Probably one of the more controversial parenting options available. For those who have tried EVERYTHING to get their child to sleep probably consider this method as their last resort. People have said that it's cruel and neglectful or that you are abandoning your baby (which has been said to me by another mom). Done the right way, cry it out method is none of those things. Ignorance has allowed the cry it out method to gain a bad reputation as a way to help your child fall asleep on their own.
If you've done ANY homework about this method you'll know that it doesn't mean to put your baby in a crib and let them scream at the top of their lungs till they fall asleep. In fact, there's a lot more you need to do to prepare before you even start the cry it out method.
The only age suggestion I found to start this method was after 4 months, but you really need to trust your instincts if your baby is ready or not. What are your sleeping situations like? Do you have a bed time routine down that works? Does your baby take any initiative to self sooth in other situations ie: pacifier, suck thumb, hold blankie? All these things will give you some sort of idea where your baby is and where you want them to be. In their bed, sleeping on their own.
The first part of preping is to really get the bedtime routine down. This way baby understands what is coming; sleep. If your baby has any comfort items other than you, keep them close so that you can offer them instead of you. The second part is preping yourself on how you are going to react to the crying. They WILL cry. And decide on how long you think is long enough before you go in. The wait time really depends on the baby's age and how sensitive your baby is. If you think they can last one minute, that's fine. It doesn't need to be a long period of time. The idea is to help show your child how to self sooth without pushing them over the edge.
The Plan in Action
After you have completed your normal bedtime routine. Put your baby in the crib, tell them that it's time to go to sleep, and leave the room. Your baby will probably start crying before you even leave the room. DON'T TURN AROUND, CLOSE THE DOOR BEHIND YOU. Then make sure you are keeping time of how long till you go in. It's important you keep to the time you set, a few seconds may seem like a few minutes. If your baby really sounds like they are in distress, go to your baby and comfort them immediately. Weenie whining is ok, but you don't want your baby to throw up from crying.
When you go back in, try to sooth them without picking them up. Only pick up your baby if they will not calm down. Offer any security items if possible. And again tell your baby that it's time to go to sleep and leave the room again. Wait a little longer till you go in again. Just keep doing this till they fall asleep.
Do the same thing the next time and EVERY time you put your baby to sleep, even for naps.
You should be able to see big results within three days, but will notice a difference by the second day. Keep in mind that when your baby is going through growth spurts, is not feeling well, or teething that they may get up more often during the night and that it may be harder for them to fall asleep. Do your best to keep them comfortable and return to the normal sleeping schedule as soon as possible.
The cry it out method is NOT for everyone or every baby. You really need to gauge if this is right for you and your baby before you do it. It can be heartbreaking to hear your baby crying and we all want our babies to be happy and healthy and we want to take the bad things away for them. If you can accept teaching your baby this small piece of independence, you could be successful. If you aren't having ANY success within the first three days, you may want to stop and try again in a month or so or just try something different.
For some more information on the Cry It Out Method, check out these links:
What to Expect
This method worked for us. At 6 weeks old our daughter stopped sleeping. She would ONLY sleep on her belly and so I "slept" with her on me for two weeks. After getting very little sleep for so long, I had enough and was determined to get her in her own crib so we both could be happier and sleeping better. I was terrified that something terrible would happen, but it was having her sleep on her belly on her own or none of us being comfortable or happy. I did test runs at nap time and she was very strong already trying to push up on her arms.
Step one down, I got over (sort of) my fear of her sleeping on her belly alone. Step two, getting her to fall asleep in her bed. We created a short bedtime routine and did some research on cry it out. We weren't the parents who were going to rock our child to sleep every night for an hour then try to sneak her into her crib only to have to do it over again when she woke up in the middle of the night. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I just don't have time to jump through hoops every night to get my kid to sleep. And my kid moves around too much to allow her to sleep in the bed with us.
Since we started so early, we did modify the method to fit her better and she took well to the idea of falling asleep on her own. We really incorporated aspects of cry it out with her sleep training and routine to get the results we wanted. Even at that age, we could tell her whining cry from her "I need you" cry. The modifications we added were holding/cuddling till she was almost asleep, using a pacifier, and shorter wait times. It did take us longer to have complete success on a regular basis, but I think that's to be expected when you do it so young.
Fifteen months later ... and still happy we did it. She has never shown signs that she felt abandoned by us and continues to come to us for security, but can also self sooth if needed. If you do not have anything nice to say, please DO NOT leave a comment. I will delete it anyway. This post is to help other mothers looking for help with cry it out method, not a debate whether or not it's abuse.