Sleep Training: Cry It Out Methods

Most schools of though on baby sleep fall into one of two categories:

  1. Let your baby cry it out for a while so he can learn to soothe himself to sleep and;
  2. Attend to your baby right away when she cries, and actively soothe your baby to sleep.

Of course, this is painting the picture with fairly broad strokes. There are actually several variations on both types of night time parenting. We advocate some measure of allowing baby to cry it out a bit and soothe herself to sleep, though we readily acknowledge that you’re not doing yourself or your baby any real harm by tending to him immediately when he cries, either.

If you’ve decided to use a cry it out method, there are some dos and don’ts. One thing you simply shouldn’t do is leave your baby to cry endlessly in his crib. That’s not what most parenting experts mean when they say you should allow baby to cry it out.

What you should do is develop a plan that works for you and your baby, setting limits on how long you will let your baby cry before tending to her and limits on what you will do to soothe her. Here are some of the more common sleep training methods which allow baby to cry it out to one degree or another:

  • Core Night: Essentially you take the longest amount of time baby has slept without waking up and assume that she can always sleep that long. If she wakes up before that amount of time, allow her to cry for 5 minutes or so before attending to her. When you do go to her, soothe her without actually picking her up, and then leave her to sleep again. She will eventually fall asleep.
  • Crying Down: Lay your baby down to sleep. If she cries, let her cry until she either falls asleep or a set amount of time (usually 5-10 minutes) has passed. After the set time has passed, check on baby and soothe her without picking her up. You should only stay with baby for about two minutes, and then you should allow her to cry again if she needs to. Keep repeating the process until baby falls asleep. It can be hard to listen to baby cry, but she will soothe herself to sleep eventually.
  • Controlled Crying: This should only be used for babies over six months who are still not self soothing. It works basically like crying down except that you start by letting baby cry for five minutes before soothing her, then increase the amount of time you allow her to cry before checking on her and soothing her by a few minutes every time.

You shouldn’t start using any sleep training methods until your baby is at least six weeks old. Also note that all self soothing sleep training methods work best if baby has a regular routine for bedtime.