Cry It Out Method [Sleep Training An Infant] – What Age To Start, Does It Work

43% of all parents with kids under one year of age get between one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. 20% of toddlers between 1 and 3 years struggle to sleep which in turn frustrates their parents even more.

As a new parent, this staggering statistic doesn’t exactly bode well for your health, because you may be part of the stats. Constant lack of sleep may cause a mental, emotional and physical breakdown. Not only does it affect you badly, but it also harms your baby’s health.

Unlike some beliefs that waking up every other minute is good for the baby, hours of uninterrupted sleep is healthier for your infant.

But what can you do when your little one finds it difficult to sleep through the night?
Keeping to the endless routine of cuddling and petting till they fall asleep will only teach them bad sleep habits and leave you burned out.

Although according to some scientists, babies will eventually have and stick to their sleep cycle, no one knows when. They say the period of learning how to sleep independently, relies solely on the child’s developmental stage.

Would you be able to wait, to endure endless months of sleepless nights before your baby learns to sleep without your help?

Because of the helpless situation, new parents face with insomnia, sleep specialists all over the world are devising several ways to curb the problem.

One of those solutions is sleep training.

What Is Sleep Training?

Enforcing good sleep patterns to ensure your infant gets several hours of uninterrupted sleep is called sleep training.

Sleep training your baby teaches them to self-soothe (by sucking on their thumbs or a pacifier) and sleep independently without their parent’s help.

For many parents, the beginning of a sleep training session is often heartbreaking because no one likes to hear their baby cry. But, after some days, the baby gets a hang of it and learns to sleep when drowsy without any help.

When it comes to sleep training a baby, there is no hard and fast rule. You—the parent—call the shot. If you feel something is not suitable for your baby, then it’s alright to not do it.

There are two major ways to teach a baby how to sleep independently; cry it out and the no-tears method.

Using either effectively depends on how developed your baby is, what works for both of you, and your consistency.

The CIO technique is the most controversial method in the history of sleep training but many people swear by it.

In this article, we will discuss what this concept is, how it came about and how it can affect your baby.

What is The Cry It Out Method?

As the name implies, the cry it out method requires letting your baby cry till they fall asleep with little or no consolation from you.

That’s why it is also called the extinction method. Since babies are cute huge attention seekers, ignoring them when they cry is going to enrage them further.

Many cry-it-out techniques take anything from 3 days to 2 weeks before you can see notable results.

Some take longer. It depends on the baby’s developmental stage and the parent’s consistency to follow the routine for it to be effective.

It was in 1895 when Dr. Emmett Holt released his book “The Care and Feeding of Children.”

The Cry It Out method was first established as a sleep training technique for children in this book. A decade later in 1985, Dr. Richard Ferber in his famous book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” popularised this sleep training method.

Today, the term became so well known that it is sometimes called Ferberization.

How Does the Cry It Out Method Work?

The cry it out, also known as the extinction method, requires you to let your baby cry themselves to sleep—not for long though.

You don’t have to leave your infant to cry indefinitely till they fall asleep, but you must stick to a timeline before you intervene and console them.

For instance, you could give a 3 mins interval before intervening and consoling your baby. You can keep increasing the intervals every few nights till your baby takes to it.

Sleep specialists have claimed that crying never killed a child, neither does it cause brain damage as some critics claim.

As long as all the important needs such as diaper change, feeding, and so on, controlled crying is a necessary evil. Many infants cry when they are drowsy but can not settle in enough to sleep.

They desire constant rocking, petting, and soothing to finally take that last lap into dreamland. And this can be difficult for a sleep-deprived and overwhelmed parent, particularly when the baby keeps waking up at midnight.

A softer but popular CIO approach is the Ferber method or graduated extinction. It is also called the check and console method, this technique uses the cry it out concept to help babies sleep.

What Is The Ferber Method?

The Ferber method is a sleep training technique coined by the renowned scientist, Dr. Richard Ferber. It has since become well known as an effective way to teach babies how to sleep independently.

The Ferber method requires periodic check-ins after some moments of crying to console your baby. When your baby is tired or drowsy but still awake, put them into their cot and leave the room for a few minutes. Predictably, they might cry their displeasure at being left alone.

At 6 months old, most babies have figured out that crying gets them attention. It gets them lots of pampering and even a night in your bed. When their cries no longer bring you running, of course, they are going to express their displeasure.

Therefore, don’t rush to console your baby, especially when you know nothing is fundamentally wrong. After some minutes of fussing, you can go in and console them for a few seconds.

As soon as they are calm, you leave again. Do this as often as you can till they get a hang of it. But don’t try to get huge results on day one; remember a night does not make a life lesson for your infant.

The Ferber method is seen as a softer cry-it-out method, that’s why it is called graduated extinction.

How to Implement the CIO Method

Like we stated earlier babies below 4 months of age are not developed enough to be sleep trained.

Babies above a year are not suitable for this training either. They are now old enough to communicate their needs so this method becomes redundant.

The best time to practice this method of sleep training is if your newborn is within 4-6 months of age.

At this time, your infant has developed an inner clock that lets them differentiate between night and day, and is ready to learn some good sleep habits.

If your baby is above 4 months but less than a year, then you could implement the cry it out technique. It is very important to follow a routine that helps your child know that it’s time to get some sleep, especially during nap time or nighttime.

First, start with your normal bedtime routine of feeding, bathing, and rocking your baby. Once the baby looks sleepy but is still awake, place them in their infant bed, say goodnight and walk out of the room.

If your baby cries, don’t predictably rush to go and console them. Instead, wait for a little while before you come back into the room.

Unlike the Ferber method, where you pick up your baby and console them, the CIO only requires you to offer reassuring firm pats and comforting words. After some minutes of comforting them, leave the room while they are still awake but drowsy.

Increase your re-entry intervals per time, till your baby gets a hang of it. Let the waiting period be progressive. If you must, you can use an infant optics camera to monitor your baby’s behavior and sleeping patterns.

On the first night, you could wait 3 minutes, then increase to 5, then to 7. On the second night, you could start with 7, then increase to 10, then to 15, and so on.

The cry-it-out methods are very effective when you are consistent with them.

Repeat the routine every night till your baby learns to sleep through the night. Soon they will no longer need your help to fall asleep. Dr. Ferber claims that the CIO may take anything from three to seven nights before significant change can be established.

If the crying persists after a week, you might need to take a break. Give it a few days of rest for both you and your child, before trying again.

You must use a method of sleep training that you and your baby are emotionally ready to handle. If you are still unsure about trying out the CIO method, seek the help of a sleep consultant.

How Long Should You Let Your Baby Cry It Out?

It’s an emotionally stressful affair to hear your baby cry and restrain yourself from immediately going to comfort them.

It doesn’t matter that it is part of the sleep training routine, you may find yourself questioning your parenting skills.

How long is enough to let your baby cry each night before you go in and console them?

Actually, there is no hard and fast rule on how long you should let your baby cry it out. A survey carried out on some new parents showed that the cry it out method takes between 30-120 minutes every night through a week.

That’s rough for a lot of parents. It’s up to you how long you should let your baby cry during this training.

Facts You Should Know About CIO

You call the shots. Whether or not you decide to sleep train your baby with this technique is entirely up to you. Don’t feel pressured by anyone about how to teach your baby better sleeping habits.

One night of training won’t cut it. If you do decide to go the CIO route, be prepared for several nights of crying before you can see effective change. Training just for a night won’t make a lasting change.

Things will calm down eventually. For many parents who sleep train their baby, the first 3-5 nights were tough, but eventually, things calmed down.

Cry it out method isn’t damaging to your baby. Unlike many myths about CIO, there is no scientific proof that this sleep technique has any debilitating effect on a baby.

A lot of research has been done on children who were sleep trained; showing them living a healthy, balanced life compared to those who didn’t.

At What Age Should You Sleep-Train Your Baby?

Babies under 4 months including swaddled infants should NOT cry it out.

Their circadian clock is not fully developed to help them differentiate between day and night. They are under-developed to be sleep-trained.

Never let your newborn cry it out. Newborn babies cry when they have needs, so don’t use this method on them as they could be communicating an important need to you.

However, there are some simple tips you could use to help them sleep better.

Babies above a year too can be sleep trained, after all, it’s never too late to learn good sleep habits, says Alanna McGinn, a sleep consultant.

To sleep train your toddler, you must be ready to get rid of inappropriate sleep associations. Rocking, nursing, petting, singing lullabies, bottle-feeding till your baby sleeps and all other routine activities that require parental presence are all inappropriate sleep associations.

Your baby should be able to self-soothe with a pacifier or by thumb sucking; as long as your presence won’t be needed for them to fall asleep at night, that’s an appropriate sleep association.

If you keep letting them have inappropriate sleep crutches, the chances are that it will be more difficult to get rid of their sleep problems. That’s why it’s better to start early enough at the age of 4-6 months.

The resolution or objective of sleep training is to ensure that your baby, no matter the age, can sleep long hours without your help. This way both you and your little one can finally have an uninterrupted night rest.

Benefits Of The Cry It Out Method

The main objective of this sleep training tactic is to teach your baby how to fall asleep without any extra help from you.

That would mean no cuddling, rocking, singing, or running helter-skelter every time your baby wakes up crying at midnight.

The advantages of controlled crying or CIO are

• Baby learns to self-soothe
• Baby learns better sleep habits and falls asleep faster.
• Exhausted parents can finally get some sleep
• No proof of any long-term negative effects
• Reduction of cortisone -the stress hormone- in babies

Drawbacks Of Cry It Out Method

The CIO is the most controversial of sleep training methods because many people believe it’s pointless to deliberately allow your baby to cry so they can fall asleep. So here are some of the drawbacks according to some parent’s experience.

The controlled crying was an emotionally draining experience because of their baby’s crying.

Some critics argue that CIO will affect the bond between the parents and the child in the long run. You may not see immediate results

Not all babies take to the extinction training, so you might have to seek other sleep training alternatives.

Are There Any Other Alternatives For Sleep Training?

Apart from the cry it out method, there are other ways to get your baby to fall asleep if you are not comfortable with CIO.

The two main alternatives are the fading method and the No cry method.

No-Tears Method

The No cry or no tears method was established as an alternative for parents who couldn’t practice the CIO.

It entails you picking up and consoling your baby till they quiet down. Like the cry it out method, you follow the usual routine of placing your drowsy baby into their mini cot and then exiting the room after saying good night.

The only difference here is that as soon as your baby makes a fuss, you would quickly go and comfort your baby for as long as it takes to calm them.

Fading Method

The fading method on the other hand entails a subtle withdrawal of parental influence on a baby’s sleep. Here, all the bedtime routine is carried out to encourage the baby to sleep.

Once sleepy, put the infant in her cot and stay there till they sleep off.

Every other night, modify the time for the sleep routines by making it earlier. This way your baby learns to sleep on their own quickly.


If you have tried the extinction or graduated extinction method to no avail, or there has been some sleep regression, consider trying out other forms of sleep training for your child.

No child is too old to learn healthy sleep habits, so consult your sleep specialist for advice.