Crying It Out (CIO) — I bet you already have an opinion as you read those words. When you throw out a phrase like Crying It Out, you quickly discover that people are in one of two camps. One side of the argument says employing CIO is child torture. It is a negligent decision — just short of child abuse — made by heartless parents. The other side says it is a perfectly acceptable form of training your child to sleep.
I fall into the set of parents who let their child CIO. I happily used this method of sleep training and I have no regrets. Loudly, I will sing the praises of crying it out, and you will not change my mind. Comment away on what I horrible mother I am, I will not be persuaded.
Here is why we used CIO:
Academically, there is nothing harmful about letting your baby CIO. The Mayo Clinic says “Crying won’t hurt your baby — and sometimes the only way to stop a crying spell is to let it run its course.” This study, reported by the America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found no long term harm from using sleep training techniques. In fact, studies show that the short-term benefits are EVEN BETTER for Momma and baby when sleep training is used. The AAP found that “The improvements to children’s and mothers’ sleep and mothers’ mental health were still evident as late as age 2…” If there is anyone who needs sleep and any help they can get with their mental health, believe me, it is mothers whose children are under two! As the mother of a 20-month-old, I promise you this is true!
Personally, sleep training was the best choice for our family. In the first week after our son was born, my husband and I realized that we are TERRIBLE at functioning long term on very little sleep. We were exhausted, cranky, desperate for sleep, and definitely not making the best decisions we could for our son. All decisions at that point in life were based on how we could get just ten more minutes of sleep… or maybe just five. Five would be nice, right? Right. By eight weeks we were falling apart. I was literally falling asleep in church (and when your husband is one of the pastors, this is especially mortifying!). I did not trust myself to drive. We had no clean clothes. We were only eating because our friends graciously brought dinner to us. Sleep was our top priority.
As I talked to other moms about this, I noticed a trend. Moms a generation or two ahead of me used sleep training techniques, too. A friend of mine told me that she went an entire year with barely any sleep because her daughter just would not sleep. When she finally told her mom what was going on, she was advised to let her 1-year-old CIO that very night. Another friend of mine, who has seven children, told me she let her kids CIO. She said she did not want to at first, but realized that if she was ever going to sleep again—that if she wanted to be a compassionate mother instead of a drained zombie, seeking out sleep at all cost—she was going to have to let her kids cry.
Here is how we used CIO:
One of the reasons CIO gets a bad rap is because people assume no compassion is used when letting a child CIO. Obviously, no one is advocating leaving a week old baby in a room alone to cry for eight hours straight. When letting a baby CIO, common sense has to be used. Because of our commitment to the end result—a baby who falls asleep without hours of parental effort and then sleeps through the night—we were able to set sensible parameters to help us all survive the intense training period of CIO. For our family, that meant keeping a close watch on the clock. Because I was at home full-time and my husband works full-time (and he has no problem with me napping while he works), I had the overnight responsibilities. At our baby’s first stirring I would glance at the clock.
Some parents use a gradual approach, starting with five minutes of crying and slowly adding time from there, as their child adapts. My approach to life is usually sink or swim, so we just started with 20 minutes. As I recall, it was probably only a handful of times that our son actually cried a full 20 minutes. As I researched and read parent polls, I realized that most parents have a similar experience to our family. The actual time our son cried at night was no more than two weeks. This is not the monstrous months of crying all night that many think it is; this is a sleep training process that is usually accomplished in just a few weeks’ time.
One of the most important parts of letting a baby CIO is knowing your baby’s cries
By three weeks I was amazed at how well I could identify the meaning behind our son’s different cries. My husband laughed at me when I said “The baby’s sock fell off, can you fix it?” Sure enough, that cry did mean his sock was off (and since he was born in December of a record-low-temperature winter, socks were of utmost importance!). A quick adjustment meant that our little one was back asleep in a matter of minutes. Babies have different sounds to indicate hunger, dirty diapers, boredom, loneliness—a whole range of emotions. That said, I knew immediately when my son was in pain or something needed to be addressed without delay, so when those cries rang out at 2 a.m., I quickly went to the aid of my little man. Without taking the time to study and discern your baby’s communication, you will do him a disservice. Leaving a hungry baby in bed all night sounds awful to even a die-hard CIO’er like me.
The results speak for themselves
Our baby slept through the night consistently, starting at 10-weeks. He is now 20-months and he still sleeps through the night. If he wakes up early, he happily entertains himself in his crib because he knows how to soothe himself and his crib is a comfortable place. He is a well-rested kiddo and a happy little man throughout the day. We had two weeks of watching the clock while helping our son learn to soothe himself, and in return, we have had seventeen months of glorious slumber. Not only is our little one a happy camper, his mom and dad are too, all thanks to a good night’s sleep!