If you want your baby to sleep through the night (and, let’s face it, who doesn’t?), your best bet may well be to let them cry a little instead of jumping up and running over to check on them every time they make a sound. Many parents actually make it harder for their babies to sleep by taking care of them a little too much. Many experts believe that allowing a baby to cry it out a little helps them learn how to soothe themselves to sleep.
Now, we’re not saying that you should lie in bed, cold and indifferent, as your baby screams her lungs out for hours at a time. Obviously, that doesn’t do you or your baby any good. What we are saying, though, is that most babies, if you consistently leave them alone for a few minutes when they wake up crying, will learn how to fall back to sleep on their own.
Some may say that babies, especially young babies, should not be left to cry because they have real needs when they wake up. On some level, this is true. For the first three months or so of baby’s life, she needs to eat every two to four hours, and it would indeed be poor parenting to lie in bed and let baby cry until she falls back to sleep if she’s crying because she’s hungry.
But, we’ve never advocated letting babies cry for long periods of time anyway, and most baby sleep experts, including those in the “Cry it out” school of thought, don’t, either.
For the first three months of baby’s life, you should be able to check the clock to tell if she’s waking up because she’s hungry or not. If baby is crying, and it’s been more than two or three hours since her last feeding, go ahead and feed her. But if baby has just eaten, and you know she’s clean and dry, go ahead and let her cry for a minute before tending to her. You’ll find that, as often as not, babies will fall back to sleep on their own if allowed to do so.
As baby gets older, you should allow her to cry longer before going to check on her. For babies under three months old, a minute is long enough to let them cry. About the time baby is four months old, and starting to eat some solid foods, you should start gradually increasing the amount of time you allow baby to cry before attending to her.
Letting your baby cry without rushing to her takes discipline for most parents, but in the end, it’s good for your baby. First of all, crying won’t kill her (all babies cry). On top of that, allowing her to cry for a couple of minutes before going to her will help her learn to fall asleep on her own.