When it comes to sleep training, parents have quite a few options. Some parents choose to forgo sleep training completely, while others use one of the many methods out there to get their babies on a regular sleep schedule. One of the more controversial sleep training methods is, of course, the cry it out method, or Ferber method (the more gentle of the cry it out sleep training methods). This sleep training technique certainly isn't for everyone! And only you can decide what will work best for your and your family. But if you're curious about the cry it out method, we have some information you might find helpful.
How to Cry It Out
The cry it out method is fairly simple, in theory. And each family's method will look slightly different, based on how much time they let elapse between soothing check-ins. You'll put your baby in their crib when they are still awake. After laying your baby down and getting them situated, you'll say goodnight with a gentle pat and and 'I love you', then leave the room while they are still awake in their crib. The whole process shouldn't take more than a couple minutes.
Once you've left the room, your baby may begin to cry. You wait a predetermined amount of time before going back in (most training techniques suggest starting with five minutes), then return to their room to gently soothe them for a minute. This is where is gets hard - you aren't supposed to pick up your baby or comfort them for longer than a minute before leaving the room again.
You'll repeat the process, extending the time they're alone in their room by a few minutes each time, until your baby eventually falls asleep. A lot of parents find it's helpful to switch off with their partner, as mom is usually the one associated with feeding and comfort. The next night, you'll repeat the process but start off with a longer period of time and extend from their, and you'll continuing doing that on subsequent nights.
For some babies, it takes just a couple of nights before you can lay them down awake and they'll fall asleep right away. For others, it can take several nights of using the cry it out method.
The Effectiveness of Crying It Out
The cry it out method isn't without its opponents, but for a lot of families, it was the thing that finally got their babies on a good sleep schedule. Of course, whether or not it works for your family depends on how strictly you follow the program, and on your little one!
Experts say that cry it out is most effective when started at around 6 months old. That's when babies are developmentally ready to drop their nighttime feeding, and when they start to associate crying with being picked up, fed, or rocked. So by eliminating that response at night when it's time for sleep, they'll stop doing it.
Is It Harmful
A 2012 study on the cry it out method seemed to suggest that baby's cortisol (or stress) hormones remained high even once they stopped crying and fell asleep on their own. However, that study was highly criticized for having a sample size that was too small, and no baseline for cortisol levels for comparison.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published its own study in 2012, and found that there was no increased risk of behavioral, emotional, or psychological problems in babies who were sleep trained with the cry it out method.
Most pediatricians agree that sleep training should not attempted with babies 3 months old and younger, but there is no research to suggest that crying it out leads to developmental or emotional problems later in life.