On (not) crying it out.
January 21, 2010

I have never felt comfortable letting Charlotte cry it out.  This is at least fifty-seven parts because my heart falls out of my chest every time I see a tear on her cheek.  When a heart falls out of a chest, it makes an awful mess.

But it is also another fifty-seven parts because I love comforting her.  Oh, I meet those hardcore anti-CIO moms who tell me that crying it out causes constellation misalignment or the end of the world OR WHATEVER, but let’s face it: a little wailing never killed anybody.  So I never really believed that crying it out was abuse or negligence or anything like that.

I just never believed that it was the right choice for my family.  Because of that whole pesky heart-out-of-chest mess.

So over the past six months, we have never let Charlotte cry it out.  Never.  Not once.

(That choice was made considerably easier by the fact that my daughter appreciates a little shut-eye for approximately twelve hours a night.  If I ever birth a non-sleeper, CHECK BACK.)

Living with this philosophy wherein we answer to our child’s every beck and call has, however, been taking its toll and the last few weeks have been exhausting.  Charlotte is not crying more than usual; she’s just more aware of the fact that playtime does not happen when she’s asleep.  So she fights sleep with every ounce of strength she has.

But then, last night, I set Charlotte in our bed while she was still awake, and in the time it took for me to find a pair of clean pajama pants, that sweet little girl had fallen asleep.  She fell asleep and asleep she stayed.

It only took six months, but I finally feel like a parenting choice I made actually amounted to something.  Obviously, no matter what route I chose, the day would have eventually come when she self-soothed, but I feel that we can all agree to conveniently overlook that, don’t you?

Edit: One of the quotes in the comments came from Beanski, who said “My personal opinion is that you can’t have an opinion on it for someone else’s kid until you have raised their kid…until you’ve lived it, you can’t judge it.“  THAT absolutely hit the nail on the head for me; I could not agree more.  So a big thank you to Beanski!

What do you think about crying it out?


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  1. By Heidi on January 21, 2010

    Like you, I have been blessed beyond belief to have a sleeping baby, so we’ve mostly avoided this situation.  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t cry, and that it doesn’t break my heart when she does cry.  Just last night, I was trying to do “one more thing” to get dinner ready and she just wasn’t having it.  My husband came home to half of the raw chicken cut up on the counter, the oven on and empty, and me desperately in need of a glass of wine. 

    Let her cry it out, don’t let her…someone, somewhere will tell you you’re doing it wrong.  But, I always say, “Mother knows best.“

  2. By Elin on January 21, 2010

    What a timely post.  My daughter, Emmeline is about the same age as your daughter and I have loved reading your blog - I think it was your g-diapers review that I found first.

    We started sleep training two nights ago to decrease her night-time wakings (she goes to bed for the first time just fine).  My husband and I hate hearing her cry, but she has taken to it well.  The first night she fussed off and on for about 45 minutes.  Last night, she fussed for about 5 minutes. 

    She used to be a great sleeper (generally 6-7 hours a night from a few weeks old), but then Christmas break’s change in routine and a double ear infection lead to her getting up every couple of hours.  My pediatrician recommended Ferber, and we have adapted it to suit us.  (I pick her up if she gets too cranked up, shorter time between check-ins, etc.)  I’m hoping Emmeline gets right back into her good routine.

    Do what works for you!  Mama knows!  (Sorry about the long comment!)

  3. By beanski on January 21, 2010

    My personal opinion is that you can’t have an opinion on it for someone else’s kid until you have raised their kid.

    My daughter was a great sleeper and I was really a know-it-all anti-cry it out person because I assumed all kids were like her. Then, my son was born. I let him cry once for about 15 minutes before deciding it wasn’t for me and have done the Baby Whisper’s Pick Up/Put Down with some success since.

    After having him, I can TOTALLY see why someone would try absolutely anything after 15 months of never sleeping for longer than 3 hours in a row. Until you’ve lived it, you can’t judge it.

  4. By beyond on January 21, 2010

    i think that CIO has saved many a mama’s SANITY. this is what i’ve heard from mothers who didn’t sleep for more than 3 hours at a time for 9 months (and sometimes much longer). they were just so TIRED, you know? however, each mama knows what’s best for her child.

  5. By on January 21, 2010

    If I was tired enough to be asleep in the same bed as the crying baby they got to cry it out. You should know that when I don’t have a baby around, I need earplugs to stay asleep all night, that’s how lightly I sleep. And I want to second the thought that only you know what works in your family. I had a woman pediatrician, unmarried and childless that I lied to regularly about….  nursing, bottles, sleeping in a family bed. I finally switched when she kept going on and on about how her 5 month old nursing nephew was running his mother’s life. DUH!

  6. By on January 21, 2010

    We’re about to do Ferber. My Charlotte is 10 months old and has been sleeping with us for several months. At first it was great, she’d nurse all night and then I didn’t need to pump much. Lately, however she has gotten very squirmy and quit just falling asleep after nursing. Instead she wants to crawl on Mommy & Daddy’s heads! Fun!

    So far we used Ferber’s method for night weaning and it worked great. Next step is to get her to go to sleep in her own bed, but we have to wait until her ear infection heals.

    Anyway, I was very anti-CIO until left with no choice. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

  7. By Mailis on January 21, 2010

    I am thinking about embarking on the CIO journey, due to the fact that Jude hates his crib. I am very ok with co-sleeping (love it, in fact) but at 3 months, he is already extremely mobile. He once wiggled himself down to the end of the bed. 8-/

    So, the crib it will have to be.

    As it is now, he finally goes fully to sleep at about 12:30am after waking many times. I am so paranoid that he is going to wake up again that I can’t sleep. LOL. He has already evening and night weaned himself, and I can tell he is ready for the 12 hour sleep pattern. He just can’t settle down for it…always wanting to play…always in motion.

    Problem is…hearing him cry is gonna be the death of me…heh. Are there other ways?

  8. By Cambria Copeland on January 21, 2010

    I was very CIO until I hit the six month mark and out of desperation and missing sharing the bed with my other half (he was afraid of rolling over on her), we did it, but with some modifications.  It worked for a couple of months and then we moved.  We tried letting her cry and no success.  Our hearts couldn’t handle it.  We taught her to go to sleep on her own in her bed without a fuss, but ultimately, she would be transferred to me in the night.

    And she slept in bed with me for the next year, until last week…  Last week we left her for five nights with Grandma and at Grandma’s she sleeps in her own bed.  We’ve been home for four nights and she has slept every night in her bed with little fussing.  Last night, she didn’t wake once, which was slightly unnerving to me because I knew if I went into her room I would wake her, but I also wanted to be sure she was OK.  So I peaked and she was sleeping.  And she kept sleeping until 6 a.m.  I was proud.

    So my feeling about the CIO method is that a family has to do what works for them.  While I had a baby who needed mommy to sleep for 18 months, suddenly she is a big girl and wants to sleep in her own bed.  While we tried different things and edged her into sleeping in her own bed, ultimately she was comfortable, secure and confident to do it on her own.  Perhaps a product of the nurturing we offered?  I don’t know.

    I just hope it continues and I don’t give in and let her snuggle to sleep with me again.  I love it so much, but we have another wee one due in just 12 weeks, so we need to make room.

    Congrats on your accomplishments with Charlotte!

  9. By on January 21, 2010

    We don’t do CIO with Elizabeth. We do Whine-It-Out though. If she is whimpering and nuzzling the sheets and her eyes are closed, we let her figure out how she really feels. I’m with you on the tears thing: if I see them, I have to pick her up, lest my ovaries wiggle up into my throat area and constrict my windpipe with mommy-dearest-guilt.

    I wish it didn’t bother me so much because E still wakes often at night to comfort nurse and, at almost 6 months into this gig, I’d appreciate more than 3-hour sleep increments. Oh, did I mention she STILL WON"T TAKE A BOTTLE?!?

    All your pity’s. Give them to me.

    I’m glad you wrote about this because I was thinking, just this morning in the shower, OMG is Sarah gonna write anything about her kid catching some of this 6-month witching time?! Because we are knee-deep in ornery stubborness here and the sleep-fighting must.end.soon.

    It DOES get tiresome and brainfarty but it’s still going by SO FAST. I will gladly spend my time rocking her to sleep 1923758 times every night. Soon she’ll be a toddler who goes to sleep on her own and if not, we will do CIO then (when she knows I am close by and have not abandoned her). Or maybe we’ll just bribe her with candy. One day at a time…

  10. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on January 21, 2010

    Beanski - I couldn’t agree more.  I wholly believe that every child is different and only their parents are qualified to make the choice.  I’m not anti-CIO and never have been, I just personally didn’t ever really consider it with Charlotte because I was uncomfortable with it.  Who knows if I’d be the same with subsequent kids or if Charlotte slept less!

  11. By Marisa @ where's the party? on January 21, 2010

    I did not believe in CIO until Austin was about 8 months old.  That’s when we tried the Sleep Easy Solution book which worked wonders for us.  My son cried, and cried and cried because he was PISSED that we weren’t rocking him for an hour each night until he fell asleep.  After five nights of (sheer hell-to-my heart) - he learned to fall asleep on his own.  Even for naps. 
    He will be 1 soon and we just moved to a new house so we will probably need to retrain for a little bit as he has been sleeping with us and I will not stick him in a room to sleep by himself in a strange place.
    At some point ALL children will need to be sleep trained unless you plan on your child sleeping with you until he’s 21.  Better young than older - it’s easier.

  12. By Melissa on January 21, 2010

    I NEVER let my daughter CIO…mainly because she was a preemie and on an apnea monitor until 11 months old so if she was screaming it would cause the monitor to falsely go off…NOT a pleasant sound!

    but….she is 5 now and she still comes and gets me in the middle of the night to come lay with her. I rarely sleep all the way through a night!

    My son on the other hand….is 2 1/2…I started letting him CIO very young and he is the BEST sleeper…the BEST kid to put to bed and just overall not so needy!

    In my experience…not letting her CIO has bitten me in the a@@....but every kid is different so who knows if the CIO part even has anything to do with the way they are now.

  13. By Megan R. on January 21, 2010

    I only once let my Peanut CIO.  She was a horrible sleeper in the begining due to reflux and, well…being a baby and all.  Starting at about 3 months of age we started putting her in her crib, kissing her, telling her “love you angel, sweet dreams”, turning off her light, closing the door…and walking away.  She has self-soothed ever since…and that was also the time she started sucking her thumb.  Gotta love those thumbs!  She sleeps about 10 hours a night, sometimes more.  No complaints here!  So happy I didn’t have to make the CIO choice!

  14. By Tara on January 21, 2010

    “My personal opinion is that you can’t have an opinion on it for someone else’s kid until you have raised their kid.“ Love it. If only every mother operated under that rule!

    Sounds like you got really lucky with Charlotte. My 2nd daughter is a pretty good sleeper too—and sleeps a LOT more than her sister did, and falls asleep like a DREAM (most of the time;-) 

    My first was… well, a nightmare in the sleep department. I’m not a big “fan” of CIO but they both have done a bit of it a few times (1st daughter screamed for hours at night whether we were “comforting” her or not). Those were not fun days. Actually it was more like a year and a half! Ahh! Daughter #2 definitely would not have been here by now if she hadn’t been a surprise. :-)

    I also don’t think a little crying hurt anyone, but I really don’t agree with the method that goes along the lines of “shut their door at 7pm and don’t answer to anything for 12 hours even if they cry all night.“ We were given instincts for a reason, right?

    Love your blog!

  15. By Kim on January 21, 2010

    Ok, so I have birthed 4 non-sleepers and don’t cry it out.  That is why I currently have a sweet 16 month old who thinks she should nurse all night.  We are night weaning right now and that includes a lot of crying, but she is not alone, she is with me the whole time.  It kills me, but I also need some sleep you know?

    And by the way?  Next to my children, that Charlotte is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.

  16. By on January 21, 2010

    For us, CIO is not an option.  our little bubba is almost 6 months, sleeps part of the night with us and partly in the pack and play next to me (he nurses every 2-3 hours still) and it works for us just fine. most nights i nurse him to sleep and sometimes i just put him in the p&p after he eats and he eventually falls asleep.  no tears, no fussing and if he starts, i just plop him next to me and whip one out.
    once he sleeps for longer stretches, we’ll introduce him to his crib and his own room - i plan on sleeping on the floor in there for awhile unless he takes to it like a champ!
    his tears KILL me so i couldn’t let him cry himself to sleep.  i’ll do the same for the next one too!  but this works for us.  for other families, it might not.  i am a HUGE fan of respecting other people’s parenting methods!  i guess you could call me a “Parenting Liberal”.

  17. By Dana on January 21, 2010

    I really think it depends on the kid. My first was born when we still live with my in-laws and he slept about 30 min at a time max. My in-laws didn’t believe in allowing him to cry for ONE SECOND and made it clear that while I was in ther house I would play by their rules. So I put him in bed with me, where he didn’t cry, but climbed all over the place. He slept in his own bed for the first time when he wa seven, the result of getting a tv in his room ( I know! All wrong!) Today he is sixteen, and tells me he still doesn’t sleep well. I wonder if that would be different if we had allowed him to CIO… Fortunately my others have been decent sleepers!

  18. By on January 21, 2010

    Aiden is almost six months. He has never been a good sleeper. He always wakes up early no matter what time he goes to bed. 6 hours straight is the max, but that rarely happens. Just last night after rocking him back to sleep for the 5734629 time, I looked at his little face sleeping so peacefully on me and thought if I have to rock him to sleep for the rest of his life I would. Now obviously that’s not going to happen and maybe at some point I will let him CIO ,but right now I’m happy getting up and cuddling 5734629 times a night.

  19. By Heather on January 21, 2010

    since i don’t have a kid (yet) i don’t know if i could give a solid opinion, but it seems that making the right choice for YOUR OWN CHILD makes perfect sense!  when we have kids I don’t know what i’ll do, but if i have a pesky heart-out-of-chest reaction, i know i’ll be soothing my sweet baby :)

  20. By on January 21, 2010

    I don’t really have a choice with twins.  One of them is usually subjected to CIO while I comfort the other and guess what: both of them are still alive!  In the end we end up having to do a mix of all the sleep “solutions”.  For us, consistency in how we sooth and a bedtime routine has been the key.  Having 2 babies the same age makes you realize that some babies are self soothers and sleepers and some aren’t.  It has less to do with how your parent them than you think!

  21. By krista on January 21, 2010

    I haven’t been able to let her cry for more than a few mintues before I go scoop her up.  Like you, I have a daughter that sleeps through the night but she fights naps like a prize fighter.  A few times I’ve tried putting her in her crib and letting her cry, but I never last more than a few minutes.  I talk tough and keep saying I’m just going to do it someday.  But that day hasn’t come yet.  And if it does, I have to make sure my husband is far, far away because he’s a bigger softie than me and that might just be grounds for divorce! :)

  22. By on January 21, 2010

    You asked my opinion on crying-it-out…..so here goes. I believe it accomplishes nothing positive. The message one give the little person is negative and who wants to instill negative in their child? To have met the emotional needs of your little girl every single time is, I believe, an accomplishment to be very proud of. I think you will never regret it and she’ll grow up so much more emotionally secure.

  23. By Jen on January 21, 2010

    We never let our son cry it out. For 6 months he was awake every 2 hours like clockwork to breastfeed. I was exhausted day in and day out, but CIO we would not. We always believed when he was ready to sleep he would.

    At 8 months he began sleeping until 4 or 5am, where I would breastfeed him and put him back to sleep.

    Still no CIO.

    By 10 months he was sleeping through the night, and has ever since. From time to time he will cry here and there for brief moments (probably dreaming) but he always goes back to sleep. The great thing about NOT letting him CIO is that if he does cry in the middle of the night and does not stop crying we know something is wrong…so for us, nurturing him when he did cry and being there for him, and letting him sleep through on his own, has allowed us all a way to cope now.  Usually when he teeths or is too hot/cold he lets us know. And I’m cool with that.

    As for naps, it was brutal until he was 12 months old. WE rocked, patted, sang until he’d sleep and even then he wouldn’t sleep long.

    But we never let him CIO with that either and now he goes to bed wilingly and naps just as willingly.

    It was hard, exhausting, difficult, frustrating being up so much for so long at night, but well worth it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  24. By Bex on January 22, 2010

    We started letting Jack cry at around six months. That’s when he realized that we still existed when we left the room, and that if he cried we would come back. Finally I decided that he needed sleep training. I like that term because it describes how I feel about CIO: it’s training him to be a better sleeper. Still, I could never let him cry without coming in every ten minutes and patting his back, reassuring him that I still loved him and was still right there. Eventually he fell asleep, and now he goes down awake, sleeps twelve hours, and naps twice a day with no fuss. It was worth it to me.

    I completely disagree with those that say CIO brings about insecurity and emotional problems in a child. I also disagree with those that say attachment parenting and responding to every whimper will result in a clingy kid. Either method, if done correctly—with thought and love and wisdom—can result in a happy, healthy child. Which method we choose to use depends entirely on what type of baby we have, and what type of parent we are. That is all. There is simply no room for judgment. But then I think we’re mostly all in agreement on that!

  25. By Meg on January 22, 2010

    We’re having a baby in 8 weeks and we can’t wait and we haven’t discussed crying it out because I don’t think it’s appropriate for children younger than 4ish-5ish months.

    I truly don’t know if we will let her cry it out around what we think is appropriate but I know we’re not 100% against it either.

  26. By Kerry on January 22, 2010

    I used to think it was a-ok and something that I would most definitely practice with my children when I had them.  And then I had one. Nope, can’t do it.  I can not stand to have my always-smiley little girl be upset and crying, especially when I can DO something about it. 

    However, like Charlotte, Madilynn likes to get her beauty sleep for 12 hours a night (since she was one month old no less!), so yeah, maybe ask me when our family gets to round 2 :)

  27. By erin on January 22, 2010

    I did not think we would do CIO.  Then I read Dr Sears’ baby sleep book and I was convinced we would not do CIO.  (I think I commented about this once?)  Then Hannah went through the 4-mo sleep regression and we started co-sleeping in earnest, and she would nurse throughout the night.  Then I stopped sleeping, because of the nursing and because she was a restless sleeper with me.  I had had it up to here and so we “did” CIO.  I put “did” in quotes because Hannah has pretty much always been a good sleeper so we didn’t really have to do much at all.

    Fortunately by that point (about 7 months) I had put her down a couple times and noticed that she would just fall asleep on her own, so I didn’t have huge qualms about it.  The first night we put her to sleep on her own, she cried for 5-10 minutes and then went right to sleep.  If she hadn’t and we had to REALLY do CIO, I don’t know what I would have done.  Probably gone insane and jumped out the window.

    I do believe that every baby is different and while I hope that the next baby will sleep like Hannah, I am not holding my breath.  I also believe that babies have a way of letting you know what they need it, when they need it.  At 4 months, Hannah needed to co-sleep, and she let me know by sleeping crappy unless I was with her.  By 7 months she was ready to sleep on her own and let me know by sleeping worse with me.

    Good luck with whatever you do and just remember, you (and Donald) know your child and your family best and can make the best decision for your child and your family.  No one else can, not even your parents.  A friend co-slept with her daughter until her daughter was 3 and she was pregnant with her son.  I couldn’t do that, but it was good for them.

  28. By on January 23, 2010

    I will start by saying I am fully aware that every family and every child is unique in that they need to do what’s best for them. That said I also feel like I need to weigh in a little about letting babies CIO. I have read many times how harmful it can be to the baby, let alone the family enduring what seems like pure torture hearing their smallest member scream what seems like bloody murder.

    Babies brains are still in a very crucial stage of development. When they’re forced to cry for extended periods of time, stress hormones are released. This can in turn cause problems in brain development and thus behavioral and emotional problems later in life. This is of course just another point of view and parents should always use their best judgement as well as instincts as it seems most of the commenters here do/have.

    There is one (of several) article here: http://www.babble.com/letting-baby-cry-cause-damage/index.aspx

    I will end by explaining that I do not have any children yet myself, but have been a caregiver for children including many babies, most of my life. Hopefully soon I will have my own. I in no way am judging or thinking anything negative about any of the parents who use the CIO technique or don’t. Nothing in life is completely black and white. This subject is, of course, no exception.

  29. By on January 23, 2010

    Not a mom yet but as with soo many things related to babies, and well, life in general. I have a problem with fake “science”.

    A parent has to do what is best for them and their child(ren). As a child I was definitely let to cry it out, and I can assure you, there is nothing wrong with my brain development!

    If you can’t let your kid cry it our choose not tot, then don’t. If you have to once in a while (someone’s at the door, you need to pee, dinner is about to light on fire etc), then I don’t think it’s going to traumatize your kid.

    Show me any REAL scientific proof (I’m talking trials and data and numbers and graphs) that a baby who is left to cry it out basically gets brain damage. Frankly, I don’t think the research or the proof exists.

    I agree with Bex-either method, if done correctly—with thought and love and wisdom—can result in a happy, healthy child. Which method we choose to use depends entirely on what type of baby we have, and what type of parent we are.

  30. By MommyNamedApril on January 23, 2010

    we let ours cio.  i would lose my mind if not… all my kids (newest one included) like to get up and eat every two (and occasionally 3) hours.  somewhere between four and six months after baby is born, my heart stops falling out of my chest and i hand the baby over to my husband for his no fail cio techniques.  and i sleep.  blessed sleep. :-)

  31. By on January 24, 2010

    I agree with Corinne about fake science. Just this week I read two different articles: one detailing how children who were spanked have lower IQ’s, and another saying that children who were spanked have more successful lives, are more respectful blah blah blah. So which is it? Or is it that children who were spanked are not as smart but definitely better behaved and more successful? Same with CIO. And I have to notice that a LOT of women who are completely anti-CIO are women who don’t have to work outside the home. I mean, if you are consistently getting an hour or two of fitful, non-consecutive sleep a night AND you must be productive at an outside job all day, well, if all else fails, most people choose to try CIO. That being said, I didn’t do CIO with my first, she was a dream sleeper. My second was a nightmare and I seriously almost left my family I was so depressed and sleep deprived. We tried EVERYTHING. 5 nights a week I’d get maybe two hours - not together, of sleep. The other two might be 45 min. She screamed all day and all night from being exhausted. The best thing we ever did was CIO. She was a different, happy baby. And I could finally take proper care of her and her sister again. Still, 8 moths later after all that, I’m so traumatised by her lack of sleep that if she so much as sighs too loud I’m awake for hours, afraid she’ll wake again!

  32. By Alicia on January 24, 2010

    up until about a month and a half ago, my son was a sleep master. Somewhere among the holidays, Jude’s sleep got lost. A few weeks ago we also found his first tooth and added that to the list of reasons why he hasn’t been sleeping.

    When it first started, I was shocked and didn’t know how to react to a baby waking up every two hours. I would go in instantly and pick him up. Then I got worried he was waking up for the cuddling, so one night I said ‘that’s it! he’s CIO”. That lasted for all of 75 seconds before I decided it just wasn’t for me.

  33. By Julia on January 24, 2010

    wow - lots of comments on this topic!  :)  That’s awesome she went to sleep on her own in such a natural way!  Good feeling!

  34. By Katie on January 25, 2010

    We let Bean cry it out, especially now that he is going through the fighting sleep phase, too.  But I know the difference between when he’s just fighting sleep and when he’s really worked up.  I never let him just scream and scream, but I’ll let him moan and wimper his way into sleep.  I do sit by his bedroom door though every time, until he falls asleep.  I feel like if I put him in that situation, then I should sit through it with him.  Makes me feel less-villain-like. 

    To each his own, right?


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