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To Cry or Not to Cry: Should You Try CIO Sleep-Training?

To Cry or Not to Cry: Should You Try CIO Sleep-Training?

Weeks of rocking baby back to sleep at 4am can easily make you feel like you're going off your own rocker…it's no wonder parents look for relief from frequent nighttime wakings! Yet sleep-training methods can be confusing to decipher, especially since they're often hotly debated among moms and sleep experts alike. Despite the differences in methods and opinions, one resounding message is clear from moms who have tried or simply considered sleep-training methods: It's hard. Making the decision to sleep-train, choosing a method, and following through consistently are all difficult experiences, and each mother has a unique perspective on them. Here we're sharing how Circle of Moms members feel about one particularly controversial sleep-training method: the "Cry It Out" method.

What is the "Cry It Out" Method?

"Cry It Out," or CIO, references sleep-training methods that recommend allowing a baby to cry for a specific amount of time before offering the baby comfort. By delaying comfort, babies learn not to depend on physical contact (rocking, feeding, etc.) in order to fall asleep. One of the most common sleep-training methods is ferberizing, or controlled crying. Outlined by Dr. Richard Ferber in his book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, this CIO method uses a progressive waiting technique, involving checking in and consoling the child at increasingly long intervals.

Why do moms recommend CIO methods?

Most moms are willing to at least give CIO a shot; a recent study by Canada's Today's Parent found that more than half of parents have tried a controlled crying technique. And the results? Many Circle of Moms members found that although using CIO methods was initially stressful and difficult, the blessing of having a baby sleep through the night was worth the effort. "I used the CIO method with my firstborn when she was 8 months old and I don't regret it one bit," shared Griselda H. "I started on a Friday night and by Monday she was sleeping in her crib without a fuss or cry." However, as Circle of Moms member Jude M. recalled, the success of sleeping methods differs from child to child: "We used the cry-it-out method with both our kids. Our daughter had trouble with it, and still gets upset at bedtime, occasionally. Our son, on the other hand, took to it very well (he's two years younger) and goes to bed with no fuss whatsoever."


What's the right age for CIO?

Although some Circle of Moms members discussing CIO shared that they started CIO methods as early as 10–12 weeks, many experts recommend waiting until a baby is at least 4–6 months. Circle of Moms member Courtney A. agreed on the 4 months threshold: "My pediatrician is the third pediatrician that said to me that younger than 4 months old was too young to let them CIO."

Why do moms disapprove of CIO?

"When I hear my son cry, I want him to know that first of all, I will always be there for him, and secondly, his feelings are important to me," shares Cherie G. "Aside from that, I want to pick him up for my own sake, because I think I would push the boundaries of my sanity if I just left him there to scream." Like Cherie, many mothers believe that CIO methods undermine the baby's sense of security, and additionally, that it is too personally upsetting to let their child cry. Other moms, like Brenda D., believe that CIO is actually physically harmful: "CIO and methods that allow the baby to scream cause undue stress. This causes strain on the circulatory system and induces emotional distress."

What are CIO alternatives?

Several moms, including Reagan G. and Wendy S., recommended Elizabeth Pantley's The No-Cry Sleep Solution as an alternative to CIO. Other moms encouraged everything from lavender baths before bed, to soothing classical music, to co-sleeping (though co-sleeping is itself controversial).

Interested in Discussing CIO Methods and Sleep-Training Alternatives?

Circle of Moms hosts conversations on a wide variety of sleep-related topics, from the Ferber method to co-sleeping to transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed. Whatever your questions may be, Circle of Moms is a friendly place to get real advice from other moms on difficult parenting questions.

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