference. I don’t think it was in his books (I’ve not read them) but in an interview. I will keep digging.

        Thank you for answering my questions.

    • FWIW, Ferber says most babies can be sleep trained from 5-6 months of age, and refluxy babies perhaps a bit longer. It’s right there in his Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems book. I think most of us who are old enough to have babies are old enough to understand that supporting sleep training for an older baby does not equal a message to start as early as possible, and Ferber and others actually make it quite clear that you CANNOT train a baby to eat on a spaced-out schedule or sleep-train in the early weeks and months, simply because their tummies are too small and they need to eat frequently. I think Ferber says “you cannot spoil a child under four months of age.”

  28. I always think that no mother would go down the route of CIO of there was an alternative. My first didn’t fall asleep easily, like yours. I can so empathise with what you went through – we were reluctant to use any form of CC/CIO, but did try it because we didn’t know what else to do. It didn’t work for us, if anything, it made things worse. So that was that. With my 2nd, she falls asleep easily and we didn’t have to do it. Yes, she wakes up to 3 times a night, but that’s ok, so no need for it. But as you said, if it works in 3 days, and means less crying overall, surely that’s a good thing and stresses baby less? Really keen to read more!

  29. Just wondering was your daughter checked for tongue tie. My daughter has tt and wasn’t great in the car seat, had reflux, and was a poor sleeper. I got it snipped and her sleep is much better.

    Also, did your daughter have a traumatic/fast birth? Or was it assisted? These can all cause tension in their head/neck/shoulders etc which can lead to sleep problems. A cranial osteopath can help. I also did this with my daughter and it helped.

    • No evidence of tongue tie. I really think she was just very used to that up and down motion! And she was a great sleeper once she learned to fall asleep on her own, without the motion.

  30. I think it is horses for courses.
    Thank you for your blog, it sure is hard work when you have a none sleeping child.
    I personally couldn’t use the above methods because it just did not feel natrual to me, even if I was exhausted and at my wits end I could not bare hearing my child crying for even a second. This was before I ever knew that sleep training methods existed let alone the many issues surrounding them. I am one of these people that does interpret CIO abd CC as a form of neglect.
    I do not want to cause offence to anybody as I respect the descions parents make when it comes to raising thier children. As a mother it goes against every instince i have in me if my child is upset, over tired or unsettled for whatever reason and needs my attention then he has it at a drop of a hat even if I have to pace around and up nursing all night. It’s a killer but I feel that my child trusts me and doesn’t feel alone. Before I read the many articles regarding the above methods that was just how I felt, I believed leaving my child to cry and not responding to his needs during the night would have negitive effects on my child. You mother all day long responding and meeting your child’s needs though out the day, I do not understand why this has to stop at night? A infant child has no concept of this change, they are not aweare of the night time hours.
    My child nursed every hour though out the night and like you it took hours of rocking, singing, walking around trying to sooth my infant to sleep. My husband worked full time so it was left down to me. We co-slept but this was not a grantee that my son would sleep. He finally worked it out for himself and started sleeping though the night from 2 years onward. I just told myself that this wouldn’t be forever and things will improve when he is ready. He is very hyperactive and requires little sleep even now but at least the sleep he gets is good quality and we are all benefitting from it.
    Number 2 arrives in March, again if baby is anything like her/his older brother then I will have to repeat the cycle again, hard work but again not forever. I don’t like the term “training” you guide and nurture your young. Training is a technique for perfecting a new skill or encouraging an animal to perform certain tasks of your choice.
    I really hope your second child is blessed with the gift of sleep! Thank you for your honest post and I am looking forward to reading the others.

    • P.s
      The links to SIDS though CIO and CC sleep training methods also really terrified me both as a mother and also a Emergency Service Health Care Proffessional.

      I do however really respect your honest blog and again I am really looking forward to reading your journey with this.

      • OE, can you please provide a reference for a link between CIO and SIDS? I have never seen evidence of that and want to be sure that we keep information accurate here. Such a link would terrify any parent!

  31. Hi Alice. Personally I think the biggest problems we create are usually made with the first baby – most likely because we aren’t confidently recognising cues! We then learn, become wiser with what does and doesn’t work and are more confident with our choices next time around. We also know what to expect which makes a huge difference in the way we perceive our baby. We can see that only being pushed in a pram to go to sleep during the day (or in your case only bounced on a ball) will in all probability create sleep issues at night. Hindsight and experience is a wonderful thing! If only we had it before having a baby!
    I’ve never had to resort to CIO or CC though it was considered with DD1 at about 6 months as she was sleeping horrendously at night, but it didn’t feel like the right thing to. My sister told me when I had DD1 that: “Babies never just cry, there is always a reason.” And that has always stuck with me. After reading your article, I’m actually wondering if you looked into reasons on why she may have been crying so much besides just being tired or sleepy?

  32. Ok, as I understand it, CIO means to literally let them cry it out without going in for comfort. CC, controlled comforting is what you describe, also referred to as “ferberising”.

    My daughter co-slept in our bed and in a cradel right next to us in the beginning> This didn’t last long. Before too long I was in a similar position to you: I had to either bounce her on an exercise ball or carry her in a wrap/carrier for her to go to sleep. She spent most of her days in the wrap/carrier until she was about 6 months old. Soothing in a car was not an option as she would scream bloody murder whenever in a car. Putting her to sleep in my bed involved feeding her to sleep for about 2 hours before I could try and slip away. Then, for the next waking, she needed me there again, so I’d go to bed and sleep the rest of the night with her.
    At abut 7 months I was very exhausted after she had a bout of frequent night wakings and I decided to try CC (Controlled Comforting). All those things that were mentioned to do when you go in to comfort them (like talking, singing, stroking their backs, etc. did not soothe her. The exact opposite, it made her even more worked up. I tried this for 2 nights. It was absolutely horrible. I still have not quite forgiven myself for doing this to all of us. We went back to what had worked before (breastfeeding to sleep and co-sleeping) and things improved. All other transitions (into her own room, into a big bed etc. were done gently and without tears. She cut down to only 1 night waking at about 12 months and consistently slept through from around 18 months. She is now 4 1/2 and the best sleeper I know. She usually goes to bed without any dramas, doesn’t wake up too early and can sleep through anything without tossing or turning. My parents, who thought we were doing everything wrong, can’t believe a child could sleep this soundly.
    My son by the way has also slept in my bed for the first year, then in his cot next to my bed (still came into my bed during the night) until just recently. He used to only want to sleep while lying in my arms and HAD to stroke my right arm to fall asleep.
    He’s now 2 1/2 and has just transitioned to his sister’s room without any problems. He actually loves sharing a room with her. I still breastfeed him, then rock him to sleep or close to sleep. Takes about 10 minutes usually. Then I put him down in his bed.

    I just wanted to show another side.That babies who are difficult sleepers can become amazing sleepers without CIO/CC.

  33. We also used the CIO method. My son had colic and would scream every time he had gas. The only way we could get any sleep was if he slept with us and colic calm. I never wanted to let him sleep in our bed cause I was so afraid of something happening to him. After a few months of this, we finally broke the habit and put him back in his bassinet. We played B is for Bob, a Bob Marley kids cd that seemed to calm him a little bit. The first night he cried for almost half the night and I finally put him back to bed with me. The next night,he cried for an hour and after that, he settled pretty quick. He’s a great sleeper now and when he does wake up at night, I find it easier to give him at least 10 minutes to settle himself down. If I go in there and get him, the process takes over an hour to get him back to sleep. He settles and then screams as soon as you get him to sleep. He’s a very loving little 15-month-old and he is so easy going. I don’t think it’s wrong to use cio, when you’ve nursed/fed them, changed them, and tried everything. It broke my heart to let him cry for a bit, but after 3 days, he was able to go to sleep without any problems.

  34. Thank you for this! I’m struggling so much with my 5-month-old and it helps to know that there are others out there who believe in the health of this method and who have had success with it. Many find it hard to understand that I’m doing this for my son’s sake, and not my own.

  35. I tried CIO with my DD, once, we both ended up being sick, her from stress, me from guilt I think. I said I wouldnt do it again. DS came along and woke every 1.5-2hrs every night until he was 22months. At 22months he was diagnosed with sleep apnoea, which was why he was waking so much. He had his adenoids and tonsils removed and now sleeps waking only once or twice and that is gettting less and less. Am so glad I didn’t do CIO with him as I had been advised, he had undiagnosed medical condition preventing him from sleeping peacefully. I’m not saying that that is the issue with every baby who doesn’t sleep, but in a fair proportion I am sure there is something underlying their ‘unsettledness’.

  36. Thanks for your honest post. I have a six month old who wakes up between 2 and 6 times a night, but I have surrendered to this fact (that doesn’t mean that I am not tired from time to time and wondering if I can do something better to help him to get to sleep). I think that our society’s expectations about baby sleep are way too high. As a previous poster said, it is normal for babies to wake up frequently during the night. We co-sleep and I nurse him back to sleep and that way the three of us are happy most of the time.

  37. I think what works for sleep varies greatly with different kids (and different parents). My first child was (and is) an intense little kid. She was also an amazingly bad sleeper as a baby. There was a time when she was up 5 times a night- this was at about 9-12 months, so well past the newborn phase when you expect that. In retrospect, there were two things going on: she has a fast metabolism, so she really was hungry- probably for one of those wake ups, and she is a social little thing, and hated to be alone. We cracked sometime between 18 and 21 months and started partial night cosleeping (bringing her in to join us when she first woke up) and OMG was our sleep better at that point. Paradoxically, we nightweaned at about the same time. She wanted company more than nursing at that point, and giving her the company she wanted made nightweaning easy.

    She sleeps through the night, in her own bed. She has been doing that since she was about 2. She used to need someone to stay with her until she fell asleep, but we broke that habit at about 3.

    I learned from that, and started partial night cosleeping with our second much earlier- from the 9 month separation anxiety phase. She is a “better” sleeper, but still wasn’t sleeping through the night then. She still doesn’t sleep through the night every night, although she does it some nights. She’s a little over 2. She is nightweaned. In fact she is mostly weaned- she asks to nurse rarely, and then she doesn’t really nurse. I let her nightwean herself. I was tempted to force the issue, but I can’t deal with screaming in the middle of the night, particularly with a second child trying to sleep a short distance away.

    So.. from that last comment you can probably guess that we did not use CIO methods. For our first, I do not think they would have worked. She would work herself up crying. One time, I put her down, thinking she was asleep and then went to the bathroom. My husband was out that night, so when she started crying, I couldn’t get to her right away. But the time I got to her, she had worked herself up so much that she’d thrown up. So then I had an awake baby who was scared/angry about throwing up, and a bunch of vomit to clean up. I didn’t see how that was an improvement AT ALL, so we never truly tried CIO with her. We did partially nightwean her my our choice, not hers, at about a year (I can’t remember when, exactly), and that did involve some crying when my husband showed up and wouldn’t feed her (he gave her 1 bottle of expressed milk/night- the extra pumping bought me some much needed sleep).

    To be honest, CIO just isn’t a good fit for ME, either. I am 99% sure it would have worked well for my second child, but we never did it. We prefer to rock/snuggle to sleep and comfort in the middle of the night when it is needed. I knew my second child would be my last, and the baby snuggles seemed more precious to me. Also, she was a better sleeper to start with, so I wasn’t so desperately sleep deprived.

    With all that said, I don’t judge anyone else for using CIO. It wasn’t a fit for me and my family, but it most definitely can be a fit for other people.

    I’ve written A LOT about our sleep stories on my blog. If anyone wants more details about how we did the nightweaning, how I survived at work on such crappy sleep, or anything else, it is all there, although you’ll have to filter through a bunch of posts:

    • One thing I want to add: a lot of the sleep disruptions at certain ages are due to developmental changes- the biggie is separation anxiety at 9 months. A lot of people don’t realize this and wonder why things all went pear-shaped, and think they did something wrong.

      Also, trying to sleep train at certain times can be a lot harder- again the biggie is 9 months, when your baby is getting the first taste of separation anxiety.

      I really liked the book Bedtiming (Granic and someone else, can’t remember- but you’ll find it easily on Amazon just with the title) for understanding some of the developmental impacts on sleep.

      • Cloud, thanks for the recommendation for Bedtiming. I checked out Granic’s blog, and there are lots of good tips there. I like her attitude that all the sleep training methods can be effective, and the best choice is dependent on the family and the baby. Her emphasis on timing is wonderful, something that I’m afraid is really missing from the literature. I think it is an excellent point that “success” of any sleep training efforts is going to be highly dependent on developmental stage. This is complicated – just waiting longer is not necessarily better. There are windows when it is easier and some when it is harder. She says 4-6 months and around 9 months are times when you just shouldn’t try. Good stuff. And thanks for telling your sleep stories for your two very different kids and what has worked for your kids. What I read in that is that flexibility is key, and that is often missing from sleep training methods. We buy a book and think we’ll live by a set of rules, only to discover that all the rules don’t work for us, and then we stress out about breaking the rules. I know I did – I’ll write about that at some point.

  38. What a great piece. I love how you are splitting it up into 3 parts! I have 3 children (ages 5, 3, and 7 months) and have had very different sleeping experiences with all three. The first I tried the CIO after 8 sleepless months and in about 4 days she was sleeping beautifully. She responded well and it was a true blessing. My second child need no sleep training. She was born to sleep a true blessing (and she is still my best sleeper). My third child has been the most difficult so far. He does not respond to CIO as well as my first. Luckily he will nurse to sleep and goes to bed by 8pm everynight now. However, he still wakes up somenights on the hour to nurse or be rocked. So it is not the going to sleep that is the problem (as it once was) but the staying to sleep. It just goest to say that every child is different and what works for one child and parent will not always work for another.

  39. Alice – thank you! I’m a new mom with a 4 month old considering the CIO method and it helps just hearing your experience (as well as those who have commented on your story). My 4-month old is a strange sleeper. She’s slept through the night (with a few hiccups here and there) since about 7 weeks. At first, we had to bounce/rock/soothe her to sleep, but now, most nights I give her a last bottle, swaddle her (still needs it) and put her down (awake). She may grunt a bit, but usually goes to sleep. I often hear her wake during the night, make a few noises, but she is able to put herself back to sleep.

    The odd thing – she cannot soothe herself to sleep during the day for naps! We have to swaddle her and walk/bounce/sing just to get her to go down to sleep for a 30 minute nap. Sometimes she cries for up to 45 minutes (and by that time, she’s overtired and has “missed” her nap time!). Anyone else have this experience? We’re thinking we may have to apply the CIO method for day time sleep – we don’t know what else to do!

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  42. Has anybody else tried “holding” their baby in bed? My little one is 10 months old, won’t go to sleep on her own, wakes up every hour or 2 and needs the boob to go back to sleep. She often wakes up when put down in her bed and starts wiggling frantically immediately, trying to sit up or stand up. i’ve found myself thinking “well if you just stopped moving you might go back to sleep more easily” so I’ve sometimes “pinned her down” in her bed so she couldn’t roll or turn or get up and after a few seconds of struggling she would give up and fall asleep. I haven’t made this a habit though as I’m afraid she might turn claustrophic or develop some kind of trauma for being restrained. Anybody else has ever had similar experience? She seems a little old for swaddling but I would be interested in hearing of other “restraining” method experiences. That being said, I’m far from having resolved our sleeping issue and contemplating trying the CIO method again. Thanks Alice for addressing this issue!

    • Pinning her down or restraining her sound s abit harsh, but I think I know what you mean. Both my kids went through very wriggly stages like you described. I used to just snuggle them in my arms (me on my side and their heads in the crook of my arm with my other arm draped around them. That worked almost every time cause once they couldn’t move, they’d fall asleep again. Plus I think it’s the feeling of being safely wraped up in the warmth and security of mummy’s arms. Yes, sometimes it was an issue for me as they wanted to keep snuggling, but I couldn’t lie on my side anymore as my hip was aching. Usually I could roll onto my back with them still in my arm and snuggled into my side. Other times I could get my husband to take over the snuggling duties which was a nice bonding opportunity for him, too.

    • hiya! Just this past week I did something that reminded me of your comment – maybe I was subconciously inspired? Anyway, I normally nurse or hold my son to get him to sleep and I found that when I put him down and he starts crying, I placed my hands firmly on him (eg if he was on his back, I would put one across his chest and the other across his stomach) and he calmed down straight away! I don’t know if bcs my partner and I often hold him, he is used to pressure on him – but I found it also worked when he was on his side. Is this similar to what you meant?

      • I meant to say that he doesn’t respond to gentle stroking or touching (I tried this in reponse to others saying to comfort them and let them know you’re there) so it isn’t simply my touch, but a bit of firmness/pressure (and possibly warmth).

  43. Great post Alice… you guys…were not blessed with a good sleeper. BabyT’s sleep routine up until 4 months involved me walking laps around the kitchen..all….night…long. How he could tell that I tried sitting down from a dead sleep I have no idea, but sure enough…as soon as I would start to squat down into a chair- WAAAAHHHHH. Stig and I spent so many sleepless nights trading off carrying BabyT while the other was on the internet researching baby sleep techniques and both sides of the CIO controversy. Finally, out of exhaustion and being driven to the edge of insanity we did CIO a little after 4 months. I think it is harder on the parents than on the little ones. Things got much so much better! And, he was still the same super happy and friendly baby despite the few nights of doing his best to make us feel like jerks.
    Now we are on vacation, staying with my parents, and trying to figure out how to encourage good sleep habits while staying in someone else’s house. We coddled and cuddled him to sleep the first few nights, and when he would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking he must be scared in a new house. We have been here for a week now, and instead of getting used to his surroundings and sleeping better, he is waking up more, and putting himself to sleep less. Grr… So last night we had to revert to CIO again. Now, at 8 months- he has gained some stamina! Also, he now pulls himself up in his crib, and gets stuck. We all had a rough night, but here’s to hoping tonight will be better.
    On another note…I LOVE your blog! I read it all the time! Your pictures are fabulous-I love BabyC’s hair :)

    • Targhee – everything goes to s#$t when you travel:) I will say it has varied with us with age. Some trips she has done great, and some it has thrown things off quite a bit. I always feel like it is a lot to ask of them to fall asleep in a strange place anyway. We usually just did whatever it took to get some sleep when we traveled. One thing that usually helps is to wear her out with lots of fresh air during the day and to try to get naps in so she isn’t overtired at bedtime. Luckily, BabyC usually falls right back into her old good habits when we get home. Sorry – it is never easy! Hope tonight is going better. And glad you like the blog!

      • Mmmm, I suppose that’s one of the pros of my babies needing ME to go to sleep. Sometimes it can be annoying when they can’t go to slee without you. But on the other hand, I travelled from Australia to Europe with them a few times and they always had with them the one thing they needed to go to sleep: ME. So we didn’t really have issues apart from the night/day confusion for the first day or so.
        I would not worry too much about how your bub is sleeping on vacation. It’s all new and a little scary and also very stimulating. So try and keep your bedtime ritual as close to the one you had at home as possible and just go with the flow. He’ll adjust again when you’re home.

      • @Alex – I agree, traveling can be harder on a baby used to falling asleep on her own – then asked to fall asleep in a strange place. One of the things that I have learned is that travel can call for a complete change of plan, and it doesn’t necessarily ruin the happy routines we have at home. There have been many nights when traveling when BabyC has nursed to sleep from pure exhaustion of the day (something she rarely does at home), or when I have stayed with her and soothed her to sleep, something that also doesn’t work that well at home. As you suggest, we try to stick to our same bedtime routine but are happy to do whatever we can to help her fall asleep without stress.

    • PS – Having a “transitional object” or “lovie” has also really helped BabyC to sleep when we are traveling. It is one more thing that we can keep consistent about sleep times between home and away. We also bring our Sleep Sheep that makes ocean sounds with us.

  44. Thanks for bravely addressing this topic, especially from a research point of view. Although I have some background in child development, I was really unprepared for the sleep patterns and challenges that can happen with a newborn and young infant. Our son was very much like your daughter. He would not fall asleep easily (even we he needed to sleep), and wouldn’t stay asleep long as an infant. We too figured out the bouncing on the exercise ball trick and we did that for much of his first 3 months. At night he was better, but still woke up pretty frequently but luckily went back to sleep easier without bouncing. For naps, I was eventually able to transition him to a bouncy seat (with rigorous bouncing) and ultimately to the crib. One thing we did was to try some sleep training/CIO (for short periods of time) at naptime first. This eased my conscience because I knew at nap time he wasn’t hungry, wet, etc. Sometimes he could put himself to sleep after 10-20 min (starting at about 5 months old), other times not, and I would nurse him to sleep. This was only marginally helpful for naps, but I think it got him used to putting himself to sleep at least sometime so when we did eventually do sleep training at night (CIO) at 9 months old, I knew he had the maturity to do it.
    You make so many good points, but I think understanding your child’s temperament and sensitivities is key. After a couple of months, we figured out that our son just seemed very sensitive to stimulation and could easily get overstimulated to the point of not being able to go to sleep without serious intervention. Once we figured this out and the fact that bouncing and white noise worked (most of the time), then we knew we could handle it until he matured.
    At 9 months he was still waking at least 2 times a night and I or my husband would feed him and he’d go back to sleep. Not too bad until he started waking the instant we put him back in the crib. This was our sign that he was wanting our attention and didn’t have a need for food, diaper, etc. This could go on all night and that was not something we could handle. At that point we did CIO and it worked well after 3 nights or so. We felt comfortable with this because I knew he had the physiological maturity to put himself to sleep and that he didn’t need to be fed at night anymore. It was a very hard decision, but in the end it was the best for us.
    Another key point is balancing the child’s needs/desires with the parents needs. For us, we could not sleep well with our son in our bed. We tried it for awhile and it just didn’t work for us. He moved around too much and made to much noise to sleep well. We found that he didn’t sleep well either because he thought is was play time. We were almost to the point of becoming resentful at him and that is no way to parent.
    Today our son is 2 1/2 and sleeps fairly well. He doesn’t fight going to bed too much and sleeps until at least 5 am and then will sometimes go back to sleep if one of us goes to him. It’s key to keep your child’s temperament/personality in mind. We find that if our son skips his nap or has a extra busy/stimulating day, you can bet he will wake up at night. It’s the over-stimulation aspect again. On those nights, we don’t just let him cry because we know his little brain just can’t settle down. If one of us has to sleep with him for a night, then that’s okay and then we return to regular routine the next night.
    Thanks again for this great article. Sorry for such a lengthy comment :)

    • I think over-stimulation was also an issue for BabyC, which explains why letting her cry in my arms didn’t help (even when I tried to be really really boring). And she also occasionally gets really worked up before a nap or at bedtime, and we will rub her back to help her calm down to go to sleep. I know that point of no return – happens after a busy day – when she just needs a little help to return to a calm state.

  45. I really wish more people would talk about baby sleep. I didn’t even know that naps were important until my son’s 2nd month!

    My son didn’t want to sleep from day one. Even the first week home from the hospital, he would spend 2-5 hours awake at a time, just looking around, completely content. I didn’t know that wasn’t okay!
    He did have problems getting to sleep and we ended up sleep training at 2 months. By 3 months he slept through the night with a Dream Feed, and by 4 months we cut the feed and he did great for 11-13 hours. (a lot of people don’t think that is possible with a breastfed baby, but it was for ours) I used the methods from “The Baby Whisperer Solves all of your Problems by teaching you to ask the right questions.” I was very concerned that CIO would hurt him. At this point I wonder if all of the crying he did with me right there next to him, trying to comfort him in his crib hurt him. Night time didn’t take too long to get under control (a few days), but naps are still an issue at 9 months. I guess I’ve always gotten the timing wrong on naps, and he is super touchy about the timing. If it isn’t in the right 5 min increment, it will be a short nap.

    I considered CIO for short naps and early wake-ups when he got over 6 months, but I don’t think it would work because he will whine for over an hour without crying. He throws up before he cries.

    I learned a ton about sleep from the Baby Whisperer web forum and all the moms on there who donate help.

    Thank you for trying to separate the truth from fiction. I look forward to your articles!

  46. Thank you so much for this blog post. When my son was 8 months old I tried this technique (very successfully I might add!) My son was settling fine at night but would not sleep during the day. I tried everything! I lay down in bed with him and breastfeed him and he would just kick me and scream! By the end if the day my placid little baby was a horrible, clingy little monster. On the advice of a friend I decided to try “controlled crying” and not without considerable guilt. I rang my sister several times to ask her if I was causing my son brain damage. My method was to sing him a bed time song, put him in his sleeping bag, give him a kiss and leave the room. If he was still crying after five minutes I went in and picked him up or gave him a top up feed. Within days he had got it. He now sleeps beautifully and we’re much happier all round.

  47. We did the a modified method of Babywise with both our kids, while our first was sleeping through the night at 4 months old, our second took a bit longer to take to not waking up once or twice a night until he was 8 months old, but I think a lot of that was that he was sleeping in the room with us until he was 8 months old. I’ve honestly tried co-sleeping with both of them but they just do not sleep, it’s too fun to have mommy and daddy so close, why would they sleep? The crying even for just 5 minutes can be unbearable for the parents, so I get why co-sleeper vigilantes want to paint us sleep trainers as monsters but honestly, it is what works best for our family, and for many many families. It is so frustrating to be called a “child abuser” for doing something that is honestly best for your individual child. The thing that has driven me crazy is research on children from orphanages in Romania being used against sleep training. These children are rarely picked up or cuddled, using such extreme cases does not even compare to what sleep training actually is. This is why the Sears franchise makes me sick. The methods they are teaching aren’t necessarily bad, but using research that doesn’t apply to prove their way is the best is the kind of misleading that just makes my blood boil.

  48. I have been wondering when you will cover “sleep training” and voila this article! I so look forward to hearing more.

    Our story is similar. My baby boy had to be rocked in the arms & then for afternoon naps, we had to rock his basinette back n forth until we had decided we cannot go on like this (he was getting heavier etc) & we wanted him to learn the skill of self settling. After consulting many books including the government recommendations (we live in Australia), we decided to do controlled crying or CIO. Like you, it got better better with the first night being really terrible (no sleep for the hubby, myself & bub) then by 4th night, he had learnt to self settle then eventually sleep through the night as he also dropped night feeds too, which was around the 6 month mark.

    However, we find that when he got sick or when his normal routine got disrupted (ie. slept over at cousins’), he would form a different sleep association & so we would have to “break” this and go through the whole process again. We have had to “train” him to overcome night waking & asking to sleep in the big bed, mommy/daddy staying in his room until he fell asleep & in the early days being rocked to sleep. Our current struggle at the moment ( he is now 2), is the mommy/daddy staying in the room until he fell asleep and constant night waking asking one of us to come in his room or for him to sleep in the big bed. All these he has overcome before but is now a problem that has come back after he spent a few days with my brother & his family & my toddler sleeping in the same bed as his aunt/uncle for 4 nights. He seems to be scared to be left all alone in his room though he doesn’t really say this. He can really keep himself awake making sure that he is not left alone! From being able to be left alone in a dark room, him self settling & waking up 10 hours later, it seems like he is a different child! After more than a week of being back from his cousins, he has finally slept through the night last night. We have temporarily given up on getting him to self settle as he is really quite stubborn now & would get out of his bed & follow myself or his dad if we get up to leave before he’s asleep! One night when we really tried a tough approach letting him cry while we left him upstairs (he wears a sleeping bag & knows not to attempt the steps), a distant neighbour (never seen her before) knocked & complained/threated to call child protection services! She had the nerve to assume that we were abusive parents when she didn’t know us from a bar of soap.

    I’m really hoping that we will overcome these sleep associations like we did the others.

  49. Thank you so much for posting this. It could be my story you’re writing. I write an advice blog in which I once tried to explain how this method had saved my sanity, and I think people did assume I was one of Those Terrible CIO Mothers. You’ll get nothing but support from this little black duck.

  50. 85 comments tells me this is a really hot topic! Is that more than vaccines? I’m really interested to know the result of your data-mining. What always bothered me about the CIO research is that they cite how much a child cries as a cause of brain damage. To me, the name CIO is a misnomer. My child has cried cumulatively less about sleep than he has about his obsession over sitting in the front seat of the car and my refusal to let him. Why can’t we call it the “Learn to Sleep On their Own” method. LSOO?
    One thing I’m really interested in is the time-frame. It seems as though the parents who are most miserable are those who really would like their kids to sleep on their own, but don’t try sleep-training until 9 months or later. There is no way in the world I could bear the level of crying described by some of these poor mommies! I would simply crack. It is stories like those, experienced by very close friends and family, that got us so motivated early.
    I feel a little bad that you second-guess your own decision because I’m sure I was the gateway to CIO for you. That is a little reminder to me that advice given, even with the best intentions, doesn’t work for everyone.

    • I agree – I think LSOO is a much better name for what we did! CIO is a very problematic term. I decided to keep using it because I think more people will read this if I use the dirty word, and in truth, that’s the word we use in our homes, even if it means different things to each of us.

      Time-frame is fascinating. I know lots of people have read my story and thought – oh, 3 months, that is way too early. There may be something to that. But I also read the stories of people who sleep-trained later and found it much more difficult. The sleep associations run much deeper and their protests can seem so much more emotional. I’m sure there are certain developmental periods when it becomes easier and others when it becomes harder. I know I have a much harder time listening to BabyC cry now then I did when she was 3-4 months old, when she cried a LOT anyway, despite all of my efforts to soothe her.

      As for you being the gateway – my response is that this whole sleep-training thing wouldn’t be so prevalent in our culture if it didn’t work, at least for some of us! We advise other parents on what saved us, and we wouldn’t give that advice if it didn’t work. That in and of itself is evidence of efficacy in my mind, but I’ll be looking at the research on efficacy of sleep training in a future post. I actually remember hiking with you and Sarah when BabyC was around 2 months and me already fretting about her difficulty in getting to sleep and the bouncing crutch. You told me, “She’s just a peanut, give her time.” That was good advice and helped me get through another month of bouncing:)

    • “What always bothered me about the CIO research is that they cite how much a child cries as a cause of brain damage. To me, the name CIO is a misnomer. My child has cried cumulatively less about sleep than he has about his obsession over sitting in the front seat of the car and my refusal to let him. Why can’t we call it the “Learn to Sleep On their Own” method. LSOO?”

      Well first things first. Crying because he wants something he can’t have (ie. tantrum crying) is different to crying because he feels abandoned (even though we know that mummy is just in the next room, babies do not have the brain wiring yet to understand object permanence, that objects or people) continue to exist even when we can’t see them. Children typically begin to grasp this concept between 8 and 12 months of age.
      Not only is the reason for those 2 cries different, the physiological reaction is also different. There is also evidence that a child that is being soothed when it is upset – even if it continues to be upset – does not display the same raised cortisol levels, thus a colicky child that is soothed might still continue to cry, but does not undergo the same stress as a child that is left alone.

      And with regards to your suggestion of LSOO, there is such a term. it is called sleep training. Sleep training can have many different faces. CIO (“Cry it out” – crying without soothing) is one of them CC (“controlled comforting” / “controlled crying” – crying with intermittent soothing) is another. But there are as many different versions as there are families out there. I feel that calling it CIO when you’re really talking about a version of CC is confusing the issue a lot and endorsing a method that I don’t think you meant to endorse.

      Also, I personally feel that efficacy is not a good measure of whether a method is appropriate. I can think of many things that were said to be very efficient but are now considered child abuse.
      And just because something is done by many many people, does not mean it’s even efficient. Timed breastfeeds used to be advised and practiced by most. However we now know that it is very detrimental to breastfeeding and milk supply so not at all effective.

      I am not judging anyone here, but I just wanted to clear up some of the rhetoric that is bothering me in this thread.

      • Hi Alex,

        We do have a problem with terminology, don’t we? Thanks for pointing that out. I think CIO is used interchangeably in the U.S. with sleep training. The term controlled crying is not used here. I’m guessing you are Australian? Is that the commonly used term there? I suppose some in the U.S. call it “Ferberizing,” but others simply call it CIO. The anti-CIO articles that I see don’t distinguish between what you define as CIO and controlled crying, so I figured I would stick with the same terminology. Maybe I will use the term “sleep training” in future posts in order to be more general and not confuse my non-U.S. readers. Do you think that will help?

        I agree with you that the cause of the crying could mean that it is a manifestation of a very different physiological response to the baby. I’ll be talking about that in my “risks of sleep training” post on cortisol and stress. I’m still buried in that research.

        I am also working on a post on efficacy of sleep training, so hopefully I will address your concern about it there. This is an important question to me. I do believe that the quantity and quality of sleep of the family – baby and parents alike – can not be ignored as a benefit of sleep training. This is quite different from timed breastfeeds, which were found to be an inadequate way of providing nutrition to babies. Parents don’t sleep train because they are trying to be “efficient,” they sleep train because they want their babies to sleep better, and it is a bonus if mom and dad get more sleep, too.

        As a side note, I have yet to find anything about parenting that is efficient:)

        Also, I don’t see much rhetoric in this thread, and that makes me happy. I see parents sharing their experiences, each of which is valid.

  51. Alice, great post! Thanks for sharing your experience. We feel we’ve been lucky with TK. He’ll be 6 mos in a week and a half and sleeps mostly through the night. He does usually wake up once and I’ve gotten into the habit of changing his diaper then. I find lately if we have a day where there is lots of stimulation or new things he is sure to wake up and cry. Otherwise, he occassionally sleeps through the night. I think however we’re approaching dropping from 3 naps to 2 so we’ll see how that goes. We did have a few weeks of restless nights around the 4 month wakeful period. This had to do with the *damn* binky being needed to fall back asleep (it was bad news – needing to be plopped back in each hour) but we worked with him and let him CIO a bit I suppose you could say and he seems to be over that now. Being home with him, I’ve been able to let him sort of lead to an extent. When he shows signs that he’s tired, he goes down for a nap but generally I’m mindful of how many hours it has been since he was last up. I forget what we were talking about, I think it may have been sleep training, but my pediatrician did remind me that I am the mother and for whatever reason that felt pretty empowering.

    Looking forward to what you find!

    • First, I’m jealous. Second, you give me hope that my next baby could transition to sleep easier! I’m glad you have an easy-going guy, and I LOVE the sentiment from your pediatrician. I think we need to hear that more often – and be reminded that nobody know our baby like we do. The damn binky – like my exercise ball – falls into that category of being something we love and can’t live without for a while and then something that we hate and still can’t live without.

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  53. I would like to thank you for your post. I am a mother of a 10 month old baby girl that dosn’t sleep and is now considering controlled crying methods to get her to sleep as I soon will be returning to work and I just don’t think I can continue getting up with her at night. It been a long 10 months for us with many ups and downs. I have read many books and talked to other mothers to try to find something that worked. In the end now at 10 months I am finally willing to try controlled crying, but I am still feeling guilty about it, as I never thought I would end up in this position. Through my research I have found many people and books for it and equally as many against it. So I am left with the thought that I know my daughter better than anyone in the would and want only the best for her and right now the best thing for her is sleep, but I am still left with the nagging qestioned have I made it harder for her by letting it go own for so long. I guess that is what is most hard about motherhood is that you never really know if you are doing the right thing, as evey child and family is different and you just to figure out what is right and will work for you and stop comparing your child and yourself to other. So in the end I am going to do the hardest thing in the world for me and let my child cry and hopefully we will all get some much needed rest and maybe even sleep a whole night within the next few weeks.

    • Hi Linda,
      I know it is the hardest thing in the world to do, but you are right that you know your child better than anyone, and you also know what your family needs better than anyone. Our instinct tells us that we don’t want to hear our babies cry, but it also might tell us that it is time for everyone to get some sleep! Best of luck:)

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  55. Pingback: Infant Sleep Research: Cosleeping, Self-Soothing, and Sleep-Training | Science of Mom

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  58. Thank you for writing this series. I was recently attacked by several moms on an online forum. Why? I decided to use the CIO method. Not only that, but we used the extinction method and our son is only 3 months old! Over and over again I explained how my son was sleep deprived, getting just barely a total of 8 hour the entire day and night. I explained how we went to the doctor about it, how I read so many different things and how my husband and I decided Weisbluth’s method was the best. My son was literally suffering from sleep deprivation and we needed something that worked fast.

    On the first night, he cried for one hour then went to sleep. That was it. He now sleeps like a dream every night, only waking once for a feeding then right back to sleep. He now gets about 14 1/2 hours a night and is a much happier baby.

    But those mothers didn’t care. I was called a monster. I was called neglectful, an abuser, etc. I was told that I was selfish for doing this just so I could have time to do whatever I wanted. I was told that being there for you child and never letting them cry is what a parent is supposed to do and I am a terrible parent. Someone even brought up the brain damage thing and mentioned there had been studies done, but didn’t link to any. It was maddening.

    I honestly feel this needs to be talked about openly in a lot more places and those mothers that think CIO is abuse need to be set straight. It makes me feel wonderful to read such an in depth and UNBIASED opinion on sleep for infants and toddlers. Thank you times a million!

  59. LOVE this blog – so carefully considered and lucidly written. I wish I had come across it months ago.

    I’m in Day 3 of crying it out with my 8-month-old, which I never thought I’d do. I’m still pretty torn up about it. I know I’m coming in late on this topic, but I thought I’d share my reasons for finally doing it, since I started out so strongly opposed. (And since it has come up so often among commenters, I’ll say my opposition to crying it out was not a political stance — it’s not that I thought parents who chose this option were monsters.)

    My baby is wonderful and happy but was never a good sleeper, and I was up with him at least every two hours almost every night since the night he was born. For a while he slept in 3-to-5-hour stretches, but then he went back to every 2 hours, and in the past week, every hour. I knew he was not hungry; it seemed he was desperately tired and therefore desperate for boob, because that was the only way he knew to fall back to sleep. So one of my reasons was this dependence. I could see that this was something other than that sweet and healthy mother-child attachment. I had become his only means to sleeping, and I feel strongly that that isn’t healthy — as if I was creating a handicap. Another reason is that I could see how badly he needs good sleep. I dealt fine with my own lack of sleep, but I could see that every day he was becoming overtired and not acting like himself (cranky, aggressive, eyes darting, hands grasping wildly).

    My husband finally convinced me to try it based on our experience with the car seat: because we could no longer stop every time he cried (of course we made sure he wasn’t hungry/hot/pinched/wet/soiled), in the space of a week, the baby went from screaming bloody murder for half an hour to whining a little when he’s first put in.

    Day 1 was hard, of course, but in the end he slept better than he has for months, and seemed happy the next morning. However, later in the day he became clingy and cried when I got more than 6 feet away from him — something he had never done before. I was absolutely horrified. I wanted to chuck the whole program. But a friend (and Montessori teacher) whose parenting I admire convinced me not to give up. Instinctively, I “babied” the baby that day and gave him all the reassurance he wanted. The next 2 nights were amazingly easy, with very little crying, and the baby is already over his clinginess.

    Still, it feels so wrong not to respond to my baby’s cries, and I’d love to find a middle ground. This blog is a great resource, I’m looking forward to reading more on this topic – and others. Thanks for all the energy and thought you put into it.

    • Just wanted to add our experience since then, because the change in his sleeping has made a huge difference in our son.

      First, we did some serious backsliding. Somehow we ended up back where we started — baby up nursing every two hours; sometimes unwilling to go back down — at 10 months old. I really didn’t want to go through CIO again (and wanted badly to defy the advice of mother-in-law et al. who seem weirdly proud of letting babies cry), but, like before, I felt the situation was truly unhealthy for the baby and for me. He was always squirming, hard to engage, and often fussy. He rarely napped more than 30 minutes a day even though he was obviously very tired. Also didn’t eat well. I knew because of my baby’s disposition and our past attempt that CIO would work for him (he is definitely too tenacious for gradual methods like Pantley’s), but I did things a little differently this time. I guess it was a variation on the Ferber method. When the baby cried, I went in right away, and again (a couple times) after about 5+ minutes, to hold him briefly and talk to him. At first, it did just make him cry harder than he would’ve if I had done nothing (he was sooo mad, and really let me know it), but I felt absolutely horrible not responding at all. Then, after the first night, he really got it. He would wake only briefly, cry for just a couple of seconds, then settle himself before I could even get out of bed. Now he’s sleeping like a champ, 11-12 hours. For me, the brief consoling made it much, much less horrible than it was the first time, when we just didn’t respond and I lay there feeling sick. Anyway, the main thing is that I can’t say enough about the difference his sleeping has made in him, even after just a couple of days. He wakes up happy and calm, he eats better, naps much better, squirms less, plays happily by himself for really long stretches, and is much easier to connect with — makes more eye contact and is more responsive, easier to engage, and sweeter. I’m sure my sleeping better makes it easier for us to connect, too — on top of making me feel more like a human being again.

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  62. We are starting sleep training next weekend. My son (4 months old – sleep training has been recommended by his pediatrician) does not nap well and wakes about 5 times each night. I nurse him to sleep and we have to carry him during his naps. My question is: do we sleep train for naps during the day? Everyone talks about what to do at nighttime but not resolving a bad napper.

    • Hi Tammie,
      In my opinion, naps are harder for babies than nighttime sleep. BabyC went through a period between about 2 and 5 months when her naps were very short, and she always woke up grumpy. She just had a hard time connecting those sleep cycles, I think. Anyway, there are a couple of different ways to approach naps as related to sleep training, and what you choose depends on how you and your kiddo are handling these changes. We did everything at once – we started putting BabyC down awake for both naps and nighttime sleep at the same time. That worked fine, but it did take longer for BabyC to learn to fall asleep for naps. Sometimes we’d just go take a long walk or I’d hold her or wear her for a nap just to take a break from it all. Other experts recommend a more gradual approach: sleep train for nighttime sleep but keep doing whatever works for naps. Once he is getting the hang of nighttime sleep, you can try putting him down awake for naps. The self-soothing skills that he learns at night will transfer to naptime as well, but sometimes it is just hard to wind down during the day, especially when you are 4 months old and don’t want to miss any of the action! Good luck, and know that however it goes, it will get better with time.

    • Tammie, I sympathise. I know it can be so tiring and frustrating.
      Waking up 5 times a night at 4 months is within the normal range. Actually most kids go through a phase of waking up more frequently at that age when before they might have only woken a couple of times. It’s got to do with becoming more mobile, practicing rolling movements at night ad things like that.
      With naps, you could invest in a good wrap-style or Mei Tei baby carrier so that you can get stuff done while your bubba sleeps on you. They really are awesome. Could you nurse to sleep and then sneak away once he’s asleep for his nap? Or maybe even catcch up on some sleep yourself?
      Or would he sleep in the car or pram? My in-laws always take my son to the park when they look after him. Run him ragged and then he’ll sleep in the car on the way home. It’s the easiest way for them to get him to have day time sleeps (obviously not an option for a 4 month old). When he was younger, they used to take him for a walk around the block in the pram.
      Most importantly, please let me assure you that it will get better. And then it might get worse and then better again. I find that sleeping comes in cycles. But the the good sleeping cycles will become longer and more frequent.
      Hang in there. You’re doing a wonderful job.

  63. Thanks so much for your responses!

    Science of Mom: Thanks for the nap options. I prefer to take the gradual approach by working only on nighttime training and cross my fingers that it’ll bleed into his nap rituals.I just hope it doesn’t set us back when I carry him during his naps. Again, thanks so much for all the information! It’s unfortunate that we all are going or have gone through CC or CIO but its comforting to know that there are other Mom’s out there with bags under their eyes!

    Alex: Thanks for the suggestions! His pediatrician wants him (so do i!) waking 1-2x/night to feed. I know he’s perfectly capable of it because he only seems to wake up because he wants a boob in his mouth. He’ll nurse a little and drift back to sleep. Its a bad habit that we go into in order to get a little sleep when he was a newborn. I don’t regret doing it because I was WAY more tired then but now we have to turn to CC/CIO to break it. He always falls asleep in the Ergo carrier and I end up holding him for 1-2 hours while bouncing and patting his back every time he starts to get shifty. Its just exhausting doing this 2-3x/day, then having to nurse him 5x at night! Thanks for the empathy & for warning me about things getting better, then worse, then better! When they get worse, I’ll remember to not give up.

  64. I am currently (and literally as I type) trying Cry It Out with my daughter, Maya, and it is tearing my heart up! I put womb noises on for her, tell her it’s bed time and close the door. This is my first attempt. I let her Cry It Out the last two nights, in the middle of the night after a night feeding and it worked within an hour. I went in every 15 minutes. I just am trying to follow my intuition. She screams really loud but she isn’t making any tears. She is four months old and she wants to be held all day long. She will only sleep on my shoulder after I pat her back for hours. Needless to say, my husband and I are utterly exhausted. This article made me feel much better about what I am doing. I am a new Mom and I am just trying my best.

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  66. Thanks for the post! It helps me a lot to know that the crying isn’t going to last to long. My son is almost 8 months and was a great sleeper until teething started. Now its a constant struggle to get him to stay asleep once I lay him down at night. Last night I finally gave in at 4am and let him CIO. He cried for about 15 min fully and than spartically cried another 15 min before falling asleep. It has taken me a while to be ready for the CIO method but I feel there is nothing else to do. When he is waking for teething we have tried multiple things, baby orajel, baby tylenol, another bottle. Nothing is working. We have a set bed time routine of a bath, baby massage, bottle and than I would rock him to sleep. Until he was about 6 months that worked great and he would sleep for 10 hours a night. Now he is waking up every 3 hours and it seems he just wants to be held. He will fall right back asleep until I go to lay him back in his crib. My husband and I are bigger so we do not want to co sleep for fear of rolling on him. Hes a pretty easy going baby during the day but naps and bedtime are becoming difficult. He was a pacifier baby but now is a thumb sucker and sometimes it seems that when i lay him down in the crib he gets so upset he cant find his thumb even when i help him. Its great to know that it works and that others out there are using CIO and after a few rough nights it works. Wish us luck as we embark on the next few days.

  67. Thank you for this. A google search led me here looking for some psychological support. My little one is 8 months old and we’ve been cosleeping up to this point and she has nursed to sleep since she was born. My husband and I have decided its time for her to move to her crib and I am typing this as she cries in her room.The best way to do this is to be consistent and its hard to hear her cry but hopefully with a few days and nights of consistently letting her fall asleep by herself we will all be getting good sleep.

  68. Thanks for your post! I realize that I have fallen into the exercise ball trap. My newborn is only 6 weeks old, but I want to break the habit now. I bounce her for daytime naps only. Any suggestions on what to do to help a 6 week old self soothe?

  69. Im in that same situation…
    My 3 month old baby has to be bounced to sleep on the exercise ball…while swaddled…then put to sleep in her swing. She wakes up many times each night and takes 3 very short naps each day. I’m so worried that I have ruined her with the bouncing, swaddling, and swing. Our nurse told us to let her cry at 4 months. In some ways I can’t wait, but other ways I don’t want the day to come. Getting a couple straight hours of sleep sounds glorious though.
    Anyway, thanks for the great post!

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  73. Hi Alice,
    After 10 months of sleeping in the same room and nursing my son to sleep. We finally reached a point no matter what we did our son would not go to sleep unless we put him in our bed. We finally had it and purchased a infant matress and out him in his crib. So far it is day three of sleep training and it has been hard listening to my son cry fir the first couple if minutes. He quickly switches to a whine rather than crying and so far he has only fought us for a hour and half but it has been getting better and better. Naps are still a bit of a challenge but in the end I think I am glad we choose to CIO everyone is getting much needed sleep…

  74. I know that many mothers may shun me or call me cruel but I used a very light method of CIO for my 8 week old. She sleeps very well at night but my husband is rocking her to sleep. He doesn’t mind and as of right now and I know later we will have to cross that bridge. She sleeps from 8:30p-3:30/4:30 takes a bottle and husband rocks her back to sleep and she sleeps til bout 10a. After that she is mine. She was a horrible and I mean horrible napper so husband gladly gives me the days and I happily let him enjoy the nights. I started feeding her, playing with her then about 1h-1.5hr i picked up her first tired queue and i swaddled her cuddled and gave her some swinging time in my arms. she loves the swing and unfortunately for her reflux this is all she can sleep in. for naps she sometimes wakes up after 30 min and i know she’s exhausted. i give her 5 min of fussing go in and shush her and put my hand on her cheek (she loves this) and then sometimes she will get a paci (but only for naps not nighttime) if she starts fussing again i will go in after 5 min and repeat. so far she has only one time gone over this and i waited and exactly at 7 min she was out and sleeping well. even though she likes to be in our arms to sleep she does not sleep well in our arms and wakes up very cranky even if she sleeps for over an hour in our arms. this is not good for her and don’t get me wrong i felt so sick to my stomach for having her cry for those 7 min but she woke up so happy and playful i knew it was the right thing. every baby is different. my first girl would sleep even with reflux in her crib go down for naps whenever and was a happy baby. this one is very specific and more high maintenance.

  75. also, i am a nurse and am always looking for research about controversial discussion like CIO and breast/bottle feeding. just got finished reading a 6 yr study from the AAP and they stated that in the 6 yrs of their study with coo vs non-cio babies at their 6 yr old bd they were developmentally stable and there was no difference in their intellect or bonding with their parents. it made me feel better as this was the only way i was able to get my 2 mo to actually get decent naps times. when she napped better she even slept better.

    • Hi – did you see my post on that study? Although I am not concerned about any long-term effects of sleep training, I thought there were some major limitations to the study.

      It sounds like your method of letting your LO fuss a bit before sleep is giving her the space she needs to settle herself. BabyC was the same way – letting her fuss a bit before sleep was worth it when she woke up so happy and well-rested. Otherwise she’d fuss and be over-stimulated in my arms all day long. Also – you know your baby’s cries. If she’s screaming and escalating, she obviously needs your help. If she’s just fussing and trying to get comfortable and shut out the world, and she settles herself, then it sounds like she’s just practicing those skills, which will really come in handy later for her. You know your baby – as long as you are loving and respectful of her needs, you’re doing great.

      • Hi Bree – This is in response to your latest comment (won’t let me comment right below it). It actually sounds like you may want to take a step back and remember that your baby is just 8 weeks old. She’s still new here, and you can only expect so much out of her! BabyC didn’t nap for more than 45 min at a time between about 6 weeks and 5 months, and I’ve heard enough parents say that to know that it is totally normal. I tried a lot of things to help her, including some crying, but nothing worked. I think she just needed to mature more. It takes some time for babies to learn to connect sleep cycles and keep the stimuli of day out so that they can sleep. You can certainly try to give her opportunities to self-soothe, but I wouldn’t force it right now. I think it is more important, as you said, to help her get the sleep she needs. If she’s well-rested she can start to consolidate sleep more and fall into more regular patterns, plus she’ll be happier during her awake times. I know it is really really hard, so hang in there! And also – know that while you are at work and your baby has a different caregiver, they may find some other solutions together that might be different from the way you do things. I think that you have to sort of trust that that will happen and also be sure that her caregiver also has realistic expectations. At this age, a front carrier like a Moby wrap or Ergo can be awesome. You can wear her through her naps and still manage to do some other things. That kept me from feeling resentful when I was at my wits end with my baby refusing to nap on her own.

        Best of luck, and hang in there mama! And don’t forget to enjoy your baby too:)


    • Please note that in this study, they advised parents on sleep training from 8 month old. 2 months seems extremely young to try sleep training methods like Controlled Crying.
      There are other, gentler methods out there that can be used for babies this little.

      • Sorry, I should have read your original comment first. It sounds like your child is not actually crying, merely fussing a little. If that is all she does before going to sleep, then there certainly is nothing wrong with that – at any age :)

        • Alex – that was my interpretation as well. This sounds like fussing to me, and this may be a baby that prefers to have a little space as she settles herself. And if she sleeps better when she settles herself, I think that should be respected.

          Your first comment, however, did make me wonder. Bree – does your baby go to sleep easier if you leave the room? What if you stayed in the room, even if you were just sitting quietly next to your baby? I think some babies do need lowest stimulus possible to be able to sleep. Others might feel better having you present, even if you aren’t actively soothing. Just curious:)

      • She actually sleeps better if i put her fully to sleep on me first then transfer her to her swing. I was just getting desperate because i go back to work and was worried that she wouldnt nap because i wasnt holding her. I think i pushed her too much yesterday and her and i had a bad day. Mostly me because i kept beating myself up over it. Unfortunately no good naps were had yesterday and today i made sure she was very very asleep before laying her down and lo and behold she slept 5 min. Ugh. I have another child in the house and my husband is in school. I just cant stay on the couch or the rocker for 2 hrs while she gets her naps out. I dont know what to do. She is swaddled. Its dark. There is white noise on

      • so i let her try to fuss it out a little bit but it turned into full on screaming i am pissed at you you better pick me up now crying so i picked her up and she is fast asleep on husband. i guess its better to get her to sleep now and work on sleeping and soothing by her self when she is a little older. any thoughts?

  76. Hi Alice, Thank you SO much for this post! I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I thought I was the only one who had to wear my baby in a carrier and bounce for her to sleep…. this has been the only way I could get her to nap! She screms in her carseat, swing, bouncy chair, and every other apparatus I have purchased for her to sit in. And I have been suffering the frustration associated with her bad sleeping habits as well as the looks of disapproval from others that tell me I have spoiled her. But really I have just been doing this to keep me sane since it was the only way to get her to quiet down when she is screaming because she is overtired but doesnt know how to sleep :( My Maya is now 7 weeks old and I just returned to work this past week. (I am a physician too btw so reading your analysis of the scientific literature on this topic is great for me!) I had a couple questions… 1) at how many weeks did you sleep train your daughter? 2) did sleep training at night help her nap in daytime too? 3) have you come across anything in your research that suggests an optimal time to teach the baby to sleep/self soothe?
    Thanks again so much!

    • I have just a few minutes, but I wanted to respond to your questions:
      1) We sleep-trained between 3-4 months. Many people would say that’s too young, and I might not do it that young with a second child. What I would do it try to give baby frequent opportunities to try self-soothing – in a gentle way, with me there so she doesn’t know she’s alone. She might surprise you by figuring out how to settle herself. You are definitely NOT the only parent who has to wear your baby everywhere to get her to sleep. Babies love sleeping this way, and there is nothing wrong with it. I think if your ultimate goal is to get her to nap in her crib, though, it is good to let her try it out sometimes and see how it goes. For BabyC, her morning nap came easiest, so we’d work on sleeping in her bed for that one. By afternoon, she was usually in the carrier.
      2.) A little, but naps took longer to become routine and become consolidated. Between about 2-5 months, BabyC rarely napped for longer than 45 min at a time, even though she would sleep long stretches at night. I think naps are just harder for babies – more going on, accumulated stimulation during the day. Something clicked around 5 months and suddenly she was taking 2-3 hour naps. That might just require some patience:)
      3.) For considerations of timing, I recommend the book “Bedtiming” by Granic and Lewis.

      Best of luck, and enjoy these sweet times with your baby! I understand all too well the exhaustion of bouncing and walking a baby around all the time, but it is a fleeting time:)

  77. Hi there,

    I appreciate your article very much. We are trying the CIO method and it seems to work just fine or at least in my opinion when we put him down, but he’s been waking every three hours after that, pretty much, now some nights he’ll go 4.5 – 5 and maybe 6 hours, but lately he hasn’t. We are trying to figure out the culprit, is he teething? Was he over stimulated? What should we do when he goes to bed fine, but wakes up crying. We try the pause method, but that doesn’t seem to work, because when he’s awake he’s awake. I try’d talking to him during the day, and telling him about his sleep cycles and that he can practice putting himself down to sleep, and that he is safe and that we are nearby. He is almost 6 months old. He has a bedtime routine and normally in bed by 8:00 on the dot. He’ll get cranky otherwise. I’ve tried to let him CIO in the middle of the night, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea, so we dont’ do that anymore, (just when we put him down for bed.) He’s on solids three times a day per suggestion of our piediatrician who we call the baby whispier) And about 7 ounces three times a day, and a couple of small night feedings, such as 3 or 4 ounces, but the last few days he doesn’t fall right back asleep like he normally does. He has a runny nose, and a small cough, but this is pretty much normal because he’s been in daycare since 7 weeks, and he sleeps there too. Not much but still better than nothing. Any thoughts? Like last night, down at 8:00, last feed was 7:00 woke himself up around 9:30 (last big feed) and put himself back to sleep, then woke up again at 1:30 and then again at 5:00 and had a very hard time going back to sleep at the 1:30 and the 5:00.

  78. thank you so much for your well-analysed and thought-out post. i found it while lying in bed trying to block out LO’s cries in the next room midway through our attempt at CIO. wrecked with guilt, despair and doubt, your post gave me the strength to push through CIO.

    our story: 8mth LO was EBF-ed till 6 mths and loves to nurse, especially at night. he’d wake from 3-5x depending on his mood to nurse. coupled with that, he needs to nurse to sleep. one night i couldn’t endure having to wake up to nurse any more and decided to CIO there and then. luckily DH is supportive of our endeavour

    our progress: LO CIO-ed for 1 hr on the first night. his cries got progressively shorter and less frequent in the ensuing nights but it lasted for something like 7 days? most babies are able to get the hint after a couple of days so i thought i was doing something wrong. that was when i stumbled upon your blog.

    fast forward: this is the 11th night of CIO. he cried for about a min when he was laid down in his cot and i’m hoping he will stay asleep (it’s 4am here).

    our attempt for him to STTN has resulted in him waking up an hour earlier. i guess there has to be a tradeoff somewhere lol. he tends to wake up at the 5+am mark for a feed, after which he goes back to sleep then wakes at 7+am.

    also, the lack of might nursing has resulted in a drastic dip of my BM supply. while expected, i didn’t imagine for the drop to be this tremendous. we DO enjoy the nursing experience so much. i’m not sure if we are both ready to give this experience up yet but it seems more and more inevitable.

  79. I stumbled across your site while researching sleep in babies. Philosophically, I am antiCIO in all its forms. Practically, speaking, though, I’ve used it for my son. I’m a single parent, and we are chronically sleep deprived (if there are typos here it’s because I’m so tired I really can’t type–we were awake most of the night). Here’s our story:

    we started off co-sleeping. My son required more and more intervention to get to sleep and, from the beginning, was always VERY restless. I consider it a good night–still do-if we get 2 hrs of uninterrupted sleep. He was diagnosed with reflux and has been on meds since about 2 mo (he’s now 10.5 mo). By about 7 months he was doing what I call the “all night suckathon” when he nurses pretty much nonstop….that’s when we tried CIO. It took *a month* of nightly crying for about 30 minutes and then he learned to settle himself at the beginning of the night. But that has in no way translated to an ability to put himself back to sleep if he wakes (and sometimes he still cries for that initial 30 minutes). And he wakes pretty much hourly. Some of those wakings he can go back to sleep on his own after about 10 minutes of fussing, but over the course of the night that gets harder and harder for him, and I nurse him, at minimum, three times a night. The 4-6 am stretch he hardly sleeps no matter what I do, but he’s obviously exhausted.

    I suspect we’re dealing with a combination of medical/biological and behavioral issues. I’d like to wean him to no more than one feeding per night, but whenever we try that, he wakes MORE. I should say, he’s very small (less than 5th percentile, was growth-restricted in utero), does not take much in the way of baby/table food yet, and recently started daycare. I’m a single parent, and we share a bedroom, which complicates all this.

    I’m venting here, I suppose, but I read stories like yours where CIO is a magic cure after a few days and I”m truly astonished. My child DOES NOT SLEEP. And the more tired he is, the harder he is to put to sleep. We need something to break the cycle, but I don’t know what that is….

  80. I have a 3 month old and have definitely not figured any of this out yet. But I have to share a story of my sister. She has a 24 year old girl. She did not do the CIO method. She spent at least 2-3 hours every night for many years getting her to sleep. Now the child (well, young adult) has horrible insomnia. It is very stressful to the girl. She has a horrible time getting to sleep. She tries all kinds of methods, medicines, with limited relief. This makes me think it is SO important to give our children good sleep habits not only for our sanity (as parents) but for our children long term.

    • I totally agree that it is important to develop healthy sleep habits early in life. And I’m sorry for your niece – I know how frustrating insomnia can be. It is quite possible that she would struggle with sleep no matter what, though – some people just do. The research doesn’t really show that sleep training has an effect on sleep quality or quantity beyond the first couple of years, at least on average.

    • My mum patted, rocked and shushed me to sleep and back to sleep until I was 18 months old. The doctor prescribed phenergen (not sure of the spelling) out of desperation, which helped get my sleep sorted out. My whole life I have had problems going to sleep, resulting in insufficient sleep many nights out of the week and month. It’s like I don’t know how to fall asleep – and I’m 33. And of course, my son is the same as me. At 8 months (now) we are doing sleep training, and it’s working. I hate hearing my son cry but there’s no way that I’m going to let him miss out on learning how to go to sleep on his own.

      • I’m not sure you can draw that bow. I didn’t sleep through the night until I was two and my parents stayed in the room each night until I fell asleep until I was five!! Since then, I’ve had absolutely no sleep problems (don’t usually wake at night even for the bathroom and no issues going to sleep – asleep within seconds of lights out), until I was pregnant with my son 12 months ago (in my last trimester). Of course, now he doesn’t sleep through the night, wakes sometimes every hour, and my parents laugh – it’s karma! He does sleep well sometimes and not others.

        In general, I am philosophically opposed to crying based sleep training methods and I do think there are better methods, although I understand the temptation. However I do think CIO (extinction) is vastly different from Feberizing (gradual extinction).

        I also believe Feberiing should be performed after 6 months, preferably 12 months. But that’s my opinion and I, in this case, don’t care about the science much but will go with my instinct. (In most things, I do care greatly about the science but not this for some reason).

  81. I am a father of a 4.5 month old little lady who is nothing but a bringer of joy in my life. Recently however my family went through a bed bug problem that took two months, and a full move complete with leaving all of our old stuff behind, to resolve. As a result BabyJ’s sleep schedule got thrown right off. Once in our new place, the first two weeks were very hard. BabyJ was getting up 2-3 times a night and wouldn’t go down unless bounced for an hour and fed, as well she was getting up at least twice a night extra from dirty diapers. We love her and were on the fence about CIO as we know it isn’t for everyone. Then my wife found this blog and you described exactly what we were feeling, down to the difference between a 7 pm bounce and a 3 am bounce :). We did CIO and the first night she went down at 7 pm without any fuss or crying, we thought we were in the clear but weren’t so lucky. She woke up at 9:30 and it took 50 minutes, with periodic checking, for her to go back to sleep. The whole time I kept a minute to minute journal. I found writing my thoughts and feelings as they happened was both very freeing and also gave me something to do to pass the agonizing time. Second night she slept straight to 3 am when she was hungry, then after being put down again she woke up at 5:15. I braced myself for another long hour of crying and feeling horrible, but she only cried for about 10 minutes. I kept a journal again, but this time it was much more upbeat :). It is now 8:20 am and she is still sleeping!!! For the first time since she was born my wife got to wake up on her own and not because BabyJ was crying. I know CIO isn’t for everyone, but for us it seems to be working very well!

    Thank you Alice, your story gave us the courage to try ourselves, and I cannot tell you how good it feels to know that BabyJ is on her way to full night sleeps, and so are we!

  82. Hi Alice! I am a new mother, well I guess not anymore my daughter is one and she has slept with us in our bed all the time:) I really enjoy having her near me and watching her sleep and it started because of breast feeding and just turned into how we slept;) we are now expecting # 2 and for the first time I am seeing a problem with our sleeping patterns! How will I put 2 babies to sleep? How will I nurse with and 18 month laying next to me? I realize now I should have tried a long time ago to get her comfortable in her crib and now it’s crunch time. Now that I am looking into ways I am realizing the other benefits of “self soothing” and the importance. I think I will try CIO but am concerned because my daughter has never been left alone before I don’t want to completely devistate her, and she is already 1 a lot of testimonies I am reading are about 6 month olds and younger. I wanted to see if you had any thought on this because of her age. I hope CIO works but if not i don’t know any other ways to try ad let her self soothe. Any advice/experience from anyone would be so greatly appreciated. And thank you for all your information an taking the time to educate other mothers about your findings and research. It’s great what you are doing. ~Casey and BabyK

    • Hi Casey,
      I wouldn’t assume that your daughter will have to cry or be devastated during this transition. I would start by trying to make the change gently and with your presence. You might check out Elizabeth Pantley’s “No Cry Sleep Solution” (recommended by many, others found it not as helpful) and The Sleep Lady’s book for some ideas. At one, you can talk with your daughter a lot about this change, and although she may protest it, you can at least give her fair warning so that she knows what is going on. You can also let her know that you understand that change is hard and that you’re close by to support her (whether that means you stay in the room with her as she goes to sleep or you come in to check periodically is up to you). I also read “Bedtiming” by Granic and Lewis and found it very helpful. They are developmental psychologists, and they outline which ages are most and least appropriate for making changes to sleep routines. It isn’t necessarily better (i.e. less stressful to the baby) to wait longer, according to them – it depends on what the child is going through developmentally. For example, they say 6-8 months is a good time to make sleep changes, but not 8-11 months, because that is the period for separation anxiety. Lucky for you, they say 12-16 months is a great time to work on sleep changes. It is “an emotionally stable period where your baby is as focused on the world around her as she is one you.”

      Have you read this post?

      This post has a very gentle approach:

      Best of luck!

      • Thank you for replying so quickly I really appreciate your dedication! I feel a little better knowing that about the age, and I will check those books out! Again thank you!

        • I just reread my comment from last night, and I just want to add that I wasn’t trying to say that using the Ferber method is the wrong way to go. I think it’s totally fine, but all the same stuff about talking about it with your daughter still applies. I think it is great to start with a “gentler” method – most people feel better about doing that. However, it doesn’t work for everyone. For some kids, it just drags out the process, and they might do better with making the change all at once. It really depends on you and your daughter. There isn’t a wrong way to do it, so long as at some point your daughter has the chance to fall asleep without your help. If she’s never done this before, it is probably going to cause some tears, but that’s because it is a big change and it is not always easy to go to sleep in a new way. It doesn’t mean she feels abandoned:) Best of luck!

  83. Pingback: 30 of the Best Blogs for New Moms | Newborn Care

  84. Here I am at 1:30 am going trough all blogs and informations about how to make your baby sleep while my 13mo old baby girl is screaming in her crib. I am can call myself a desperate first time mom. My DD started to sleep trough the night when she was only 6 weeks old. We felt so lucky. We did not know that things could change so easily. We took her to a oversea trip when she was 3 mo old at same time we stop wrapping her in blankets since it was so hot where we were. The nightmare started. She started to wake up at least 4 times a night and we created the bad habit to hold her hands. After 4 months of no sleep for her and for us we decided to try the cry out method. It worked great at that point. It was 5 nights letting her cry and she was back sleeping on her own. The problem returned when we had family visiting us for a whole month and since we have only 2 bedrooms we had to move to her bedroom for that month. It wasnt long until she knew we were in her bedroom with her. She start to wake up many times during the night again. It was just impossible for us to let her cry out while we were there. We could not handle it. So we made the bad decision to hold her hand to soothe her only for that month and we promised that as soon as visits were gone we would let her cry out again. Well, thing is now visits are gone and it has been over two weeks that we letting her cry out and she is not getting this time. Not sure if we are doing it right or why first time worked and not is not working… I am know that I am in my limit of exhaustion and of hearing my baby crying. I started doubting if this is right. I think if parents knew that it only take few nights crying and they would sleep trough the night forever, most of them would choose this method. I sure would.. as I did before.. but if it is not working? I know this is not a consultation site but I would appreciate some opinion or support. Many thanks from a desperate mama.

  85. Hi,
    I’m planning on CIO for my 7month lo, problem is that he is teething.
    I was thinking of waiting till teething got better but for past few months it hasn’t.
    He has never been a good sleeper with many wakes in the night and its got worse with teething…. Last night every half hour. I’ve tried every baby pain killer nothing works.
    Is it ok to sleep train whilst teething.
    He breast feeds at every wake which I no I started when he born as I didn’t want him to wake hubby….! Now I’m stuck doing this!

  86. This is good to read ! I am in a situation of wether to try this or not my 5 month old girl is just starting to sleep through the night but her naps in the day and when I lay her down fur bedtime has gone from pleasant to screaming the house down ! I tried tonight to leave her I checked in her every 10 mins just out her dummy back in but it just sempt to infuriate her even more .. I am unsure at what point if any am I suppose to pick her up and comfort her .. Her screams ate ear piercing and she starts snorting and chocking ! It’s the second I lower her down her face just changes .. She doesn’t like being held to sleep or rocking we took her out in car last night but I don’t want to get into that habit , I just couldn’t believe our once perfect sleeper is now screaming the house down , Incidentely it was the hairdryer again that got her to sleep but that was only after about 10 tries , how do u know if this method is not for ur baby ? Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)

  87. Thank you for sharing, i didn’t realize there were long term concerns for the cry itout method. Your story sounds close to our experience bouncing on the yoga ball for hours until 3 months and we tried this day one was awful i cried i felt so bad but by day 3 my son went right to sleep. Life was amazing from there on still to this day my 2 1/2 year old prefers to sleep in his own bed and has a hard tome falling asleep with my husband and i. With my next child I’ll start the same try to comfort my baby but if i come across dredging bedtime again I will still try the cio. Every child is different and have different needs. My son is independent and confident might be part personality other part parenting. Who really knows! Thereare so many different factors to really get the truth… Just parent out of love and it won’t be abuse use encouraging words and don’t discipline out of anger always have your child best interest.

  88. We are at our wits end. Would it be possible to contact you via email. I have read the books. Talked to parents. And done some CIO. Nothing works. Please help

  89. I am studying to become a maternity, baby & child sleep expert and I just read your post.
    It’s like reading exactly what happened to my family! After being at our wits end with baby, and after reading about CIO and talking to friends, I decided to try it. I had never known about it until someone mentioned it to me. I researched and read, and it worked! Now baby sleeps 12 hours straight at night and I have a passion for helping struggling parents. Great post!

  90. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I do want to share my opinion, especially since my experience was similar to yours with my first. Gwenna screamed in my arms, while I held her tight, nearly every night of her infancy. I knew/know that she was having trouble transitioning to sleep, and the root of this problem is often the nervous system. Consider someone with panic attacks- if you hold them tight, squeeze them, they calm. That is what would happen with my baby. This is the difference between crying in your arms and crying in the crib. In the crib, they are never soothed fully after crying-it-out, and so the nerves keep on firing and increase their stress level baseline. This is what is meant by “brain damage” in those studies, because this is a physical thing that can become permanent.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, but you can’t assume that what worked with your baby would work with others. Holding my baby tight did not help to soothe her. She actually wanted space. The only thing that worked, after a point, was bouncing. After that, what worked for the long term was letting her learn to fall asleep on her own. It turned out that she was quite capable of doing this, and letting her fall asleep on her own allowed her to sleep much better, too – definitely less crying in the long term. Now, I would never recommend that a baby be allowed to struggle and cry night after night alone – of course not. Yes, I believe that could have some long-term effects. But many babies are capable of learning to self-soothe if given the chance, and their short learning period gives way to much easier transitions to sleep without the screaming and the bouncing. There’s no evidence that babies that have cried before sleep – alone or in arms – have increased stress, at least not after the first couple of days. Believe me, I’ve checked (if you don’t believe me, read my follow-up sleep posts).

  91. While searching the internet for information on ‘CIO’ methods, I stumbled across this blog post. You won’t believe my double take when I read that your story is MY EXACT STORY. My daughter WILL NOT SLEEP without the bouncing on an exercise ball. How I have come to loathe that ball. She is six months old and after last night (up literally every 45-60 minutes) I have decided that we are going to have to Ferberize her. Unfortunately she is also swaddled AND has a paci AND sleeps in a small cradle, so I think all those things have to go. But I really thought I was alone w/ that ball bouncing thing, nice to know I’m not!

  92. So I have a question regarding the Ferber method where you go back in and “soothe” baby increasing time intervals. I try that and he just gets worked up all over again! He stands at the edge of his crib and grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. Do I lay him back down and try to soothe him? He’ll also do his best to get back to a standing position so you can lift him out, do I keep making him lay down? Or just soothe him standing up? He’s 13 months and was a great sleeper until a week ago. Now the minute we stop rocking, stand-up, or lay him in his crib he pops awake and starts screaming. Hubby wants to do full on CIO (no time-intervals for going in) well hubby doesn’t put him down for naps (we’re going on 2 hours of crying now; he was groggily asleep awoke and started screaming again) and hubby doesn’t do bedtime routine (baby just cries if daddy puts him to sleep; probably a sign we’re in trouble and he’s dependent on me to help him sleep). But overall any thoughts on the going back in and soothing if the baby refuses to be soothed unless he’s being held?

    • Well, I think sleep training with a 13-month-old is completely different from what we did when BabyC was an infant. It sounds like going in to check on your boy is not helping to ease this transition for him. It is making him more upset and maybe confused and maybe interrupting his work on learning to calm himself. I would focus on helping him learn to fall asleep without motion if you’ve been rocking him to sleep, because it sounds like that change from motion to stillness is interfering with his path to sleep. Find a new routine that gives him a chance to assume the responsibility of the final steps to sleep, and he will sleep better (and he CAN do this!). You can do that in a range of ways. It may be better to go more gradually and be present with him more, or it may be better to just make the change all at once. The important thing is that you explain to him how it will go, and he is old enough at this point to understand this and feel your empathy for his struggle on some level.

      If you’re interested in a gradual route, I like Dr. Laura Markham’s method for toddlers:

      You might think that going that gradually will just prolong the process for him and make it more stressful for him. I think that there may be something to that with some babies. In that case, you can follow most of her recommendations (especially the explaining and acting out parts) but explain to him that you are going to leave him so that he can fall asleep, but you’ll be close by. Your choice is really dependent on how well you think your child will cope with the change and what makes more sense to you. Best of luck!

  93. Your blog saved my life tonight!! As I type I am implementing CIO. I have read endless articles about the controversy but in the end it was time for my 15 month old girl to learn to fall asleep by herself. I did the intervals and I can tell you I’m at 20 minutes of not going in and I just heard a snore:) the first couple nights were unbearable! No mother wants to listen to their child cry, but we stuck it out even though I’ve never felt ore guilty in my life! It reassuring knowing thier are other out here and I felt a little lighter after reading your blog. It’s now been 10 minutes since I heard a whimper… God bless you for the peace of mind.

  94. Thank you! I tried the gentle method of night weaning and gradual separation for our 15 month old. I was so sleep deprived as she woke up 4-5 times a night to nurse. She would stay up till 12 pm and refused to lay in her crib. We decided to sleep train her during the winter break, but she got sick the weekend before Christmas. So, we began December 27th. I tried the No Cry Solution, which said because we were co-sleeping the process might take months. I worked on a soothing night routine that winds her down. Normally my daughter fell asleep nursing, so my first step was night weaning. She would start screaming once I tried to unlatch her, even when she was in a deep sleep. We’d try to sooth her other ways and she would cry for an hour while daddy or I held her, rocked her, or walked with her. I was losing my mind by Sunday night. I started bawling with her. New Year’s eve, I resolved that I was going to start CIO in 2013. And the first night of CIO, daddy put her in the crib and she cried for 20 minutes. The next night 10 minutes. The following night 5. At first we took her out around midnight and I brought her in bed with me because I didn’t have a monitor. But when we finally got the monitor on Monday, no more need to check and that night she slept from 8 pm to 6 am in the morning. Same for Tuesday night. She sleeps so much better now. I was able to put her in her crib with her eyes open and she calmly fell asleep on her own. We’re still working on the kinks. But my point is that the gradual techniques resulted in her getting very very upset and now she cries only a for a few minutes before falling to sleep, if she cries at all.

  95. Reading your post made me feel so much better. I mean I have come to the conclusion that every family has to do what is best for them. As a first time parent I am learning what works for us. I think I unknowingly adopted a baby-centered method of doing things since it was the path of least resistance. So I spent the first few weeks of my little one’s life holding him to sleep. Then we graduated to having him sleep swaddled in the swing ::gasp::

    I thought co-sleeping might be the way to go, but he thinks it is his birthright to be attached to the boob the whole time which wrecks my sleep. I go back to work and finally decided that he needs to sleep in his crib. Although he still wakes at night, I think having him sleep in his crib is the best option. Last week we tried the CIO and it worked miserably. I came to the conclusion that it might never work. Reading your post though, we are going to try it again ::fingers crossed::

    thanks again!!

  96. I love your blog! This article is fantastic and so well written – we are in a similar (if not the same) boat, except, no ball, the edge of the mattress does the same trick we unfortunately discovered in the first few weeks after BabyA was born. And we need to stop it! Our little girl turned 3 months last week and we are doing plenty of research on CIO – we have decided to give it a try.
    How old was BabyC when you sleep trained? Could you share what the first nights looked like and most importantly how long she cried for the first night and if you calmed her completely before leaving the room again? I know every baby is different, but it would be so interesting to hear more about your experience.
    Thanks for this wonderful site!

  97. As I’m sitting here listening to my baby wail I started googling CIO so I could remind myself this is the right decision!! Even though we did it 4 yrs ago with baby #1. Thank you so much. I feel a zillion times better :)

  98. I have three kids now, 2 girls and finally a boy. When my oldest was six weeks old my parents handed me a book they saw on good morning america about sleep training. Its called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr Marc Weissbluth. This book has been my bible. He addresses that this is controversial. I, however, have had the best luck with this. All my kids used a slightly different method all of which he covers in his book. I have lent this book to about 6 of my friends and all but one succeeded with his sleep training methods. I am so lucky to have come across this book when I did. my 11 year old still sleeps 12-14 hours a night my 7 year old sleeps 12 and still seeks nap time on her own. and my 2 month old is almost sleeping through the night. i fully believe our children need the space and time to learn to sleep on their own much like other lessons in life

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  100. I have a one month old who is also a bouncer. Would you suggest stopping the bouncing to sleep earlier/younger? What age can babies begin to self soothe & what age to try CIO?

    • Hi Andrea,
      I hesitate to make any recommendations given that I’m not a sleep expert, and I’ve only parented one baby through these transitions. I think that the strategies are highly child-dependent. But if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t rely as heavily on the bouncing. With BabyC, it became the ONLY way she would go to sleep, apart from walking continuously (which was fine during the day to a certain point but did not work at night). So I would work on finding other ways to help to help my baby sleep, just so she was a little more flexible. I would also give my baby a chance to fall asleep with less help from me (in particular, less movement) starting younger. I would stay with her, maybe talking with her and patting her, and see if she could learn to fall asleep that way. I think in many ways that we are so determined that our babies should never fuss (which, really, is impossible) that we are afraid to let them try just a little bit of self-soothing to start developing those skills. By the time we realized that we had a problem – a baby who couldn’t sleep without motion and thus couldn’t sleep well at all – those associations were so strong that breaking them would require some crying and stress for everyone. So if I had to do it over, I would start younger but much gentler, giving small opportunities to try to learn to sleep without movement, maybe not for every sleep but at least occasionally. “Self-soothing” is a loaded word, but babies have some self-soothing skills from birth (for example, turning away when they are too stimulated). I think the key is to start helping your baby develop those early on in a supported way. In many babies, this can make sleep training in the classical sense unnecessary. Hope this helps and good luck!

  101. I know this is an old post so I’m not sure if you’ll even see this, but knowing what you do now, what would you have done differently with BabyC? Anything? I ask because I have my own 11 week old BabyC, who screams through car rides and will only go to sleep being bounced. I thought I was being SO smart when I discovered the bouncing trick, but I’m considerably less amazed with myself now that that is the ONLY way she’ll go to sleep. So, if you could go back in time armed with all the knowledge you’ve since a acquired, what would you do differently?

    • Whoops, sorry! I see you essentially answered this question in the comment above mine. Although I do also want to know if you did CIO again, what (if anything) would you do differently?

      • Hi Kim – Great question. I’ve actually been giving this a lot of thought lately as I’m starting to work on this chapter for my book. I am not as gung-ho about supporting/defending CIO methods as I was when I wrote this post, though I still know that it really helped us and I would never judge another parent who uses it. I think that if I had it to do over, I’m not sure I could do graduated extinction at this young age. I was a lot more desperate then, and as I saw our sleep getting worse, I didn’t have the foresight to imagine any way it would get better without something drastic. Now I think I have a lot more perspective on things, but I have probably also forgotten some of that sleep-deprived desperation and frustration. Hmmmm. If I had it to do over – or if I was in your shoes – I would work on helping BabyC learn to fall asleep without motion, but I would stay with her. I did attempt this, as I described in my post, but I’m not sure how consistent I was in the different things that I tried. And I was really focused on stopping the crying (and since it wasn’t stopping, I was stressed, and she probably felt that) when I was with BabyC rather than hearing it, being there for support, but still letting C work it out. I wrote more about this in a follow-up post, if you haven’t seen it yet:

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  103. Thank you so much for your blog. I resisted for 5 months the CIO method and finally succumbed only because of exhaustion but my gorgeous boy woke up just once to feed and then as you said woke up in a happy babble at 930 the next morning. I wasnt sure if it was the right thing to do… Im still not.. its only night 2 but your blog has given me the confidence to keep trying and to ignore hype about traumatising my child. :) I think he’ll have a better chance of flourishing if he cries for 15 mins but then sleeps the night through than not sleeping and being a sluggish, difficult baby that cries on and off all day.

  104. Hi, really interested in your blog and thorough research – thank you!
    I wonder if you have come across much research on the differences or relationship between settling at nap time versus night time? I ask because I have a nine week old who is relatively good at settling with just a dummy for day sleeps (although he is also a cat napper) but he gets much more worked up trying to get to sleep at night. Others have found the reverse (easy at night and more difficult during the day). I have read many sleep guides recommend teaching self settling at night before naps as naps can be harder. It just perplexes me that my little bub is the opposite!

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  106. I know you wrote this a while back but I just stumbled upon your blog and it is very encouraging. I am a first time mom to an 8-week old boy and my husband and I are about at the end of our rope. Our sweet boy did not like to fall sleep from day 1 and over the first few weeks we found that the only combination to get him to sleep is to give him a soothie and rock him to sleep. Even that has some protest and takes some work. And yes, we’ve tried swaddling, white noise, working on wake time windows, darkening room, etc. He also doesnt like the carseat. We put him in his swing after he’s completely out and it’s just a matter of time before he’s awake if not instantly. And it also seems like its getting harder to get him to sleep. Sounds similar to your situation.

    At first, we said we would just do what works til he finds his thumb because he really looks for it and can get it sometimes…and he has such a need for sucking. But I don’t think we can go on any longer and I’m afraid we’ll wait til he finds his thumb and things still won’t be different.

    Ok…after a long explanation. I guess my question is: would you have tried sleep training your baby sooner if you could go back? Do you think it is safe to try CIO on an 8-week old? Most people say to wait til 3 months but I don’t think we can go on for another 4 weeks and I’m afraid it’s just going to get worse. Also, if we were to try…would you recommend incorporating the pacifier at all since that’s currently the only thing that calms him, or going cold turkey without it?

    • I feel for you. My boy is 11 monts now and sleeps great and it really was a long journey of trial and error. We evetually did do sleep training when he was 8 months. I was exhausted and almost bonkers. I followed Dr Marc Weissbluth’s approach. I have his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. I referred to it a lot. He says that you can start sleep training at 6 to 8 weeks old and are totally exhausted and unable to function. I recommend getting his book, choose an approach that you can stick with. It will only take a couple of days to get sorted out. The approach I used is the extinction approach – my son got more and and more upset each time I went in. The first night is the worst for crying but they soon figure out how to put themselves to sleep, sleep longer, are better rested and happier babies. I have lots of mum friends who waited as long as I did and then eventually did it and it literally saved them and their sanity. Don’t read anything about attach parenting – it will make you crazy and is for calm and placid babies. I also got my son chiropractic treatment to make sure he wasn’t fussy because he was in pain from the strain and pressure of birth. It definitely makes a difference. Good luck!

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  110. CIO worked like a charm for me. The vocal ones tend to be against it, so I tend to pipe up in favor of it, with some stipulations. My first was 10 months and it took about 3 nights to get him down to 2 minutes of whimpering and that would hold through out the night. (no soothing every 5-10 minutes, i think that’s just confusing and would piss Bee off even more). I am trying it with my 15 month old who goes to sleep really well but doesn’t stay asleep so he gets ignored at 2,3,4am and goes back to sleep w/in 20 minutes, but after 2 weeks of this, he hasn’t gotten the message to sleep through the night!

  111. Oh my gosh, I am so grateful to read this – and still haven’t even read your posts analyizing the research (although I have read A LOT, A LOT of it myself – I try to read the actual studies and not just the ridiculous partisan articles that are clearly biased towards one view point or another). Anyway, just wanted to give you a quick thank you and comment because I am currently facing night 3 of Ferber’s method this very night, and what brought me to this place was the G.D. pilates ball, same as you. So many parts of your experience were just like ours. My son would fall asleep nursing, but often he wouldn’t stay asleep when transferred from boppy/breast to bassinette. So we started bouncing him. And we also began bouncing him for naps since I wasn’t always there to feed, and when they’re napping every 1-1.5 hours as young infants, it’s too often to feed anyway. I thought, hey, it’s good – anyone can bounce him! So he can be nursed to sleep and also bounced to sleep – and what’s wrong with bouncing? Like you, I thought, whatever works, and bouncing WORKS! Like a charm it did – for many months. We swaddled, bounced and then transferred to swing for naps, bassinette for sleep. Until we started transitioning to swing for sleep, too, in hopes of getting him used to falling asleep awake in a moving swing (reasoning that was easier than a still bassinette). Didn’t work. Still had to be bounced completely asleep. So we bounced. And bounced. And bounced.
    Fast forward to now, he’s 5.5 months old, and the ball thing just completely turned on us. Like your experience, our son began needing 30-45 minutes of bouncing. He began waking up 5 minutes after being put down, only to need another dose of 15 minute bouncing, and repeat, repeat. Last week, that little pattern repeated 6x. YES 6! Not to mention, I had to start working on both Saturdays and Sunday so that I could stay home with him 2 additional weekdays – Tues and Thurs – since our week day caregivers were not able to do the bouncing (they were older) and thus naptimes were a total sh*tshow nightmare, with very little sleeping happening and a lot of crying on their days. I took over since I was willing to bounce.
    So here we are. Finally, even after he was sleeping at my side having just eaten on both sides, my son would begin to stir minutes later and work himself up into a full on cry, even though he was fed, even though it was 3am, even though he’d only slept maybe an hour stretch so far. He could only be bounced to sleep, and couldn’t stay asleep practically at all, unless over one of our shoulders.
    He is a big boy, too – 100% percentile for height and 75th for weight – almost 20 lbs. I am 5’3″ and small framed…bouncing began to be very painful for me. Not to mention, my husband and I began to dread it – loathe it – feel true despair at the prospect of doing it 3x a day for naps and countless x a night for sleep.
    So, I broke down and agreed to my husband that we couldn’t go on this way, and that it was true, our son had no clue – not the first notion – of how to stay asleep or fall asleep without bouncing. (I’ll add that it hadn’t always been this way. He had gone to sleep easily from nursing at about 1.5-2.5 months of age; back then we only bounced for naps. And he’d stay asleep at night with only 1-2 wakeups to eat. Somehow, though, at 3 months it just started devolving and got worse and worse…) Our son, we realized, desperately needed to find a new way to fall asleep. The old ways were no longer working and they just were not sustainable. My husband was not holding up well AT ALL, and neither was I. We both had begun to feel that parenthood was this terrible, hopeless slog of just getting through it. And that was sad, for everyone – baby included.
    So we started Ferber after I read for months about ST, and checked out Ferber’s book at the library.
    Night 1 went surprisingly well! Night 2 (last night), not so much. We had about 1h15m of crying (up from about 30 the night before) plus a night waking only an hour later – too early to feed again.
    I had a full on, no holds barred, crying breakdown myself, listening to our baby cry. And worrying myself nearly sick that it was too early, I had done this before the holy grail of ST readiness: 6 months. I hadn’t held out long enough. But the bouncing! It just couldn’t go on. And there was no other way! I also considered rocking – didn’t work the few times we tried. We tried putting in the swing awake – didn’t work either. He had become addicted severely to that blue ball!
    But, all this is to say, my resolve was wavering – I have been questioning and agonizing the last 24 hours about whether to continue since maybe he’s too young? Is that why it didn’t work better the 2nd night than the first as all reports say it should have? But then I read this, and it’s helping me realize – no. We need a new way. We have to have a new way. It just made me feel literally 100x better to read of someone else with the same struggle, who sleep trained before 6 months out of necessity, and I think we’ll soldier on. Not because I want to be a mean, detached, unresponsive parent (I don’t! I’d cosleep happily at this point but even that won’t work anymore!) – but because we all have to sleep, and this is now the only way. So on we go.
    Thanks for posting, LWT

  112. Your story sounds exactly where we are headed. My son in 4.5 weeks old and bouncing is the only thing that gets him to sleep. Not the car seat, swing, vibrating chair, rocking…none of it. He wants to be bounced and bounced for 30 min before we can lay him down. It is driving me insane. I always wanted to teach my baby healthy sleep habits from the start but now feel completely lost in it. Last night I decided that instead of bouncing I was going to hold him and pat him to sleep because at least that way we can transition to patting in the crib to get him down. He cried and cried and cried. He fell asleep in my arms three times and when I put him down just woke up again. This went on for 4 hours until he slept for a whole hour (30 minutes of that I was holding him). Obviously I re-fed, re-changed, and re-swaddled as he would get hungry again. So my question is…is a 5 week old too young to cry it out? Given he has just been fed, changed and cuddled. If he cries when he is put down am I going to traumatize him or cause him to fear his crib? How do you suggest we continue? My husband and I are done with bouncing.

    • It’s hard work at the start. My baby was in hospital for the first five weeks and the NICU nurses had an awesome technique for getting the little babies calmed down and to sleep. Yours is still little enough that this should work. Here’s what you do: lay baby down in his bed where he going to sleep (swaddled or with the blankets), very gently put one of your hands on his arms to keep them still and put the other hand on the top of his head (not the face). This is very soothing for the little ones. You might need to do it for a few minutes or longer. It’s remarkable.

      With regards to sleep training – can you get your hands on a copy of Dr Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child? I would read it first before embarking on any sleep training. Your baby is still a bit too young for sleep training however if you meet the criteria in the book you may be able to start doing it in a few weeks time. I think there are probably some tips in there to help you get through in the meantime.

      Good luck

      • I forgot to say that the arms should basically be crossed on his chest, so you are keeping the arms still rather than flailing about

    • Hi Jenna,
      I wouldn’t think of this as sleep training or cry it out. Rather, you want to help your baby learn to fall asleep without the bouncing movement. He’s like BabyC in that he want to be moving as he falls asleep, but that makes transferring really hard, and it may make it more likely that he’ll wake up later when he discovers that he’s no longer bouncing (although this usually isn’t a problem until later). I think that Kara’s suggestion is a good one. That way, you’re helping him learn to fall asleep in stillness, in his crib, but you’re still there for him. He may cry, because he’s not used to this way of falling asleep, but you will stay with him so that he knows he isn’t alone, that you’re supporting him as he’s learning this new skill. You might also try swaddling him when you do this, if you aren’t already. If you’re comfortable trying it and he’s just fussing, consider leaving him for a few minutes – he might surprise you and fall asleep. But if he gets really upset or worked up, I wouldn’t let him cry alone at this age. If this doesn’t work well after a few tries, it may just be something that you want to try once a day or something, so he can keep practicing it. And then hang in there. Meanwhile, a few coping suggestions:

      -If he’s falling asleep in your arms, be sure to wait until he is in a deep sleep before trying to set him down. If you try too soon, he will be in light sleep and more likely to wake easily. I know this requires some patience, and it still may not work. I’ve been there – incredibly frustrating! With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that I wish that I enjoyed those long hours of holding more when C was little. But I remember how I felt at the time – I was desperate for a hot shower or a few minutes of yoga to stretch my tired body. Mothering is so labor-intensive, and it is perfectly normal to need time to yourself.

      -Have you tried a front carrier like a Moby wrap? BabyC loved being in one of these and going for a walk. She was instantly calm and would get a good nap in this way, plus I’d get exercise. I know that doesn’t help for nighttime, but it might help to do one nap per day like this if it is taking a while for him to learn to fall asleep without bouncing. (This will be easier on your back than bouncing on a ball.)

      My guess is that he’ll learn to fall asleep without bouncing with some supported practice. I wish that I had the foresight to do this when BabyC was this young. I think we might have avoided sleep training later.

      Good luck! And also, know that this is completely normal. SOOO many moms have written to me with this same story. It’s hard, but we all get through it somehow. Try to enjoy your baby along the way!

      • Thanks for the tips ladies! Baby boy doesn’t like the front carrier although I drag him around in it anyway when I need to get things done. He hasn’t slept longer than 45 min at a time since 1:30am last night. It is now 5pm the next day. He is so overtired and has been cranky all day. I couldn’t calm him and I was exhausted so I put him in his bouncy seat swaddled up with white noise and he fell asleep in ten min. I doubt this is teaching him to self-soothe at this point…more a parenting coping mechanism. Anyway, I’m trying to hang in there and although I have many moments that I enjoy with my 5 weeks old, hubby and I are very much looking forward to when he’s a bit older and can settle easier. Kara, I like your idea of putting my hand on his chest and head. I will try it someone when he is not over tired. Ps: we gave up the yoga ball two days ago.

  113. Hi Alice,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story- it gives me a lot of courage to start the process of sleep training. I had a quick question- did you leave the swaddle on BabyC when you began sleep training? Our baby is still being swaddled but he has learned to flip over, so we feel that we need to wean him from the swaddle (lately we’ve been having him sleep on the swing, buckled in so that he can’t flip over). We want to start sleep training tomorrow because we feel that he is ready for it, but I wanted to hear your thoughts on whether or not babyC was swaddled on that first night your family decided to begin CIO. Thanks so much!

    • I think that at the time we were swaddling her under her arms, just to keep most of her body warm. Her hands were free, and she was self-soothing by sucking on her hand at that time. It sounds like your baby is ready to be free of the swaddle – if he’s flipping over I would definitely remove the swaddle to decrease his chances of feeling stuck in an uncomfortable position. You might consider removing the swaddle and letting him get used to that for a few nights before you start any kind of sleep training, just so that you don’t make too many changes at once.

      • Alice, thank you so much for taking the time to write us back! My husband and I started CIO today (we strategized to start with naps first to get our BabyS tired out so that there would be more success of him falling asleep at night). At 6:15pm after his feed, he cried for about 45 minutes and fell asleep. He woke up for his feeding time (he usually eats every 3 hours), and when I put him back down in his crib, he started crying and has been crying for the past 1.5 hours. It’s really sad to hear him cry but I really do feel that he is ready. He isn’t doing crazy-wailing crying, it’s more like “why are you doing this to me, mom and dad? please put me back on the swing and rock me!”. I am hoping he goes to bed soon :( Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your blog and your writing back. My husband and I got so much strength from reading your honest experiences with doing CIO. Do you think there’s a time-limit on how long we should let BabyS cry? My sister, who has 2 little ones, let her kiddos cry all night except for when she went in to feed, so her advice to me was to just let him cry it out throughout the night unless it’s time for him to eat. Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you think I need to go into his room if he cries for longer than 2 hours or so? Thanks again for your insights!

        • One more question! Baby just fell asleep fifteen minutes ago, and it’s now his scheduled time to eat (every 3 hours). I don’t think I’m going to wake him up because he must be so exhausted after all the crying and now is sleeping. Do you recommend in the future that I wake him up for his feed or let him sleep and feed him when he wakes up crying again? I don’t want him to associate his crying with me coming into the room to feed him… I don’t want to confuse him with what we are doing with CIO. I hope this makes sense! It’s getting late and I know I should probably sleep while he is sleeping but I wanted to know your thoughts on what I should do for his feeding in the night if he falls asleep while we are trying to do CIO. Thanks so much for your help! Also, merry Christmas to you and your family! :)

          • Christine, I really don’t know enough about your situation to give you very specific advice about sleep training. I can tell you that with BabyC, we just focused on letting her fall asleep on her own at the beginning of the night. After that, I offered to feed her when she woke and cried during the night – not scheduled. I wouldn’t wake her up – that would disrupt her natural sleep rhythms that she was developing. And she wasn’t ready to sleep through the night without a feed. But sleep training at the beginning of the night seemed to make it much easier for her to fall asleep after a feed in the middle of the night. And I wanted her to know that if she needed me during the night, I would be there to help. So I encourage you to take things one step at a time. Hope this helps.

            • Alice! Thank you so much! Our baby fell asleep tonight after 5 minutes of fussing. I’m AMAZED!!! He learned so quickly. Thank you for all your advice and for taking the time to write me back. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your story with other new mommies with honesty and a true desire to help! Thank you!! :) Hope you and your family had an amazing Christmas! I’m so happy to have your blog as a resource as a new mom!! Thank you! :)


  114. Great post- thank you for the insight. We are in the same boat with our 3 month old daughter- she has to be bounced to sleep. She is also bed sharing at this point which makes this whole process harder. I think CIO is the best option but am curious how naps went for you. Did you let baby c cry for a certain amount of time? Thanks!

    • Hi Lindsay! Naps went ok for us; we let baby C cry for 30 mins or so and if he wouldn’t go to bed, I would go get him. He still struggles with his naps but his nighttime sleeping has gotten sooo much better since we had a night of crying it out. If I could go back in time, though, I would’ve incorporated more soothing instead of letting him cry for more than 2 hours :( I hope your journey with sleep training goes smoothly! :)

    • Sorry for not replying sooner, Lindsay. Although BabyC slept well during the night after just a few nights of falling asleep on her own, it took her much longer to get the hang of naps, and I think this is typical. Regardless of how she fell asleep, she took short naps and often woke up grumpy until she was around 4-5 months old. It was also often harder for her to settle for naps. I could usually tell – if she fussed for more than a few minutes, then she wasn’t going to go to sleep on her own. We did a lot of naps in the stroller or a wrap during this time, but I would try to do at least one nap per day in her bed, and eventually she got the hang of it. Good luck! This period won’t last forever, I promise:)

  115. I’m wondering what you did with the swaddle when you decided the CIO approach with babyC? We continue to swaddle our six month old because her reflex has yet to go away…her arms are all over and wake her up within five minutes of going to sleep. Is there a way to help our baby self soothe while she is being swaddled? Not CIO, but an alternate form of sleep training?

  116. Wow! I’m glad I read your post. Not because I’m a fan of CIO or would ever try it (I’m pretty sure my little man would scream til he vomited), but because I’m reassured seeing so many other moms struggling with sleep issues and resorting to the same techniques we use: co-sleeping, nursing to sleep, exercise ball, baby sling, etc. In fact, there appears to be such a preponderance of babies w/sleep problems, that I’m beginning to think – as was suggested in earlier comments – that the only problem is our expectations. Also, as a point of terminology, I have understood “sleep training” as laying a baby to rest when awake or drowsy. Since it can also be used to describe CIO, now I know to refrain from using it when I mean the other.

  117. Hi Alice, thanks so much for this post. It is so comforting to read not only about your experience, but that you triumphed over it – gives me hope as I struggle through this trying (and tiring!) time. My daughter is 4months 1 week and we are now in the 4th week of her sleep regression. Lots of bouncing and not a lot of sleep for anyone. I have tried some of the no cry sleep solution techniques, but even that has proven to be fruitless. My head tells me she needs to CIO but my heart says no! Still, I truly believe that we need to break these sleep associations and allow her the opportunity to learn to fall asleep on her own. My son went through the same phase at 4 months, though I had no clue about the “Wonder Weeks” and sleep regression, let alone any techniques to help him sleep. We began co-sleeping and later struggled get him out of our bed once it was no longer working for us. We waited 13 long months before he slept through the night on his own and even now as a nearly 3 year old, he struggles with self soothing. Now with some hindsight, I see the benefits of CIO and allowing them to self soothe.

    I am in the process of weaning her from her swaddle in preparation for trying the CIO method (I’m thinking she may need her hands to self-soothe, especially bc she takes a binkie as of now). I have a few questions about the “logistics” of how you implemented the CIO method. For instance, do you enforce CIO throughout the entire night aside from her “scheduled” night feedings? Do you enforce CIO at naps as well while you are sleep training (or is it expected that naps will follow once nighttime sleep is established?)? I feel that we need to give CIO a chance, I’m just in my own head about how to go about it at different times throughout the night. Your feedback would be much appreciated, thanks!

  118. I think that you are saying that you are always in the room when trying to sleep train. I have found it doesn’t work if you are in the room. We used a baby monitor to make sure he was ok and were very successful with CIO for my son at two months. He is happier and more settled now and is getting better quality sleep. Good luck to you.

  119. I love how you wrote “It worked until it didn’t”. That is exactly how I feel about my little son’s sleep story. He went from falling asleep on his own to being nursed to sleep. That led to co-sleeping because he would wake more frequently and I got tired of constantly going to his room. That worked for a bit, but he started to wake even more frequently. Then he started to “sleep-walk” and crawled off our bed

    • sorry, posted prematurely. He crawled off our bed and yes, fell to the floor. That is when I realized that it really WASN’T working anymore (that and the fact that I realized I hadn’t gotten more than 2.5 hours of sleep in a row in almost a year). So after some clumsy attempts at sleep training, I contacted a sleep consultant who presented me with a number of different options, one of which was full on CIO. Even though in the past I’d be totally against it (based on those articles you mention), I knew in my gut this would be the best way. And I was right. After just two days, my son, who previously had never slept for longer than 2 hours in a row, slept for 13 hours.

  120. I am so so so very thankful for all of the research you have done and that you have taken the time to share this information! I was so frustrated with reading opinion based articles, blogs, and books. I’ve been searching through journals and been overwhelmed with the amount of information out there! You did a wonderful summary and explanation and I finally found the information I’ve been looking for! You have made a real difference in our families life for the better! Thank you thank you thank you!

  121. Hi ScienceofMom,

    I’m writing this to you personally, as I love that you have a blog and have your heart in the right place to help other people. You are doing a wonderful job here, thank you.

    About CIO. You mentioned that you really wanted to know the risks of it before you tried it on your second child.

    I once believed in what you call sleep associations. I still do, but I feel it is not as relevant as other things in the context of what babies of a young age have to go through. I have a 14 month old that I’ve never let CIO

    I want to plead with you to consider that your task as a mother is not to figure out what ‘works’ to put your child to sleep, but what settles your child and makes them feel safe. Getting a child to sleep assumes he should just be gotten to sleep, and that it’s something an infant can do – but they can’t, without first feeling safe and nurtured to do so.

    What ‘works’ to put them to sleep is objective, and what you have with your child is not objective, it is every bit subjective; it is a relationship and what matters is regular attunement between each other. This attunement builds trust – which in turn will help easily have a baby sleep in the future if they trust you.

    NOTHING consistently worked for my son to fall asleep for the first 9-12 months, I had to change what I did to settle him constantly and by the time he was 4 months old I came to the realisation that my task was to constantly change what I did. Daily, moment by moment, second by second, if that’s what it took.

    If rocking didn’t work today and he cried, he obviously didn’t feel safe and he needed me. Letting him cry in my arms is something I don’t believe in either. I did it when he was about 8 weeks old and then again at 10 weeks, when he was obviously in a lot of tummy pain but other than that, I feel that if my son is crying in my arms, he is trying to communicate something very important to me. ie: that he needed me to help him feel safe, that he needed me to prove to him that he can trust me.

    I’ve done the bum patting, rocking, rocking in different rhythms, sometimes dancing, sometimes fit ball bouncing, we had an elvis song he loved that worked for months while we rocked him, and if he seemed to fight sleep in my arms, I used a ‘pattern break’ – something you’d be aware of I think, as you are quite scientific.

    I jumped or made a different noise to change his ‘state’ and to stop his distress. It worked….and he settled…but again, nothing was supposed to consistently work, as he is a changing human being…and he doesn’t need to be put to sleep, he needs to be settled. And made to feel safe. These are very different things, to me!

    Every single day is different.

    Now that he is 14 months, he knows our bed, and he is much easier to put to sleep, and I believe this is because he really does feel safe…I can tell by the way he relaxes as I sing him a nursery rhyme…he snuggles close and happily falls asleep and I can even put him down now after holding hi and signing to him, and I never used to be able to d that for at least 9 months.

    Can I quote you here, too?

    “Letting her cry in my arms wasn’t working, and I had a sense of doom that if it ever did, we would then be saddled with a new sleep association that we would need to break.

    At this point, I finally had to admit that my presence wasn’t helping BabyC in her struggle to fall asleep. This is a very difficult thing for a new mother to do. For the first time, I had to accept that I couldn’t buffer her from every struggle in life. She needed a little space to learn to sleep on her own.”

    If someone, even a BABY, is crying around you, this is a GOOD thing! This is what happens when they still have trust in you! Do you want to communicate with people you don’t trust or worse – have broken your trust? Not at all! You feel you need to shut down.

    That sign that the baby isn’t crying anymore to me, is NOT a good sign, I know what I am saying is very unscientific – and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Science cannot speak for a beautiful, trusting relationship where mum and baby are attuned to each other and communicating with each other trustingly. It is internal, it can’t be measured, but the beauty can be witnessed.

    I hope that one day, we will see the importance of crying as a communication.

    It’s inconvenient for the parents to have the baby crying, but it’s a sign of trusting and willingness to communicate – they want help, and we are here to help.

    If a baby doesn’t have any response – doesn’t cry much, it comes with it’s other consequences…how SAFE and trusting does that baby really feel? Or have they just shut off?

    Pinky McKy talks about it here:

    I hear a lot of mothers say the only thing they don’t regret about CIO was NOT trying it earlier. Because it worked.

    Yeah, and worked in what way? For the parents’ convenience.

    Every opportunity comes with a cost. I just want us to consider the cost to our relationship with our child. No crying and sleeping through does not necessarily = better.

    You can also google ‘regret CIO’ or ‘I did CIO and regret it’ – there are mothers, one who wrote in to the site, saying she did it, and do you know what happened? Her baby stopped going to her. He started going to his older brother, a pre schooler, for comfort.

    Relationship is more important than results.

  122. How did you manage to continue with one nighttime feeding after sleep-training? On other words, how did babyC know that every other time she woke up she wouldn’t get to eat? My baby is 3 months and I’d like to sleep train but feel he still needs at least one nighttime feeding.

    • I didn’t try to control the number of feedings. Once she was falling asleep on her own, she only woke once per night for a quick feed. I can’t promise that will happen with your baby tho:)

  123. Hi! I’m soooo glad I found your post. People can judge, and they always will, but I personally think that babies NEED to learn how to self soothe/calm themselves. As parents we cannot force this skill, we can help but they need to learn how to do it on their own, just like reaching, crawling, walking, talking, etc. For example, as adults we like to watch TV before bed or read a book (our own individual way of winding down), babies do the same thing i.e. sucking their thumb, babbling, rocking themselves, etc.

    That being said, I have a hard time following through with my OWN advice lol. My son is turning 3 next month, he is a good sleeper and taught himself how to self soothe when he was younger…with our help of course ;) Our daughter just turned 5 months old this week. Our routine for both kids at bedtime usually goes like this:

    Between 7-8pm we put on PJ’s, brush teeth, read books, then straight to bed for our son with my husband to sing him a little son & give him a kiss goodnight. I take my daughter into her room, feed her a bottle, burp & rock, then lay her down drowsy but awake in her crib. This routine worked wonders with my son and we hope to do the same with her. She usually sleeps from 7-8pm until around 2am, I breastfeed, burp and then lay her back down drowsy but awake…the problem is that she will fuss now when I lay her down and wake again around 4am then again around 5 or 6am then usually up for good around 6-7am then down for a nap around 9am. We cannot let her cry in the middle of the night because then she just wakes up my son and he comes out of his room crying and upset himself. This has been a huge problem for us! Also, during the day she is extremely difficult to get down for naps. She loves the soother but I only use it when we are out shopping or driving, etc. I never use it for naps at home in her crib or for bed time. Her afternoon nap always varies but is usually around the same time that my son naps. I cannot let her cry because it will wake him up. So I’m usually in her room rocking her to get drowsy, laying her down, jiggling the mattress, singing, etc. anything I can to keep her quite but get her to sleep. Sometimes it takes me 45 min’s to get her down and it’s exhausting! Do you have any advice? Nap times are the MOST exhausting, I dread naps!

  124. Hi there. Your child’s sleep story sounds almost identical to the situation we are in with my daughter who is now 5 and a half months old. We are strung out at this point from sleep deprivation. We are trying to figure out what method of sleep training we feel might be best for her and if we want to go ahead and do this with her although she is very persistent. You mentioned above that you can explain the science behind your baby’s sleep situation, but I do not see where you discuss this. Can you please point me to the location where you continue this conversation? Or have I misunderstood your statement? Thanks for you help.

  125. Thank you for this article. I have the same exact baby and we started the training last night, surely is difficult, but my husband’s arms and my back just couldn’t take the bouncing anymore!! He would also cry when rocked, so I had to walk and bounce him, and that took forever! This article has given me hope to continue on with the training, thank you!!!

  126. Thanks so much for your sleep articles – very well written and informative. We are in a similar situation with our daughter, where she needs to be walked around to sleep. After reading your blog we have decided to do CIO. One question: did you start by doing it for nighttime AND naps? Or did you gradually add in the naps? Our daughter actually fights naps HARDER than nighttime so we aren’t sure what approach to take.

    • Hi Megan, this blog REALLY encouraged us about 10mo ago when we were going through the same deal. We waited until our son was three and a half months old before doing CIO and we decided to stay consistent for naps and night so as to not confuse him. Don’t let him cry for more than 30min for a nap. Just get him up. Try again later. At about 4mo babies have developed the ability to self soothe. I think the point of CIO at this age is to teach your baby to fall asleep without you…not to sleep through the night. We would let him cry in intervals much like the Ferber method and when the time amount was up we would quickly go in rub his back, say night night and leave immediately….repeat. This was extremely effective for us. They still need food in the night. In order to not confuse our little man, I would wake him in the night for his feeds so he always knew that mom decided when night time meal time was. There are always exceptions (growth spurts) but once your baby can fall asleep without you they won’t wake as much at night. If he/she is waking at the same time every night it probably isn’t hunger but habit. Remain consistent in your method but don’t drive yourself or your baby insane with being too regimented. I had to let go of some control issues here…nursing him to sleep once a week or twice is not going to through your whole plan out the window! Hope this helps. Our boy was a horrible day sleeper and was so cranky because of it. Night time sleep is organized in the brain before daytime sleep. Good luck and stay consistent. Make a 3-7 day plan and stick with it.

      • Thanks Jenna! We never wanted to do CIO with our daughter, but like you, we were encouraged by this blog. We hope it’ll teach her to self-soothe. I appreciate your tips!!!

  127. Thank you for this reassuring post. We have the *exact* same problem with our 8-month old daughter – she won’t sleep well unless bounced (or, sometimes, vibrated via Fisher Price Rock n’ Play Lamb Sleeper) and it’s gotten to the point where everyone, even the baby, is getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. She has purple bags under her eyes from lack of sleep! We tried literally everything, even co-sleeping/bed-sharing/etc, and nothing is working anymore…so we decided at long last to do CIO/Ferberizing, despite our fervent wishes to not ever do that. It is very reassuring to see a post like this and know that we are doing the best decision for the benefit of our whole family.

  128. I came across your website yesterday and this post in particular is our life with our lil one to a tee. We started using the yoga ball at about 7 weeks old and although we’ve cut back on it’s use significantly, our daughter craves vertical motion to fall asleep and stay asleep. She is now also waking every 45-75 minutes. Needing to be bounced back to sleep. We will be attempting sleep training next week. I am hoping it helps us all get some much needed rest. Did you keep your daughter swaddled when you did CIO? How long did she cry each night?

  129. Just found this article an hour before we are going to try the CIO method and can’t help but feel it was meant to be for me to read. We have the exact scenerio with out little one… bouncing on a ball or front carrier…. carseat is a nightmare and all. I have been very nervous to try this, but I feel more confident after reading your story and knowing others have and are going through the same thing. Just wanted to say Thanks for sharing.

  130. Hi Alice,

    I really enjoyed this post! I’m pretty obsessed with sleep training methods myself and have been doing my own research on the topic. With my now six year old I would nurse her to sleep every single night. I was a single mom at the time and so we also co-slept. Since I wasn’t married I had no problem doing this and actually enjoyed cuddling with her. However when she was four I married and has to abruptly teach her to sleep in her own bed which actually went a lot smoother than I anticipated.

    My husband and I now have a seven month old son together and he has slept with us since coming home from the hospital. I have again been perfectly happy with this arrangement. My husband on the other hand has not and that, to me, is a family out of balance. I feel as though I am doing everything I can to meet the baby’s needs while completely neglecting my husband’s. Like you pointed out CIO is pretty controversial and everything I’ve read reflects that (which is why your take on it is so refreshing). I’ve tried to get him to sleep in the crib by nursing to sleep and then sneaking him in there but that doesn’t feel right either. Especially when he wakes up crying 20 minutes later. I’ve often felt that if he would cry just for a few minutes and then fall asleep I’d be able to handle that but his cries only escalate and I can’t handle that.

    Anyway I just feel that you’ve done a great job presenting this topic and I wish all posts were written this way!

    • Around 3.5 months. This was just for learning to go to sleep on her own at the beginning of the night, though (when nothing else would work!). I didn’t try to manipulate her feedings at all, just fed her when she woke in the night.

  131. Thanks for explaining this in a way that does not shame anyone. When we were having sleep problems, it upset me to read all of these one-size-fits-all articles promoting either cio or cosleeping as the only unselfish way to parent. As it happens, we discovered that our baby needs to cosleep, and once we started doing this (around six weeks) everyone started sleeping a lot better. He’s the same during the day–very happy if worn a lot, and it makes us happier, too. I had PPD and so I really believe that finding a good sleep solution that works for YOUR family, and getting support for it, is so crucial.

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