Crying It Out

Many parents are faced with implementing a sleep training process when their little ones aren’t able to sleep productively during naps or through the night independently.  This effort is one of the most emotional topics for parents.

In my many sleep workshops and in my consulting practice I often hear parents say, “I don’t want to let my baby ‘cry it out’”.  However, it is important to understand that infants have limited ways of communicating.  Crying is their only way of expressing discomfort, hunger, boredom, fatigue, frustration and pain.  The reality is, that more often than not, sleep training is accompanied by a bit (or a lot, in some cases) of crying.  Most babies don’t intuitively have the skill to put themselves to sleep or back to sleep, so expressing frustration when working toward developing these skills is likely.

Whichever method you choose, remain consistent and confident. Stick with one method and don’t give up too soon. Generally improvement is seen four to ten days into the process.  Here are some of the pros and cons of Dr. Richard Ferber’s Progressive Waiting Approach, a method which many call the ‘crying it out’ method;


  • · Effectiveness is seen quickly.
  • · Diminished length and intensity of crying.
  • · Addresses parents’ need and concern to help Baby not feel abandoned.
  • · Allows parents to visit child intermittently during crying.
  • · Method rarely fails if parents adhere to process.


  • · Hard for parents to hear Baby cry.
  • · Parents worry that Baby needs something (burp, diaper change, etc.).
  • · Method requires strong will to not intervene before interval is up.
  • · Some parents worry it is damaging the child psychologically.
  • · Requires consistency and adherence to protocol, which can be challenging for parents.

There are a lot of misconceptions on parents’ part around what ‘CIO’ means. For many, they envision a baby alone in their room crying for an unspecified period of time until they settle. But in fact, there is a wide range of sleep training methods.

The bad press CIO and other sleep training methods get occurs in part when people try to implement a sleep training strategy without taking a look at the whole picture.  There are a myriad of elements to consider and optimize before even foraying into sleep training.  Before [these] elements are in place, sleep training can be futile, which is why many parents are not successful. They jump to the last step (sleep training) before ensuring the many necessary ones that precede it.

An Integrated Approach to Crying It Out

Karen Pollak suggests an integrated approach to a crying it out (CIO) process.  Some factors to think about when considering CIO are age and weight of baby, daily routine, milk intake, room environment, self-soothing techniques, nap/nighttime process and your parenting philosophies.

Karen Pollak is the founder of babies2sleep, a baby sleep coaching service.   You can contact her at 925-330-5660 or  Please visit her website at