Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Who, as a parent, hasn’t let their baby cry for a little bit while they were trying to get something done, go to the bathroom, eat, regain some sense of sanity, etc.?
We can’t do it all. We only have two arms for a reason. And, maybe that reason is so that we have to put baby down every now and again in order to be a functioning person. It’s evolutionary. Right? Maybe?
Maybe babies are meant to be left alone every once in a while.
As I’m saying all of this I can hear the collective groans of parents around the world who are completely against the Cry It Out (CIO) method. But, before you go and verbally slay me in the comments, give me a chance to explain what I’m really talking about.
I promise, it’s not as heartless as it might seem.
I want to start this post with a couple “preface-y” type things. So, let’s go ahead and get them out of the way now:
- Everything I know about the Ferber CIO method I’m getting from my favorite baby book of all time Brain Rules for Baby. In it, Dr. Medina explores two different options for dealing with sleep problems (CIO and NAP- Nighttime Attachment Parenting) and simply provides information on both without saying if one is better than the other.
- I am not going to judge any parent for doing what is best for their family. Nothing in this post is meant to belittle any parenting style or say that my way of doing things is the best or the only way of doing things. So, please, don’t think that.
- I hate confrontation. So, if you don’t agree with me and you want to tell me (and I completely welcome that!) please be kind. I promise to be nice back. =)
I’ve been told by so many people NOT to do the CIO thing. “It’s cruel.” “Children learn they can’t depend on you.” “It produces psychological problems later in life.”
I’ve also heard of a lot of people still using the CIO method with a lot of success.
Heck, I’d put money on the fact that most of us adults these days were sleep trained with the CIO method. I’m pretty sure I was. (Mom, if you’re reading this, was I?)
However, what I’ve heard from people jousting for both the good and the bad side of the CIO debate doesn’t quite line up with what I’ve come to understand it to mean. At least, it doesn’t line up with what I’ve been implementing in my home.
What I’ve Heard
I’ve heard horror stories. I’ve heard of babies passing out from crying so hard for so long. I’ve heard of abandonment issues and studies showing the long-term effects of leaving your baby alone to scream their little lungs out.
I’ve read about moms who have followed the Dr. Ferber version of the CIO method while others have simply taken the name literally and just let their little ones cry until they stop.
This is by no means what I’ve been doing. And, in all honesty, this doesn’t mesh with what I believe the CIO method to be at its heart.
What I’ve Read
There is a system to the CIO method. There is something called a “first wait” and a “second wait” and so on. And nowhere in the method does it say, “just walk away until baby shuts up.”
Dr. Ferber emphasizes that the numbers he lays out for your “waits” are merely advisory. The book I’ve read talks about doing a 3-minute first wait, 5-minute second, and 10-minute third, using 10 minutes as the longest wait and using this number for any subsequent waits to follow. That doesn’t mean that you have to use these numbers! You can set your own schedule and determine your own “wait” times.
I won’t go into all the details. This post isn’t meant to teach you how to use the CIO, I swear. What I do want to talk about quickly, though, is the thought process behind it. I truly believe that this part is often forgotten or left out when these hot-topic debates unfold in the online forums.
The important thing isn’t the amount of time. What’s important is the consistency. Not only do the times need to be consistent, they need to be progressively longer. For example, a 1-minute first wait, 2- minute second, and 5- minute third.
Without going into all the science behind it, it seems as if the Ferber method works (when done correctly). And it doesn’t psychologically hurt your baby. The thought is that when baby knows and can predict when mom or dad is going to come to their rescue (this is established when mom or dad consistently follow a schedule/ routine to go and comfort the baby), they will slowly learn to calm themselves down within that time frame.
Dr. Medina explains the importance of consistency. He said, “The fastest way to keep your child clinging to his cries at night is to make sure your attentive rewarding behavior is unpredictable.” He explains this concept by comparing baby’s nightly crying to an adult in a casino playing the slot machines. If the payout schedule is random, a slot machine player is more likely to stick around, waiting and waiting for their next big win. “Studies show that people who experience random rewards in response to a behavior cling to that behavior much more solidly than those who don’t.”
If you are consistent with going in to comfort your little one, your baby will know you’re coming. They will know you haven’t abandoned them. And for that reason, they will be able to relax and eventually, fall asleep.
What I Do
I wish I could go into more detail, I really do. Because I know so many parents out there are probably still rolling their eyes and mumbling to themselves about what a horrible mom I am for using the CIO method. The thing is, I never let my baby suffer. I don’t let her scream her lungs out and I don’t just ignore her when she cries.
What do I do then?
We only ever have trouble with sleeping during nap times. Norah is a champ at putting herself to bed at the end of the day. So, we’ve established a nice little nap routine.
We do an arms out swaddle, and I carry her to her room. I lay her in her crib and give her her paci and rub her head until she calms down. I then turn on her little night light (it makes it look like there are waves on her ceiling) and sound machine and then I leave.
As soon as she starts to fuss, I start a timer.
One minute. And I spend that entire minute staring at her monitor, making sure she’s okay.
Then, I go in and give her her paci and comfort her. Then I leave.
If she cries again, I wait another minute.
Then, I wait two minutes.
Then, two minutes again.
And lastly, five minutes.
Honestly, we’ve never gotten to the five minute waits. She usually falls asleep after the first wait. And, about half of the time, she falls asleep before the first wait is over.
I have been doing this for about a month. And, like I said, it’s worked great for us. She’s gotten really good at putting herself to sleep.
Yes, she has days that this doesn’t work. I can usually tell by the end of the second wait if she’s going to sleep or if she’s just going to keep rolling around and fussing. And, on those days that I can see it in her little eyes that she’s just not ready to take her nap yet, I pick her up and bring her back into the family room. I snuggle her, and we read a book. And then, we start the whole routine over again. I don’t let myself get frustrated and I don’t let her get too worked up. If I can see that she’s bawling her eyes out and screaming, we “reset.”
As long as baby is happy, you’re doing just fine!
My reason for writing this isn’t to convince anyone to use the CIO method. You have to figure out what works best for you, and there are tons of different sleep-training methods out there. What I did want to accomplish with this post is to explain what we’re doing in our home and why.
I can honestly say that I don’t personally think letting a baby cry to the point of passing out is a good idea. I don’t think that letting them scream for 10+ minutes is a good idea, either. That’s me, though.
At the end of the day, every baby is different. Every family is different. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. But, if what you’re trying isn’t working for you, feel free to try my version of the CIO method! Or, make your own! You know what’s best for your baby. Just like I know what’s best for mine. But, sharing ideas and talking about methods and options is always helpful.
So, tell me! What do you do for sleep training? What’s worked best for you? What hasn’t worked at all? Let’s chat!