How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime Edition

How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime Edition

Well little baby, here we are. Mommy and Daddy have read every book, tried every technique, bought every sleep aid they could find. The months have slogged by and nobody is sleeping. Daddy is staring stoically out the window. Mommy is curled up on the couch wearing coffee-stained yoga pants and feeling like a giant failure. Everybody feels cranky and sad. And defeated. And the only way out of this pitt of sleep deprivation is to let you cry. They adore you beyond words, but baby, this is happening. It’s going to suck for a few days. But it really is for the best.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that cry it out is the answer(<- PLEASE read this first!) then you're going to need a CIO plan that is best suited to meet your CIO goals. And what are your CIO goals?

1) To break out of the desperate pattern of bedtime battles and frequent night wakings and get everybody sleeping a civilized amount during the night.
2) To achieve goal #1 with the minimal amount of crying.

The best way to meet your CIO goals is to embrace the 14 point CIO plan I’ve put together here.

How to do Cry it Out?

1) Buy a night vision monitor.

They’re expensive and not particularly reliable (you may have to buy a new one for each new baby). But I think it’s a worthy investment for piece of mind and would recommend purchasing one prior to CIO. It will give you a safe window onto your baby all night long.

2) Make naps happen

You want your baby well rested going into bedtime because tired babies sleep poorly. So you’re investing in day sleep to help minimize the amount of bedtime crying. Does your baby take great naps in the car? In your lap? While co-sleeping? Great! For the next few days do what you need to to get those naps to happen. By any means necessary.

3) Avoid cat naps.

Your goal is longer naps. So don’t drive to the grocery store at naptime because that 5-minute car nap is working against step #2 (above). For the next few days you are going to be the Nap Master, to the exclusion of all else.

4) Use a solid bedtime routine.

What is a SOLID bedtime routine?

  • Takes 20-30 minutes to complete.
  • Involves decreasing levels of activity and light. (No TV time, no dance parties, activities should be moving towards the bedroom).
  • Everybody should enjoy the activities.
  • Final activities take place in the location your child will be sleeping.
  • Ends BEFORE baby is asleep!

have you done your baby sleep homework?What are you trying to wean your baby off of? Rocking to sleep, co-sleeping, nursing to sleep, pacifier, etc? Whatever it is DO NOT include this as part of your bedtime routine! If it must be part of the routine (ex. food) then make sure there is at least a 20 minute gap between baby’s last meal and bedtime.

Sample Bedtime Routine – Bottle/Boob, Bath (no soap), Massage, Jammies, Book, Song, Bed.

5) Ensure that baby’s sleep location is ABSOLUTELY safe.

Dangling cords within reach of the crib? Unprotected outlets? The crib should be clear of any possible entrapment hazards (no stuffed animals, blankets or pillows!). The only thing in there, other than your baby, is potentially a small lovey. If your child is old enough enough to be out of a crib, put on your anal retentive hat and look at your child’s room. Does the furniture present tipover hazards? Are there toys which could break into sharp pieces? Choking hazards?

Special Case: What about Co-Sleeping?

Yes you can use CIO for a co-sleeping baby if you intend to continue co-sleeping. Most often this is used in the case where Mom wants to stop being used as a human pacifier but is happy to continue co-sleeping. This can be done but it’s challenging. You can’t leave an angry crying baby alone in an adult bed. Even if that “bed” is nothing more than a mattress on the floor. It is simply not safe and shouldn’t be done under ANY circumstance. So, where does that leave you?

If this is your goal, it leaves you IN the room with your angry crying baby. I realize this may sound like I’m joking but I assure you, I’m not. You put your child on your bed, preferably between you and the wall. Then you lie down on the bed facing away from your child. Then you bite your knuckles hard enough to keep from flipping over and nursing your crying child to sleep.

6) Use your words.

Your baby’s receptive language develops far earlier than their expressive language. This means they understand what you are saying long before they can speak themselves. “It’s time for you to sleep buddy. Mommy and Daddy love you. We’re right next door. We’ll see you with big hugs and kisses in the morning. But for now we’re going to leave so your body can get the sleep it needs to be strong and healthy. I love you little baby!” Use the same words every night as part of your bedtime routine.

7) Give baby as much soothing as possible!

For older babies (6+ months) your options are generally limited to loud white noise, block out blinds, and a small lovey. It’s sometimes helpful to have Mom stuff the lovey in her bra and wear it there all day so that it smells like Mom. If your baby is still swaddled that is also really helpful. DON’T use any sleep aids which will feed into your object permanence problem. So pacifiers, timed music, etc. are all forboden.

8) Leave the room.

There are some books that suggest that it is more gentle to stay in the room so that your loving presence can help provide helpful soothing. In my experience staying in the room has the opposite effect, making your baby more upset, “WHY AREN’T YOU PICKING ME UP! HELLO?!? I can SEE you sitting RIGHT THERE!” It also has the unintended consequence of potentially creating a new object permanence problem for you in that they will expect to see you sitting there when they wake up throughout the night. For these two reasons I suggest that once you put your baby down, you get out.

9) Mom or primary care giver should leave the house.

Decide which parent (if there are 2) is the most likely to turn into emotional jelly at the sound of their baby crying (generally this is Mom). The emotional jelly parent should get out of the house and leave things to their more stalwart counterpart. Lots of parents feel that they need to sit in the hallway, curled into a fetal position, crying tear-for-tear with their baby as some sort of penance for their failure to teach baby to fall asleep. Crying in the hallway serves no purpose other than to make you miserable. Worse, it creates the opportunity for the dark strains of guilt to muddle your thinking. “I feel horrible! Maybe I’ll just nurse him to sleep one last time?” Backsliding won’t solve any problems and even worse, guarantees you even more crying in the future. A good way to avoid backsliding is to simply leave it to your partner and get out.

10) Commit to Check and Console or Full Extinction.

Personally I recommend the Full Extinction or Weissbluth method. However as I was unable to find any research that backed up my theory that this method results in less crying, you’re welcome to consider both and determine which works best for you.

have you done your baby sleep homework? If you start the CIO process planning to Ferberize or check and console and THEN determine that your visits are making things worse, you CAN switch methods to the Weissbluth full extension method. However DO NOT switch from the Weissbluth full extension method TO Ferber or check and console as this generally leads to LOTS OF CRYING!

11) Cry it out does not mean night weaning.

IF your baby has been eating/nursing at night then you will need to feed/nurse your baby when they wake up. CIO is not a good way to cut out night feedings as hungry babies will cry A TON. If your baby had been eating at predictable times then feed your baby when they “regularly” would be eating. If your baby wakes up crying at a time other than when they would regularly eat, then I recommend you don’t go to them.

If your baby was previously sleeping glued to your boob (don’t laugh, this is a REALLY common problem) then sorting out what is a cry for attention vs. a cry for food will be challenging. You’ll need to listen to your baby and your gut and make the best determination you can. I would suggest you try to space out the feedings as best as you can. For example if you nursed your baby at 6:30 PM then I would be reluctant to offer more food before, say, 11:00 PM. If you nursed again at 11:00 PM, then potentially the next feeding could reasonably be expected to happen at 3:00 AM. However these are not hard and fast rules, listen to your gut. It’s almost always giving you good advice.

12) Put baby back down awake. Or don’t.

In my experience the key with sleep training is to put baby down awake at BEDTIME. If you feed your baby during the night AFTER that point, it is generally OK if they fall asleep in your arms and then go back into their bed. I have not found that it is critical to wake baby up enough to “put baby down awake” at 2:00 AM. However if they do not organically fall asleep during the feeding I would not encourage you to rock them to sleep in your arms intentionally and THEN put them down asleep.

13) When baby wakes up early?

CIO is very effective at bedtime because there are a number of biological factors that make it very difficult for your child to stay awake at that time. However if your baby wakes up very early in the morning (4:00 AM or 5:00 AM) letting them cry will almost never result in them falling back to sleep. If your baby wakes up very early and doesn’t seem to be falling back to sleep (it’s been longer than ~20 minutes) then it’s morning time for you. This is horrible but generally temporary. You may want to consider offering baby a quick snack, putting baby in the swing, or bringing baby back into your bed. Sometimes these options will buy everybody a few more hours or sleep. But crying is unlikely to do anything productive.


cry it out ferberizing weissbluth

If you’ve started down this path then in almost all cases the worst thing you can do is to cave in halfway through. Night #1 will be stressful for everybody. But what happens if you go to your baby to rock/nurse them after 45 minutes of crying? You’ve failed to let them figure out how to fall asleep without rocking or nursing. But you have taught them that if they cry for 45 minutes, you will come and rock or nurse the to sleep. Which means that the next time you have a go at cry it out (and trust me, there is ALMOST ALWAYS a next time) it will be longer and rougher than it is right now.

The truth is that there are a thousand frequently asked questions about CIO but I’ve narrowed it down to a few hot button questions which I’ve answered below:

Cry it Out FAQ


How long will the crying last?

I suppose “it depends” is not a particularly useful answer. If you follow all my advice then you’ll generally find that kids will cry ~1 hour at bedtime on night #1, ~20 minutes on night #2, and 10 minutes on night #3. They may continue to grumble at bedtime going forward but it will generally be only for a few minutes. Some babies will only cry at bedtime. Some will wake up periodically and cry for 20-30 minutes throughout the night. As long as you aren’t trying to night wean via CIO, the middle-of-the-night crying generally stops after night #1.


When will I be able to put my smiling baby down for sleep at bedtime?

When do you smile when scrubbing toilets? Never? Well there’s your answer. Most kids will not enjoy bedtime until they are old enough to have their OWN kids at which point it will quickly become the favorite part of their day.


Am I a bad parent?

I don’t know, are you? I don’t believe that CIO makes you a bad parent. I do believe that you have tried everything you can to avoid letting your baby cry. And that nothing worked. And nobody is sleeping. I also believe that your whole family will be happier and healthier when you are all able to get the sleep you need at night. Cry it out is a bummer and nobody likes to do it. But 3 nights of unhappy baby are a worthy tradeoff.


Can I use CIO for naps too?

That is a whole separate topic which I’ll write about in the future. I don’t recommend tackling naps until AFTER night sleep is well established. So for now, focus on getting night sleep sorted out and let things settle into a positive and predictable sleep routine before you start mucking about with naps.


Won’t they get confused if I keep (rocking, nursing, pacifier) for naps but not bedtime?

Different parts of the brain regulate day vs. night sleep so you aren’t mucking things up by rocking to sleep at naptime then using CIO at bedtime. Many people feel they need to tackle the whole day at once but I don’t recommend it. Sorting out naps tends to take a while and involve quite a bit of crying and not napping. Babies who don’t nap become overtired. Overtired babies cry at bedtime. A lot. So with the goal of minimizing crying you would work on having GREAT naps (by any means necessary) so your baby is well-rested coming into CIO bedtime. Once night sleep is well established sorting out naps becomes easier (because well-rested babies sleep better), which is why I recommend focusing on night sleep FIRST before moving on to nap battles.


If I can’t use CIO to night wean, how DO I get out of night feedings?

Once you are done with crying at bedtime and things have become a bit more predictable, you can use these gentle night weaning techniques to gradually get out of night feedings. The bad news is that depending on the age of your child and the # of feedings this may take 1-3 weeks. The good news is that it’s surprisingly effective and tear-free.


What if my baby throws up?

Some kids can get themselves so worked up they throw up. It sucks when this happens. You’ll need to quietly go to them, clean them up and get them fresh jammies/bedding, ideally with as little light and fuss as is possible. Put them back in their bed, use your words, and leave.

Anybody have any experience they would like to share? Words of wisdom, kind advice, and lessons learned are very welcome!

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  1. Great article summarizing the CIO theory. A few questions. My daughter is almost 8 months old. We tried Ferber once before but the intervals were making her more upset as we left and she would continue to poop herself from crying so hard.

    We’re trying again now using full extinction but the same thing happened. I don’t want to wake her when she’s finally fallen asleep but I can’t let her sleep in a dirty diaper. Please help. We are on night one and she only cried 20 minutes the first time. The next time she woke she was due to eat so I fed her and now this third time she cried for an hour. I’m ready to quit if it makes her so upset she’s pooping herself but I need to help her learn to sleep without nursing and/or rocking. :/

    • Hi Gail – my two cents on the poopy diaper is this: when your daughter is sleeping through the night (yay!!) how will you know if she’s pooped her diaper? Short answer: you won’t. And I assume you wouldn’t wake her to check. If she’s genuinely pooping herself because of how worked up she gets, remember that this is a temporary thing. If you want to help your daughter through this, get some really good diaper rash cream and slather it on. Good luck!

  2. Hello! I love reading your posts and the sense of humor you bring to this whole agonizing process; I re-read them every time I start to second-guess whether this is a good idea or not (which happens every night). We are on night five of CIO and still going strong at an 1-1.5 hours of crying. I am doing full extinction (though I have to admit I went in tonight and tried to pat her back (just ticked her off more), so maybe I should think of it as starting over?) and I really thought it would be better by now. My daughter is almost six months old, is it possible she is just too young? Each night after she cries herself to sleep she will sleep until 2 or 4am, which is MUCH longer than she was sleeping before I tried this, so I do feel like it’s doing something, I just don’t know how much longer I can listen to her cry for this long.

    • I’m in the same boat with our six month old. We are on night 10 and he’s down to 30 mins of crying. So much for this being bearable within a few nights. My poor little guy.

      • Hi Erin! It took until night 18, but we are down to maybe 10 minutes (occasionally ~20 minutes, occasionally none(!) at all) of crying and she is out- and it is just fussing a bit, not the flat-out screaming she was doing before. I went in to check on her one night shortly after she stopped fussing and she was obviously awake but just laying there putting herself to sleep, so something is working right! I wanted to call it quits SO many times but I am so glad I stuck it out. I know it is miserable to listen to them cry, but I kept reminding myself of all of the reasons it is good for her to put herself to sleep- and that she was definitely using me as a human pacifier and I couldn’t do that for another year+. Good luck and hang in there!

      • Also, I should note- I read the post below partway through our CIO journey and realized I was still nursing her right before bed. I switched to nursing after bath, then doing a book/quiet time for ~15 minutes and then putting her in her crib. Not sure if that was what tipped the scales in our favor, or if she was just finally ready or over her extinction burst ( or whatever, but it’s worth a shot if you’re still doing any of these things:

        • Are you nursing overnight? I nurse for the first waking after 10 and the first waking after 2, but I’m thinking of dropping to one feeding. My son is still waking four times a night and I’m sure he doesn’t understand why he gets fed two of those times and has to self-soothe the other two. I think when he wakes he figures he might as well cry, just to see if he’ll get picked up and nursed!

          • I do nurse overnight, I have only ever let her CIO at bedtime. She is still up 3-4 times/night, and while I think that’s probably too much I also worry about whether she’s truly hungry, or maybe it’s not a physical need but an emotional one and that’s why she wants me to go in there.. I am on the fence about how to handle it, because she is SO stubborn and listening to her cry for an hour at 6:30pm is a lot different than listening to her cry for an hour at 2:30am, but at the same time I am pretty exhausted since it’s been 7+ months since I’ve had more than 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time. Does your LO cry much in the middle of the night if you don’t go in?

            • Other than the two times I nurse him overnight I let him CIO. The first two weeks of sleep training he really cried, sometimes up to 2 hours. It was absolute torture. Now, if he cries, it’s only for a few minutes. Like you, I was a human pacifier for the first 6 months of his life. I spent probably a dozen nights with him glued to me all night long because he’d cry as soon as I put him down. Sleep training, while necessary, hasn’t come naturally to me and I struggle with it on an almost daily basis, especially because he’s not one of those babies who “gets it” after a week and starts sleeping through the night. It seems to be going on forever.

              Right now I feed him twice a night and I’m hoping to drop to one feeding at some point soon. I just know that will involve more crying and I’m not ready for that yet.

              I actually think the feeding overnight is probably part of the reason this is taking so long, but I’m not ready to give it up yet. For one thing, he has reflux so he tends to eat less at a time than other babies his age, so he might really be hungry. The other reason is that, despite the sleep deprivation, I think of it as a special time for the two of us and I know once I night wean it will be for keeps.

  3. my 10 month old can’t sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time. We did all the things that I’ve (loved doing, but) read are no-no’s as far as good sleep goes (co-sleeping, rocking to sleep, and nursing to sleep).
    It got to the point where we were rocking her to sleep for 20mins+, at night she is permanently attached to my boob while still waking up every 1.5/2 hours.
    We recently started crib/sleep training and are not having much success. Its day 5. Last night was prob the worst night yet and todays naps haven’t been going as smoothly.

    We have been doing a form of the no cry method – where we leave our hand on her belly till she falls to sleep. Things have gotten better in the since that she at least lets us put her in the crib without crying but we have to stay there till she falls to sleep and she is still not sleeping for all that long.
    We tried a form of CIO the first night (with 5, 15, 20 min check ins) BUT she just yells and stomps back and forth along the crib. It seemed like we were getting further with the no cry method but have now hit a wall.
    Any suggestions on what we need to do?? Mamma needs some sleep!

    • My baby is 10 monthold too she has reflux and she choks from thin liquids ..when i tried CIO when she was 6 months old she kept on crying untill she couldn’t breath from her heavy secretion n chocked.. im afraid from trying again.. she’s co sleeping and only falls asleep while nursing.. im really suffering n dunno what 2 do

  4. Hi.
    I started sleep training my baby on Friday night, it is now Tuesday night. He has been sleeping through the night since Saturday night. He cried for 55 mins the first night and every night since he has cried for 45 minutes. I thought the xrying was suppose to go down each night. We do the same bedtime routine at the same time every night. He is not awake for more than 3 hours and he is in bed by 7. Also, he is 6.5 months. Is this normal?

  5. First of all, let me just say that I am in love with your site! I have read all the sleep books (literally like 10+) and have struggled with trying and failing at various strategies for 5 months. You completely speak to the frustration and chaos that my household has experienced over sleep since our little one came to town.

    Here is my question:

    Our in-laws are planning a trip to Italy and have bought plane tickets for my husband, myself and our baby in April (when he will be 11 mos). While a 7-day most-expenses-paid trip seems to good to pass up, I am actually really on the fence about accepting. Our little guy has never slept more than 4 hours in a row in his life and after taking a 5-day trip (to see grandparents) each month of his life so far, every time we have gotten his night wakings down to 3-4 per night at home, we have gone on another trip and gone back to nursing at every waking (and sometimes even co-sleeping) in order to maximize everyone’s sleep in the short term.

    We are currently really sleep training your way and it is going well. I expect by the end of the week, we will be down to 2 wakings/night and then I hope to gradually wean by decreasing time nursing from there.

    What do you know about active 11 month-old babies’ sleep/ability to adapt to time changes? If we do go, any tips on making the transition smooth and/or keeping to a more disciplined system? Does anyone else have experience traveling internationally with their little ones?

    Thanks so much for your time!

  6. I have been up for most of the night reading various sleep training methods I’m on the second night phew and I have to say that you have offered the best advice so far. I can see I have made a few mistakes 1) I still nurse my 9 mth old to sleep and 2) I was trying to take out the night feeding and now I know it should gradually happen. The good thing is she doesn’t cry that much but it breaks my heart because she just sits there forever and I have noticed that she is pooping as we’ll and I change her diaper. I read previous comment and plan to slather her bum. Sigh! Onwards and upwards thanks for all the great advice

  7. Wow. We are on night 1 and baby is currently asleep in the crib. She is 6.5 months old and was a great sleeper (1 night-feeding @3am) until 4.5 months, then 2 months of up to 5+ wake-ups with at least 1 lasting an hour or so. We nursed/bottle/rocked for all of these.

    So we did the bedtime routine last night and then I nursed at 6:30 until she was content but not asleep. Then we put her in the crib awake & closed the door. For the first minute, she watched the mobile… Then rolling & crying for 10 MINUTES ONLY!! Then she woke at 11:30 (we’ve started feeding her then for the last month) & again at 5:00! Both times she ate & went back in after 30 sec of crying. Amazing!

    I swear her cumulative crying, stress, and restlessness each night prior to this was DOUBLE what it was with CIO.

    Thank you!

  8. So my husband and I have been doing the CIO method for about five nights now doing the same routine each night but it seems that my 7 month old is getting worse every night. Tonight when I started doing the routine he started crying. Now he has been crying and screaming for an hour now. Have you heard of children getting worse at night before they get better?

    • Amanda, You should read Alexis’ post on the extinction burst. You may have that going on. Hope it gets better. We start tonight.

  9. Hi Alexis,

    I’m so happy I found your site and the plethora of helpful information!

    We began CIO tonight. 45 minutes in, our girl went to sleep. I’m feeling ill-prepared for not thinking of this before we committed, but night feedings! Shoot, we forgot to factor those in!

    I’ve heard many say she’s fine to go all night without them (she’s nearly 20 weeks). For the first 3 months of her life she would wake up between 2-3am to eat, and again around 5 or 6. After eating she was right back to sleep. She approached the 4 month mark and went rouge. No predictably around when she was waking just to eat and when she was just waking; she was up every hour or two hours. Often, I would breastfeed just to get everyone back to sleep peacefully.

    So…how do we factor those in? I’m sitting here likely jinxing myself since I don’t know when/if she will wake up next. I certainly don’t want to deny her food but since the last month has been 100% randomized eating at night I’m not sure when/if to let her nurse at night with CIO.

    Thank you :)

  10. Hi Alexis (and other parents!) – I’ve noticed that the comments on this page don’t always get responses directly from Alexis, so I’d like to be open to what other parents have to say on the topic.

    Like MANY others here, we have begun sleep-training our baby.

    LAST MONTH, She was 6 months old. After she healed from her 6-month shots, we tried Pick Up/Put Down, and it was a disaster – her crying only got worse throughout the night – she was a wailing, wet, frothy, screaming mess, and ended up IN OUR BED (previously she had just slept in our room near the bed, but not with us), where she stayed put for a month – we decided just to stick with it until we had a plan we could commit to. That was awful – one month of four-hour-long soothing sessions and multiple crying and waking up, jerking awake and wailing at night, only to begin the soothing all over. We were both wrecked, and she wasn’t sleeping at all.

    Ten days ago, we got geared up (after finding your site) and went to full extinction with a nightly bedtime routine. The first night she cried for 45 minutes and then slept for almost 12 hours! She woke up once, we gave her a bottle, she went back into her crib and cried for 35 for mins, then fell asleep again.

    Since then we’ve stuck with it, despite MANY mishaps (sensor pad which kept setting off alarm, making us go in and move her, waking her up on nights #2 and #3; friend forgetting his jacket in her room, and going in and getting it, and waking her up, etc, etc). It really took us about 7 nights before we finally got it to where we simply loved on her, read stories, and sang, closed the door, and walked out.

    However, her intervals of crying have not gotten consistently shorter, and she still cries HARD when we are in the middle of the routine – she doesn’t have a love object and I don’t know if she knows how to self-soothe yet – she still thrashes and screams and bounces.

    Is there anything we can do to make it easier for her?

    Here are her crying times:
    Night 1: 45 mins
    Night 2: 24 mins
    Night 3: 1 hour
    Night 4: 24 minutes
    Night 5: 30 minutes
    Night 6: 35 minutes
    Nights 7,and 8 – missing data
    Night 9: 11 minutes
    Night 10: 30 minutes

    I can’t see any patterns from this. Any ideas? Anyone?

  11. Hi, I have tried CIO for 4 nights now and bub is just over 12 months. Before this she needed me to be in the room sitting next to her to help her sleep at bedtime and when she woke up multiple times over night and even to bring her to our bed. I tried CIO when she was around nine months but she cried so hard that she vomited over 2 nights so I gave in and thought this method wasn’t for us. Sleeping has gotten worse so I decided to give this another go. The first night she screamed as soon as I left the room and vomited within 2 minutes. I came in, cleaned up and changed her and put her back down and left. She cried only for another 10 minutes before sleeping but in a sitting position (whole other issue! haha). Woke up a few times crying during the night but i left her and she resettled.
    Second night she vomited before I could even leave the room. I cleaned up and changed her and left. Cried for less than 10 minutes and slept sitting again. Woke up a few times crying during the night but i left her and she resettled.
    Third night cried then vomited after 2 minutes. I cleaned up and she cried another 5 minutes then slept and slept through the night without crying. Seems like it is working but for the vomiting…
    Fourth night pretty much same as third night except woke up crying a couple of times over night.
    I have read that some babies learn to vomit at bedtime to get your attention or so you come back. I know it sounds far fetched for a baby of 12 months but she is happy normal and as soon as I leave her she screams and does this cough which makes her throw up so seems like she is either doing it on purpose or cries so hard in 1 minute that she throws up :(
    I just want to know what I should do… should I keep doing this and cleaning up the vomit so she gets the idea that it’s not going to get her any more attention and hope she stops? how long do I wait before I stop doing CIO if she continues to vomit? can’t be good for her… :(

    • I doubt this is learned vomiting (although that can happen). Babies have a valve at the top of their stomach that doesn’t close fully like yours does. As a result it’s really easy for stomach contents to get pushed out when they contract their stomach muscles (which they do when upset). So I doubt this is protest vomit, it’s just that she gets upset, squeezes her tummy muscles and it pushes milk out. The fact that she’s vomiting after only 2 minutes is pretty unusual but maybe her valve is “more open” than the average kiddo.

      Truthfully there are alternatives but she’s barely crying for 2 minutes so I hate to muck with that as 2 minutes is nothing. I wouldn’t say “stop doing CIO” because that suggests she’s crying when she isn’t – I mean 2 minutes is truly NOTHING. I would just clean up the vomit.

      • Thanks for responding Alexis. Sounds like you’re probably right, I do think her valve is “more open” as she often gets the hiccups.
        In any case the last 2 nights I have put her down and she protest cried for about a minute and then stopped and self settled to sleep without vomiting.
        I was always concerned about the prolonged crying with CIO but seems that wasn’t an issue, it was more the vomiting i’m worried about now! It just can’t be good you know, vomiting up her dinner and all.. oh well I hope it has stopped now so I’ll see how the following nights go.

  12. So we did the extinction method when my little man was 13 months and oh thank heaven it worked and we all were finally a happy healthy family! Cut to 16 months and a long virus molars then sinus infection and we had let him sleep on us for a bit because of his congestion and we are back to square 1 I mean negative 1 because now way worse then it ever was. We went right back to extinction and holy cow it’s been over a week and he will stand yes just stand for 3 hours crying off and on till he falls asleep standing up till he falls in a heap.
    He then wakes up screaming every morning even if he’s slept through the night. His dr said he can sleep standing up and that’s fine but how do we get the screaming when he wakes to stop?? This morning it went from 4:30-5:30am we are all super tired and of course he won’t sleep during nap time. I only let him cry for an hour and then wait for a time he’s not crying to go in. Please help it’s horrible to wake up to a screaming tantrum child every morning he used to play so contently in his crib( he has a lovey blackout shades and a sound machine )

    • Hi,
      We had a similar experience when our son turned 18m. CIO had worked perfectly at 6m and every sleep blip since then. But when they are older they have more staying power! I couldn’t believe how long he cried for.
      Firstly, we found that he would sleep if he could see us, so we stood outside his door but just visible. Once he calmed down about bedtime (this took a week), we stared leaving when he was awake.
      We also had to revisit our bedtime routine and now take longer to put him down, including a final 5min cuddle in the dark. We also potter about near his room so he can hear us as he goes to sleep. I think that as they get older they don’t want to miss out on time with you, so a slightly softer approach than CIO works.
      Hope that helps

  13. Hi. We’re on night 2 of CIO with our 6.5 month daughter. Everything goes great initially–bedtime routine, white noise, clean diaper, full tummy, early enough in the evening, etc–and she’s out within five minutes or so. It’s fantastic….until 45-60 minutes later when she wakes up. What do we do at this point? Just let her resettle? It took over an hour last night and she was waaaay more upset than the initial putting down for bedtime. When we sleep trained our son he just slept right on through so this is new. I just want to make sure we’re not doing something incorrectly.


    • Sorry I have no helpful advice but we have the same problem! My son settles himself to sleep at all naps and at bedtime around 7-7.30pm. However he then wakes around 30-45mins later (only at bedtime, the rest of the time has chunky naps) and will just cry until he’s picked up. If I only leave him a short time once he has woken up, he will then go back to sleep cuddled quite quickly, but then need to hold him the rest of the evening, if I leave him for 15-20 mins to see if he will resettle he is then unsettled and doesn’t sleep well even on me for the rest of the evening until the 10pm feed. I do not understand it and it’s so frustrating when they go to sleep by themselves less than an hour earlier! Mine is 6months but was 7 weeks prem so more like a 4 month old. We’ve had this problem since he was about 2 weeks before he’s due date (5weeks old)! I cannot find anywhere in the internet where other people have this problem and has been driving me insane!
      Let’s hope someone has some useful information of what to do! I’m not sure CIO is the answer to after they wake up, it might be but i don’t want to do it if it’s not! Hope you get advice soon!

    • Trust me I’m still figuring it out… but I tried waiting until it was dark. Once it is dark it is a lot easier to get my son to sleep and he will go down like a dream. But until then I’m still trying to figure out how to stop him screaming himself to sleep. This is particularly a problem during daylight saving, which it is currently, because it doesn’t get dark until much later than “bedtime”.
      Katie recently posted..Is Sleep Training Child Abuse?My Profile

    • After a week of trial and error, here’s what I figured out: she still needs a third nap. I thought we were trying to drop it and that was what was causing the issues so we were doing two naps and an early bedtime. Then we were out grocery shopping a little later than usual one night and she caught a short nap in her car seat before bed, which I figured was going to make a mess, but we came home, went through our routine, and put her in bed only slightly late…and no wake up. Slept right on through until she woke up to be fed five hours later. Now we just build a third nap into our day and put her in bed half an hour later. Haven’t had a wake up since. It’s been so much better. Hope this might help somebody else, too!

  14. My baby is 11 months old and screams so loud I am convinced the neighbours will think there is something dreadful going on. He just wants me to pick him up. But the volume! So I am trying CIO but the trouble is whenever he cries he heats up so he feels like he has a temperature to touch (which he didn’t before he went to bed). I have heard it is possible to have a child go into stroke from this kind of stress. Is it harmful?
    Katie recently posted..Is Sleep Training Child Abuse?My Profile

    • Katie,

      I have never seen any scientific research that in any way suggests that crying can lead to a child having a stroke. If you’re struggling with getting him to sleep without being held, perhaps there is an intermediate plan that may work? What about putting him in his bed and rubbing his back/patting his belly so that you’re present and touching but not holding him. He’ll likely get pretty upset with you but this is a compromise and a step towards him falling asleep in his bed. If you choose to try this strategy you’re committing to NOT picking him up to sleep – if he wakes up unhappy no picking up but you go back to patting/rubbing and soothing words until he falls back to sleep. Will this work? Yes, if you commit fully. Just an option to consider. Good luck!
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Is Sleep Training Child Abuse?My Profile

  15. We have been doing CIO for 4 weeks now. And I mean really, truly, 100%, following-all-the-rules, doing it. Full extinction and never looked back. Really was hoping by learning to self settle that she would sleep better. But it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I watch for over/under tiredness, I make naps happen (which have always been a crap shoot) etc etc etc. My little girl is 7 months old this week and has not ever slept well. Up every 2 hours, never sleeping more than 4 hour stretches. Beginning to think it’s me, what the *#@! Am I doing wrong??

    • So she falls asleep OK at bedtime but then wakes up 2 hours later? I’m assuming that you’re really doing everything perfect because if so, the answer is how you handle the early night wakings.

      For most babies, you fall to sleep independently then BOOM – problem solved. You’re free to nurse, rock, cuddle at later night wakings without issue. However for some babies, if they wake up soon-ish after bedtime (generally within ~3 hours) how you handle THAT waking can reset the sleep association that you’re working so hard to break free of AT bedtime. So the key is to change how your handling EARLY night wakings (generally anything after midnight is fine) because the nursing/feeding/rocking/cuddling you’re doing soon after bedtime are resetting your sleep association issue.

      Good luck!
      Alexis recently posted..Is Sleep Training Child Abuse?My Profile

      • First of all, I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly.
        Bedtime is not a cake walk. 2 nights of the week she might go down with very little fuss (hey, I’ll take that compared to what it used to be like. So yes, CIO is working better for bedtime). At most bedtimes she will sit in her crib crying for at least 20 minutes, settle down, then start back up within a few minutes.
        Now typically, if she goes down easily, she wakes up 45 minutes after she first goes down (maybe a sleep cycle thing? Not sure. I’m clueless about babies) from there she could wake 3-5 times before midnight, repeating the crying/stopping thing.
        With hopes of better sleep, I don’t nurse before midnight because her last feed was 7:30-8pm. I do, however, nurse her 2 times in the evening when she wakes around 2am and 5am. All wakings I try to comfort with a hug or a pat and shhh. Feeding is my last resort.
        Is this where I’m going wrong? What would you suggest to do during wakings sooner than 3 hrs of bedtime? And the wakings during the middle of the night?
        Thanks a ton.

  16. Hi Alexis,

    Help!! My 8-month-old baby is screaming at the moment – it is 2:45pm (I live in France) and she has not yet taken a nap today. We successfully did night sleep training, and though it took a good week, we are now down to 5 minutes crying at bedtime and very little during the night. So I thought I’d move on to naps, right? Well, it’s been hellish – she simply will not fall asleep. I tried the morning nap for two days but wimped out for the afternoon one – after an hour of screaming in the morning she would not sleep, and I was worried that it would affect her nights. (It has, I think – she wakes up more). So I rocked her to sleep with her pacifier as usual in the afternoons. But you gotta do what you gotta do, so I thought today I’d try all the naps. I left her screaming for an hour this morning (with white noise, curtains drawn, no paci, and a small Mommy-smelling lovey), then when she didn’t fall asleep, I picked her up and continued with our day. (We had a fantastically fussy morning, as you can imagine). Then I put her back down a little before her normal naptime this afternoon, and she proceeded to cry for an hour. Then I picked her up, walked around the house, changed her poo-filled diaper, read a book, sang a song, and put her back down. She’s been crying for 10 minutes now, and soon it’ll be beyond her normal naptime. What should I do? If she doesn’t fall asleep, do I just keep her up until her 5pm nap? If she does fall asleep (pleeeease!!), should I wake her up when her normal naptime should end?

    A humongous enormous thank you for your site, by the way – you are awesome.

  17. Hiya Alexis, Just a quick question pre trying CIO for real. My son is 6 months old and we do a routine, but he always falls asleep on the bottle, after which I burp him for a long time and put him down asleep. If i try to put him down not asleep he will cry and cry. Hence i know i will need to do CIO. Bedtime is 7:30 and he wakes at 12:30, 4:30, 8:30 for feeds, which are uneventful. However between the bedtime and 12:30 feeds he wakes up at least every hour wimpering. If i get to him quick enough, all i need to do is bounce him until he burps or farts (wind is almost always the reason for him waking up at this time). If i dont get to him quick he wakes up and stays awake. Just wondering how I should deal with those early wakenings….? I have tried moving the bottle to before bathtime so he has more time to get rid of his wind, but he won’t drink it all in one go if i do this, so am imagining he will just wake up earlier/more often for feeds….
    Thanks in advance for your support!

    • 1) There is no try, only do or not do ;)

      2) Feed him before bath to help get rid of the burps. If he wakes up sooner (I doubt he will be it could happen) you can gently wean off those feedings ONCE you’ve broken the food=sleep association by changing bedtime. Also I think he’ll sleep better once you get the burping thing out of the way at bedtime.

      Personally if this was me I might even consider a dreamfeed when YOU go to bed (say 10 PM) so that there is the potential for YOU to sleep 10 – 4:30, which would be pretty awesome.

      Good luck!
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Daylight Savings Time Sleep Survival StrategiesMy Profile

  18. Oh Alexis, why are

    • Trying that again. Though the effect is somewhat gone!

      Oh Alexis, why are you not for hire. The stuff on here is pure gold.

      Just wanted to share my story. I was at my wits end with my 5mo. I had tried CIO just before she turned 3 months and it was an unmitigated disaster. I was desperate (hubby working overseas till baby is 6mo hrmph) and wasn’t thinking clearly. If anyone is reading this.. DO NOT TRY CIO AT THAT AGE!!! Stopped after 36 brutal hours and decided to live with it.

      Fast forward to recently. Her naps were 30 mins on the dot (more accurate than my kitchen timer), she was sleeping 6-10pm and then awake every 1.5 hrs rest of night. Couldn’t swaddle as she sucks both her thumbs (sometimes at the same time), and hates white noise. The only thing that soothed her was covering her eyes. It worked magic.. For 45 mins tops.

      I’m a bit of an insomniac so once I got over the initial shock phase, I was ok.. But my baby was a wreck. She is by nature a very smily chattering baby but that all dried up. She was constantly grumpy, rubbing her eyes, pulling her hair, scratching her face, the whole lot. She still smiled but basically stopped talking or doing much else.

      I’m committed to breastfeeding for 2 years at least and the LLL as well as my breastfeeding doc (whom I love to bits.. she’s the only reason I can actually nurse my baby) were perfectly useless.. Why do most breastfeeding proponents hate sleep??

      I knew I was heading to CIOville again and I hired a sleep consultant to keep me on track so I wouldn’t cheat.. I knew it would be tough. We decided to tackle naps and night at the same time. I have to confess that EVERYTHING she suggested, I cross checked with your site. In retrospect I didn’t need her, but you know what they say about hindsight.

      I’ll spare you the (surprisingly not gory) details but by day 3, her naps were between 1 to 1.5 hrs and her waking was down to 3-4 times a night. A week later 1.5 hr naps most of the time and 2-3 waking a might (2 feeds and 1 where she’d put herself back to sleep in 5 mins). It’s only been a short time but OMG I have a totally new baby on my hands. She has gone from smiling from time to time to full out laughing, she’s had the energy to learn to turn over, and she’s babbling non stop. I cannot put into words how glad I am I went down this route.

      My biggest sleep related worries now are : how do I check for a dirty diaper without disrupting her sleep and how do to slowly move her bedtime back a bit. I’m so incredibly grateful that THESE are my worries!!!

      Where do you come in? You were the only voice of reason on sleep training and CIO that I could find online. It was such a stigma in my mind and I had resigned myself to minimal sleep for both of us until she heads off to college (and no sleep after that!!).. But coming across your site gave me a totally different perspective on everything. I know that she can and will regress at many points but I am no longer afraid of trying to fix it!

      I also know we had it easier than most as we taught her from 3 months (without CIO) to put herself to sleep. But I just wanted to say to anyone struggling.. Stay strong! As long as you are making the change for your bubs betterment, it’s the way to go! And use the information on this site.. It is truly priceless!

      This is probably the longest and most uninformative post ever on your site, but I had to say thank you Alexis from sleep deprived babies and parents everywhere!

  19. Hi Alexis,

    We followed your advice and did CIO for 2 nights, and the 1st night she cried for 25 mins, fell asleep at 10pm, woke up at 1am, 4:40am, and 6:30am and slept until 9am (it was daylight savings). I fed her at all wakings and she fell back asleep everytime.

    Last night, we put her to bed at 8:45, and she cried and fell asleep at 9pm, woke at 2am, and again at 6:30am, slept till 8am. I nursed her at all wakings.

    My question is, when can, or when should I start nap time fixing? We followed your advice and is a nap master. I returned to work so my husband carries her in the ergo for all 3 naps. My husband will also return to work soon, and we want to train her to nap by herself as well. Shall we wait till bedtime is more consistent before tackling nap? and how should we approach nap training?

    Thank you!

  20. Hi,

    Doing our research… going to start CIO tomorrow night. Our little one is 11 months old and our biggest question that we cannot find the answer to is – she will inevitably stand up in her crib and then – how does she fall asleep if she’s standing? We are thinking of doing extinction, but wondering if we should go in intermittently to lie her back down?


  21. hi Alexis, or all the helpful, sleep deprived mummies,

    My 9.5 mo is on day 5 of CIO and it seems to be working great. Crying went down from 1 hr to 5 minutes in the last 2 days but still wakes up at 5 am for a feed.
    My question is, on day 7 I will have to stay out longer after work, so his nanny who takes care of him all day will be putting him to bed. He is happy with her and she is great BUT there will be no boobs as part of the bed time ritual. Will the fact that I am not around for bedtime mess up the sleep training? How long do I need to consider this ‘sleep training’ rather than Business as Usual ?

    Thanks for your help!

  22. Hi!

    My question is short and sweet: my LO is 14 weeks (16 adjusted as she was late). Is this too young to start CIO??

    We have a steady bedtime routine, bed by 7pm (using shh pat and a bit of rocking) but she wakes continuously until her 10.30pm feed, will sleep a few hours until her 2.30am feed but then will not resettle!! She cat naps until 7am when we get up. Her day naps are ok (9-10,12-2,4-5, using shh pat) but nights are killing me!! Thanks

  23. Hey guys.. just want your opinions cuz im not really sure if im doing things right with the CIO.. i’m on my 3rd night.. Im still not quite sure what to do after nightwakings..

    so bedtime routine as usual.. but i do nurse and fill him up burp him and then put him down at 6:45..

    1st night:
    13 mins crying then check and pick up.. consoled and put down
    11 mins crying then finally fell asleep
    8:10 woke up.. i fed him but he fell right back to sleep after so i put him down..
    9:03 woke and cried.. checked after 10 mins of crying
    9:40 nursed and put him down he cried for 3 mins before falling asleep
    10:30 woke up.. i changed diaper (usually the time he gets uncomfy with his diapers before CIO) rub his back then left he fell asleep without much protest and stayed asleep til 3:45am to nurse then back to sleep waking at 5:45am

    2nd night:
    15 mins of crying then checked put down
    cried for a minute then fell asleep
    8:16 nurse down sleep
    11:45 nurse diaper put down
    13 mins of crying then fell asleep12:21
    12:39 woke cried for 3 mins
    12:44 cried 3 mins checked put down
    12:50 sleep
    3:40 nurse and sleep
    5:45 waking time

    Right now on day 3 he only cried 3 mins at bedtime..

    Im quite unsure if it’s alright if he fell asleep during night feeding.. i cant really remove those feedings all of a sudden because he was so used to feeding every 2hrs when co-sleeping before cio.. and i want to clarify how to console so that you wouldnt end up letting him fall asleep with you and at the same time maintain the consistency..

    I really need an asurance on how to proceed….

    • Full disclaimer that I have no expertise in sleep training, only experience with my 6mo. Assuming your baby is 6m+, two things jump out immediately:
      – nursing too close to bed time. Nurse 20 mins at least before putting baby in the crib. So nurse before the bath/book/song etc.
      – nursing too soon after bedtime. Any nursing soon after bedtime reinforces the sleep crutch.. So even if you are putting down awake and separating nursing from bedtime by at least 20 mins, the 8.45 nursing session is undoing all the bedtime benefits. I think any nursing before midnight is trouble.

      Alexis explains it so much better.

      Once that is under control and you have a better situation in terms of wakings, use Alexis’ night weaning approach. Typically a 6m baby doesn’t need more than 1-2 feeds a night max assuming they switch to getting the calories during the day.

      Hope this helps and doesn’t hinder too severely!!

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