Cry It Out: 4 Moms Battle It Out


baby crying in cribCrying it out is not just a parenting decision made in the night between a mom and dad, it's a huge topic with big voices discussing the ramifications -- pro and con -- all over the world. Babies need to sleep, just like parents do -- it's imperative for their growth and the sanity of everyone in the house. But how we get baby to sleep brings up the issue of crying it out or not crying it out.

I interviewed four moms -- two who practice CIO and two who do not -- for their thoughts on how crying it out works or doesn't work for them.


Minji says:

I first cried Roman out when he was about 5 months old. Before that time he was co-sleeping with me and feeding about three to five times a night. When my husband and I made the decision to CIO, we did so with a heavy heart. We could barely tolerate it when he cried for two seconds let alone cry for god knows how long.

The first couple of times we failed and ran into his room after about five minutes, then on our second try, he cried for about 15 minutes then went to sleep. That was the end of our co-sleeping and the start of a scheduled 7:30 p.m. bed time.

I don't want to make CIO sound easy or a magical cure-all. It is not. As a matter of fact I think that our baby's temperament has as much to do with our success than any method or schedule. For example, I am in Korea right now with Roman. We are staying at my mother's house. She is old school and doesn't even understand what crying it out is. The minute he cries, she comes running into my room to console him. She also believes that babies should co-sleep until about 3 and breastfeed almost as long. Roman does very well here and sleeps just as well as he would back in NYC in his crib alone in his room.

But in all honestly, after a trip to Korea, we will have to cry him out again for three days or so. It's mostly due to jet lag. But CIO does really teach him to sleep alone and at a certain bed time. It always re-sets the clock for us.

On an emotional level, it's very hard to hear him cry even if it's for five minutes. Despite what anyone says about the effectiveness of the CIO, I sometimes wonder if it's worth the emotional toll it takes.


Jess says:

We used the Ferber method on our son starting at 5 months -- when it was harder to get him to go to sleep. It's the more PC way to say cry it out. I felt Kennedy needed to learn how to put himself to sleep and, when it was bedtime, he needed to understand it was bedtime. We never let him cry for hours as some people assume. I think the longest was about an hour. And it was very hard. My sister-in-law was over during one of these times and she looked at me like I was crazy, wondering why I'd let him cry so long. I explained to her that it's for the best.

We never left him alone -- we had a monitor and we could see he was okay, just fighting sleep and crying. In about a month's time, he was sleep trained and we all slept better after that.



Alix says:

I'm against it because, luckily enough, I have a whole year off on maternity leave. And my job during this time is to purely teach my child things, such as self settling and sleeping through the night. I don't use CIO because I think it's wrong. My child should know that when he cries it's for something serious and I will be there right away. Ben grizzles and whines when he's tired and trying to fall asleep, but as soon as he cries, I pick him up, settle him, and put him back down. I actually only let him grizzle and cry for two minutes and hold him for four minutes (he's only 3 months old). We've been doing this for almost two weeks now.

I should mention that we were also taking away the whole feeding/sleeping association because he would wake up and only fall back asleep on the boob. So we did the Baby Whisperer routine of EASY (Eat Activity Sleep You). Anyway, it's progressing beautifully. Just in the last couple of days, we've been able to put him down fully awake and he doesn't grizzle that much anymore. We don't even really have to pick him up. Whereas in the beginning it took us an hour of pick up/put down.

I also want to stress that babies will learn how to fall asleep on their own in their own time. As long as you watch for the cues and be really attentive to your child's needs, I think you'll be on the right path.


Polly says:

It causes brain damage so I'm obviously against it. But I will admit, I tried it, at my husband's insistence, because it's what we learned from our parents. We got it in our heads that we would spoil her if we responded to her every need. I bawled the whole time. Izzy cried for an hour, slept for 15 minutes, then woke up bawling and I ran in to grab her. She was clingy and nervous the whole day, and I knew that going against my maternal instinct and forcing her to cry (which solves nothing other than making her give up) was not a parenting technique I was going to practice.

I think in my case, it was a mix of desperation and bad parenting advice. I allowed what my father said to cloud out my own maternal instincts. I think that happens a lot with other people, too. We hear all the time that if we run to a crying child, it will coddle them. It is a myth in our culture that has been perpetuated for generations. Now that I have my daughter, I am seeing firsthand how responding to her needs is helping her to become a more independent, secure individual.

There are many other people who do it because they want a quick fix. People need to realize that your child grew inside your body for 9-10 months. They don't pop out and develop all life skills in 6 months. It takes close to a year for your child to even fully grasp that they're a unique entity and that you still exist when you leave and will return. CIO often happens right in that time frame when kids are figuring that out, and all it does is confuse them, teach them their voice is worthless when it's dark (how SCARY would that be to know that you're alone in the dark, and the person you trust the most is the one who leaves you there?). The best quote I know is that the infant stops crying because they have lost hope that the caregiver is coming ... not because their distress has been alleviated.

Especially as a nursing mother, my breasts ache and let down when I hear my baby cry. That to me says my body/brain knows my baby needs me and responds in an appropriate manner.

Where do you stand on the CIO debate?


*Editor's note: Minji began CIO at 5 months -- this corrects the original version which stated 3 months.

Image via MJTR/Flickr



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CoolR... CoolRelax

Hmmm, can't really take a side yet, I'll have to see what happens when the girls get here.  Our plan is to have them next to our bed though, so I don't see us trying it at least for the first 6 months or so. 

Poste... PosterOfAGirl

Love it!! Very anti-CIO here as well. I love making sure my children know that I am here for them even in the dead of night, I will never ignore their cries for help. Even with my 4 year old, she knows if she wakes up in the middle of the night (which she does, she's been a light sleeper her whole life!) she knows she can come to me, or call for me and I will come to help her out. I know with my next (due in March!!) I will do co-sleeping even more than I did previously.


Smile... SmileyMoo

wonderful! It's good to see the different sides of this issue and realize. We're all humans striving to do what we think is best :)

RanaA... RanaAurora

I'm with Polly. It's also worth mentioning it's not recommended for any child under 6 months, ever.

nonmember avatar Jenny

CIO makes me sick to my stomach. Why on earth would a mother NOT respond to her baby's cries? My husband tried it twice during nap times, and my daughter cried until she threw up.

My daughter co-slept with us until she was 2 years old and still comes in nearly each night when she wakes up. She is a confident girl who knows her Mummy and Daddy love her and respond to her-- no matter what time it is. Shame on anyone who lets their precious baby cry themselves to sleep.


Awesome article link.  I think Polly is on the mark.  I did not "sleep train" my child.  Babies sleep when they are tired and eat when they are hungry. I wanted to build trust not just between my child and me (a wonderful strong bond) but also a sense of trust within herself about her own needs.  Making her eat on a schedule or sleep on a schedule tells her that her own bodily (biological) cues are not to be trusted and that she must rely on someone else to tell her when to sleep or eat or what to feel for that matter.  And that, (not to load the argument), I view as a gateway to all sorts of other issues.  

Xakana Xakana

Polly here, too, only I never used it. We all sleep great. It took about 8 weeks for me to be sleep trained (ha ha) but once I was, it was like a miracle. A sleeping disorder I'd had most of my life was gone.

I still suffer from being left to CIO when I was little. I have psychological damage (adult separation anxiety, abandonment complex and nyctophobia, just for starters) and some brain damage (increased fight/flight instinct) from it. I wasn't even left to CIO as an infant--I was a toddler.

I had a relationship with someone whose nocturnal issues were so bad that sleep was hell. The bed had to be full and when sleep was achieved, it was so deep it was like a coma. My ex had an intense fear of going to bed, too. It all stemmed from the pediatrician who advised my ex's mother to use CIO.

I would never do to my children what was done to us. I was left to CIO and I am NOT fine.

xavie... xavierlogan09

i tried cio a couple of times. it only made my son more upset. he goes to bed at the same time every night without needing to cry or be trained. it's too hard for me to listen to him crying in the dark asking for mama. so i go to his room and comfort him. when he's calmed down he goes to sleep. i think cio at three months is way too young. 

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