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.

14)

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

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

7

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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979 Comments


  1. So, I have been following this to the letter (Weissbluth style), but she’s been crying LONGER each night instead of shorter.
    Night one: 22 min
    Night two: 25 min
    Night three: 30 min
    Night four: 35 min
    Night five: 34 min

    Ack! Why is it not working? I am still nursing when she wakes up as long as it has been long enough, so I’m nursing about twice a night… Some nights she only wakes up for her nursing sessions, a couple of nights, she woke up early and cried herself back to sleep (about 10-15 min each).

    Is this common for the crying to get worse each night? She definitely has object permanence even though she is only 5.5 months… I’ve seen it in a variety of contexts with her. Is that the problem? How can I fix this, since we are already doing the full and consistent bedtime routine, put down awake, etc. etc.

    • I don’t look at this and see “it’s getting worse” but I agree it’s definitely not getting better, you’re pegged at about ~30 minutes.

      My first guess is that this is a bedTIME issue. Possibly too early. Sometimes when kids are sleeping better they can actually stay awake a tad longer prior to bed. If you’re asking her to fall asleep before her body is ready to sleep she won’t be able to fall asleep. I would experiment with pushing bedtime BACK 15-20 for a few nights and see if that makes an improvement. Or you could be bold and even try 30 minutes later. Meaning she’s actually FALLING asleep at bedtime +30 minutes so that should probably be her ACTUAL bedtime.

      Commit to trying this out for a few nights and let us know how things go. Good luck!
      Alexis recently posted..7 Sleep Lessons from a Stanford Pediatric Sleep SpecialistMy Profile

      • Thanks Alexis!! I will try this tonight!

        • Hi Amanda,
          Could you please update on how much your child cried post Alexis comment.
          Thanks in advance!

          • Hi Preethi,

            Well, the good news is that she cried MUCH less going to sleep- 7 minutes! And the next night even less! Buttt… Her night wakings are hit and miss all over the place. Last night, she woke up at 10:30 pm and took 20 min to cry back to sleep. Then she woke at 11:55 which is a little bit earlier than I usually do her first night feeding but close enough so I fed her. Then she slept until 3:44 and I nursed her for her second night feeding. I was hoping she’d sleep until her normal wake time of 6-6:30 but she woke at 5:00 am. I let her cry until 5:20, then got her and fed her. I tried to put her back down but she wouldn’t go. :/

            • Hi Amanda,
              Has your babies night wakings reduced yet?

            • Probably a little bit- it’s somewhat inconsistent. Things are definitely better than they were, just not perfect. ;)

            • Hi Amanda,
              I was reading your comments and also wondering how your ST was going. My LO just turned 5 months and we recently started night ST. Our nights we’re getting a little better in terms of less crying at bedtime, but last night was worse and he seems to be waking more in the middle of the night and I’m not sure what to try. Usually he wakes up just 1x to eat, but the past few nights, he wakes up about 20 min after I feed him. One night I tried to let him cry but that was a disaster. So I’ve been pulling him into bed and nursing him so he falls back to sleep for a while. Not sure if this is confusing him :(. If you have any good tips, I’d be happy to hear them. Thanks !

  2. Hi, my son is coming upto 14 months, if he’s not in the pram or car or on your body his naps can be poor (1hour or 39mins) throughout the day. He wakes at 6am (I’m so tired) his room is blacked out, I try to put him for a nap (rocking him) about 9am then the rutine is out the window. I could scream!! I bath him about 7 7:30 give him a bottle then rock him as he doesn’t go to sleep any other way. I’m tired fed up and lost?? Most times he wakes up crying at the bottom of his cot. Can you help. I don’t even know how many naps for how long he should have a day. I do the rutine in his bedroom but he sees it as a play zone even in the dark. He’s crawling and walking aided but not fully walking yet.
    Thanx in advance

  3. Hi Lauren, my daughter moved to one nap at 13 months. Anywhere between 12 to 18 months is the average for most kids. You may want to try that for a week and see how that goes. In the beginning she would nap around 11 for 2 to 3 hours and then go to bed around 7. Now at 23 months it is usually around 12 to 12:30 for 2 hours. Bedtime has now moved back to closer to 8.

  4. You suggest CIO being separate from night weaning. If my tot wakes, crying, at a non mealtime and cries until the next scheduled meal am I undoing all our CIO success if I go in and feed? Nights 1 and 2 the wake/settle time was nowhere near a feeding.

  5. Thank you zara I will try that today :)

  6. Hi Alexis,
    I am on day 6 of cry it out method. And I desperately need your help to make this a success. I have been very consistent with my schedule. 7pm feed+bath+lullaby+bedtime at 7:30pm. 11pm one feeding session and between 3and 3:30 am another feeding session.
    Here is the story so far:
    Day 1: cried for 16 mins. Woke up 2-3 times but fell back to sleep on her own after fussing. On One waking session at 12:45am she cried for 1.5 hrs and fell back to sleep.
    Day 2: Cried for 7 mins. Woke up 4-5 times but fell back asleep on her own after crying/fussing for some time.
    Day 3: Cried for 7-8 mins. Woke up 3 times but fell back asleep on her own 2 times. On one waking session at around 1am and cried for 1 hr before falling asleep.
    Day 4: cried for around 15 mins. Woke up 2-3 times but fell back asleep on her own after fussing for a bit. One waking session she cried for 7 mins at around 10pm.
    Day 5: cried for 22 mins. When I went in the 2nd time I Shshed her for 30 seconds without patting her and she fell asleep. Did not wake up till 3:15am. But after feed she was completely awake at 3:45am. Unfortunately, had to rock her to sleep for 45 mins after 10 mins of crying.
    Day 6: Cried for 30 mins. When I went in the 3rd time I again Shshed her for 30-45 seconds without patting her and she fell asleep.

    Her crying during bedtime has NOT reduced but increasing each passing day and we are on the verge of giving up. My husband is not getting convinced about increasing the intervals. Not sure how to proceed. Please help.

    • To add to my above comments, she is very sleepy at bedtime and I put her down awake.

    • Preethi,

      I think a few things and one of which is NOT to go back to whatever you were doing before. But back to your sleep stuff.

      Crying for <10-15 minutes is nothing. I feel I say this a lot because people get hung up on 5-10 minutes like "there is a problem." There isn't. Babies and older kids don't want to separate from you and they definitely don't want to fall asleep. So when you ask them to do this, they complain about it. When she's 3 it'll be verbal: MOOOM I DON'T WANT TO GO TO BED!So essentially your CIO experience was literally amazing and barely even registers as crying. Yay!

      On Day 5 you had what was probably an extinction burst and instead of complaining at bedtime for 7-8 minutes it went on for 22. Check it out:http://www.troublesometots.com/extinction-burst/

      But here’s the tricky thing – you went in and patted her to sleep. Such a hard thing because it comes from a generous and loving place. But I suspect that well-meant act reset your sleep training clock because basically she didn’t fall asleep alone – you were there. Thus she woke up at 3:45 and couldn’t fall back asleep (hypervigillance, when you don’t fall asleep solo at bedtime you’re unlikely to do it later) which required you to rock her for 45 minutes.

      So in many ways you’re back to the starting line of patting and shuushing her to sleep both AT bedtime AND at night. I know this is hard stuff but this is why “consistency to baby falling asleep solo” is so key. If you deviate from the plan (even with kind intent) you mess up the sleep training and almost immediately teach her that the way she falls asleep is with mom there patting (and that she should cry until you come do that).

      At this juncture you either fully commit to baby falling asleep without you, or you go back to her needing your help to sleep at bedtime and during the night until you’re ready to do it later. Personally I would suggest the former but it’s really up to you.

      Hope this helps!
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..7 Sleep Lessons from a Stanford Pediatric Sleep SpecialistMy Profile

      • Thanks for the quick revert, Alexis!
        I have one more question…. If I usually feed her around 3:30am and she wakes up at 2:40am and does not go back to sleep till 3:15am, should I have had breast fed her when she cried initially? Or should I wait it out till 3:30am? Please suggest.

        • Hi Amanda/Alexis,
          Thanks for your response, it is Day 7 today and it seems worse. Although she slept within 10 mins at bedtime. She got up at 9:20pm and cried for almost 1.5 hrs!!!! And then again she got up at 1:25 am and cried for almost 10 mins. And then again at 2:30am and cried for 5 mins. And then again at 3:40am, but then it was her feed time, so, I fed her. And now she is up at 5:07am and has been crying non stop!! Not sure how this is working…I really don’t want to give up on this after so many days of crying. Someone please tell me it is going yo be alright. I am unable to see any pattern here.

          • Preethi,

            First, check out the post that I link to below (*wink*)

            Few things:
            – Don’t worry about the 10 minutes here or there.
            – When she wakes up “near” her feeding I would feed her. Essentially you only ever want to a) feed her right when she wakes up or b) fully ignore.

            Ideally you never let her cry until your established “feeding” time and then go in and feed her. Babies don’t know what time it is so this doesn’t accomplish anything except have her cry a lot and you feel bad :( So your target feeding time is a general goal but not set in stone. If she wakes up near that time and is awake for 5+ minutes, go feed.

            The question for me is that you have long awake crying jags (1-1.5) hours that seem to happen at random times at night. Frankly I’m not sure why but here’s some things to consider:
            – Too much time asleep. If she’s in bed TOO long (is she a fabulous napper? Too much day sleep? Bedtime too early?) you’ll see kiddos who can FALL asleep but then are awake for long stretches at night.
            – Something that happens AT bedtime is throwing you off. Pacifiers or timed devices are usually the culprits.
            – Something environmental (sound, smells that are unfamiliar?)
            – Inconsistency in how you respond to her wakings. I know you had a small blip before but small blips can blow up in BIG ways unfortunately.

            Anyhoo that would be the things I would start looking at to figure out why you’re still getting those big stretches. Good luck!
            Alexis Dubief recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

            • Dear Alexis,
              Thanks! Read your blog. However , I would like to point out that on Day 5 and Day 6 I Did not pat her to sleep. I just Shshed her softly without touching her.
              And to answer your questions:
              1) My daughter is 6.5 months old and she used wake up 6-7 times during the night. And would take around 45 minutes to sleep either by swinging or rocking her in my arms. That was the reason we resorted to CIO.
              2) She is not a great napper. She sleeps only for 30-40 mins at a time Unless I intervene and put her in my arms so that her naps get longer. She sleeps 2.5 hrs to 3 hrs between 9am and 4:30pm ( 2-3 naps).
              3) During bedtime we are not using any sleeping aids. I just give her a lovey which she doesn’t care about.
              4) she sleeps in the same room, in the same crib, with night light on everyday. No change in smell nor sound.
              5) we go in at timed intervals for 1-2 minutes, comfort her either by shushing or talking softly.
              6) per your suggestion, I am trying my best to make her naps happen at any cost, swinging her and then putting her in my arms for longer naps…so that she is well rested for the night.

              And here is an update on Day 8.
              Slept at 7:35pm as usual with 5-7 minutes of fussing. Slept till 8:45pm. Cried for 10-12 minutes with 1 intervention. Again got up at 9:55pm. Cried for 10-12 minutes with 1 intervention. Again got up at 11pm. Breast fed her. Woke up at around 2am. Fussed for a bit and slept on her own. Woke up at 2:40am. Fussed for a bit and slept on her own. Tossed and turned for almost an hour after that. Woke up at 3:40am. Nursed her again and put her to bed at 4am. After that everything went downhill.. She cried for an hour till 5 am!!!! Nothing could put her back to sleep. Had to eventually carry her in my arms and rock her. She slept till 6:15am and again crying. Can’t put her back to sleep.

              I am not sure how to go about this now.
              Please help. We are following your guidelines to the T.

          • Hey Preethi,

            I know you didn’t patt but TONS of people do so I made that change to make the case study more relate-able to a larger audience :)

            Few thoughts for you:
            – I’m not an advocate of checks. I know people love them because it feels gentler, but it also sets up a system of intermittent reinforcement.

            Look at it from her perspective. Sometimes Mom doesn’t come. Sometimes Mom comes and is with me for a bit. Sometimes Mom comes and nurses. From her perspective it’s all a bit random. And we know that any sort of intermittent reinforcement rewards the behavior (in this case crying) so I definitely think that it’s part of why you’ve gotten a bit stuck. Ideally you either fully ignore a waking or you come nurse leave.

            – Secondly she loves motion. What about using a swing for her to sleep in? Unless she’s 25+ lbs she would still fit and I’m wondering if she may just need a bit more soothing to get you over this hump?

            – “She used wake up 6-7 times during the night. And would take around 45 minutes to sleep either by swinging or rocking her in my arms.”

            Her sleep used to be HUGELY disjointed. She’s USED to being awake for long stretches of time at night. Essentially what you’re saying here is that previously her night sleep was naturally interspersed with multiple ~45 minute sessions of being AWAKE. Am I correct in this understanding? I hope so because it explains SO much (especially combined with the intermittent reinforcement thing I mentioned earlier).

            You’re not just trying to get her to fall asleep by herself, you’re trying to get her to sleep in long uninterrupted stretches when she was USED to being awake for huge stretches on long intervals during the night. In fact take whatever her “old” night looked like and remove 3.5 hours and that’s now much sleep she was actually getting.

            From that perspective 7:30 – 4/5 AM might be her norm.

            Thoughts?
            ps. Stop the checks. Full on. Cool?

            • Dear Alexis,
              Thanks for your response.
              Unfortunately, the swing also doesn’t work for her. I use it to put her to sleep in it. But she doesn’t sleep for long in it either. Her night wakings are the same.

              Here is Day 9 update:
              Although her bedtime drama has improved (slept with a little fussing/crying for around 10 mins) She woke around 6 times during the night. Got up around 8:45pm. Cried for a bit and slept on her own. Got up around 11pm. Went in and nursed her and put her to bed. Again she got up around 11:40pm. Cried for around 20mins. Got up around 2am. Fussed a bit and went back to sleep. Got up around 3:40am. Nursed her and put he back to sleep. Got up at around 5am. Did not allow her to CIO. She slep for an hour and again got up at 6:05am crying. Again did not allow her to CIO and rocked her to sleep till she finally got up at around 6:45am.

              Should I allow her to CIO even at 5am or 6am?
              We are still not convinced about complete extinction method. Would you have a blog exclusively for that? Till what time during the night should I implement CIO (extinction or Ferber)??

            • *Update
              We are still not convinced about complete extinction = We still do not have the heart for it. :(

          • Hey Preethi,

            I don’t really know that I have that much more to add. There is no research to support full extinction = better. I know I looked:
            http://www.troublesometots.com/ferber-weissbluth-cry-it-out-smackdown/

            All I can do is tell you what my experience has been over tons and tons of babies: intermittent reinforcement leads to more crying. If you aren’t convinced, that’s cool. But I can’t really convince you.

            Also if she wakes up for 10-15 minutes here or there, I wouldn’t sweat it. That’s a pretty benign and temporary thing. Sure you wake up in a bit of a panic, “WHAT IS HAPPENING! DOES SHE NEED US?” But if she cries for 10 minutes and falls back to sleep the answer is definitely, “No.”

            Whatever you choose to do I wish you the best of luck with it!
            Alexis recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

            • Dear Alexis,
              Thanks for all your responses. I understand that you believe in extinction method. Right now I am inclining towards it. But it would be great if you could help me with the following questions:
              1) what is the maximum duration you would recommend I could let my 6.5 month old cry for each waking?
              2) what about 5am and 6am wakings? CIO or comfort her so that she could sleep till 7 which is her usual waking hour?

          • Full extinction means you fully ignore crying unless you’re going in to nurse. If it’s time to nurse you go in whenever she wakes up NEAR that time. Don’t let her cry for 20 minutes and then go in. So be flexible on when you’re going on – ex. 3 AM is not a hard line. IF she wakes up at 2:40 it’s feeding time. Either you fully ignore or you go in right when she wakes up. If you want to co-sleep from 5 AM + it’s probably not an issue.

            Also to reiterate – she used to be awake A LOT during the night. The 7 AM wakeup was probably the result of the fact that she was essentially awake 3+ hours during the night. As her sleep becomes less disjointed (it already has) it’s probably not a realistic goal. 5:30/6 is likely more on target. You’re working hard to force additional sleep which is cool. But if it’s not happening I don’t consider that “a failure” – it’s simply the result of her sleeping better at night.
            Alexis recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

            • Dear Alexis,
              A BIG THANK YOU for all your advise. I eventually went in for the full extinction method. It has been a week now and my daughter has learnt to fall back asleep on her own. I have stopped intervention during her night wakings but for nursing.
              However, here are a few observations and it would be great if you could throw some light on these.
              1) Although the number of times she used to wake up middle of the night has come down from 6-7 to 2-4. I assumed that it would go away by 1 week and she would get a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep. But that’s not the case here. Is this normal?
              2) Most times she falls back a sleep with 1-2 minutes of crying/fussing, but sometimes she takes at least 15-30 minutes to settle down during her night wakings. And she most often cries intermittently. Should I intervene? Should I be concerned?
              3) She goes to bed between 7:50pm and 8pm. And she gets up crying everyday between 5am and 5:30am, when I do not let her cry or fuss. I pick her up and put her on our bed till almost 7am. Is this ok? Or should I encourage her to continue sleeping in her crib till her wake up time?
              4) Her naps are still bad. She has around 3 naps and gets up after 30-40 mins. I intervene for 2 of her naps and hold her in my arms for an hour. She does anywhere between 2.5 hrs to 3 hrs total nap during the day.

              Your thoughts on this will be truly appreciated.

          • Hey Preethi,

            I was just thinking about you – I’m so glad to hear things have gotten so much better. YAAAAY!

            – “1-2 minutes of crying/fussing” – this is simply the way she navigates the awake part of her sleep cycle. It’s normal and not a problem. Babies wake up constantly and it’s totally normal for them to grumble a few minutes before falling back to sleep.

            – totally OK to co-sleep from 5:30 + as long as it works for you and doesn’t start creeping up on you. Many parents do this and enjoy this!

            As for naps – that’s a whole different conversation. Eventually you’ll need to stop intervening to break out of this pattern. There’s no rush – it’s just when you’re ready to remove yourself from the process. She’s sleeping far better at night so honestly 3X naps of 45 minutes a day isn’t a terrible starting place.

            Congratulations!
            Alexis recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

  7. We are on night 15 of sleep training our almost 6 month old. We started with attended CIO but it felt like that was making us feel better about the process not helping him, so for the last week we have been doing full extinction. The night waking improved right from day 1 and he now only wakes once to eat and goes right back to sleep (yay!). But he’s still crying for 40+ minutes every night. We had one night where he went to sleep after 20 minutes, but then last night it was closer to an hour. I don’t know what to do. Everything I’ve read says it should have gotten better by now. Do I need to accept this amount of crying for now? I don’t think I can go back to rocking him to sleep as it was taking over an hour of super energetic rocking, and at least half the time he’d wake up when I put him down and I’d have to start all over again. Any thoughts? Every night I think about giving up, the crying is so horrible to listen to.

    • Sarah – we are headed into our third week of 40 minutes of tears at bedtime. Did you see any improvement? I am about to give up, but also don’t think I can go back to the very long process of nudging to sleep:). I would love an update! (Our guy is 8 months old)

      • Yes, things have improved for us. Bedtime started to get better when we began sleep training for naps as well as at night. We still have the occasional tough night or nap, but he generally goes down at naptime after 5-10 minutes of fussing. Bedtime is harder for him, he tends to cry on and off for about 10-20 minutes. But it’s not the heartbreaking wailing of before, it’s bearable.

        He’s recently started waking twice at night to eat instead of onc, and the first time seems to be getting earlier. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m kind of hoping he’ll just get past it.

        Good luck. The only reason I didn’t give up was that rocking to sleep had stopped working so I had no fall back plan.

        • Omg, thank you girls for posting this. I’m on night 6 and just had a 2 hour crying fit. My 12 month old still cries a good solid 40 minutes before finally caving and going to sleep. Everything I read says you should see improvement in 3-4 days, which obviously isn’t the case for us. Thank you for giving me hope. I’ll tough it out a bit longer.

        • It’s me again. Wondering if you 2 ladies have any updates to encourage me to continue. Does it get better? Night 11 tonight and my husband and I are at a breaking point here. :(

          • It took us 3 weeks before we started seeing an improvement at bedtime. Sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear. It did eventually get better though, and what kept me going was the thought that if I gave in, I’d just have to start over again when he was older.

            • Thank you thank you thank you for your response. It’s not what I wanted to hear but it at least gives me a little light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you again for taking the time to reply. I’ll tough it out a little longer. :)

  8. Hi,
    My problem is not with getting my 9 month old to sleep it’s how to get her back to sleep at 2:30am (ish)!!! I’ve tried CIO but she still constantly seems to be crying/screaming for over an hour each night. It’s really starting to affect everyone in the family (even our 5 year old who can usually sleep through anything!). Could it have anything to do with the fact she’s only having two half hour naps during the day? – any suggestions for how to make these longer if this is the case?
    Thanks

    • Tracey,

      What happened? We’re in the same boat now. 10mo, one or two wake ups, but go down no problem. and 30 min naps. it’s the worst!

      • Hi Jeremy,

        I persevered with the Progressive Waiting method with my little ones naps during the day and after three days her naps were closer to an hour, sometimes even two hours long. Once we got that sorted, we tried it with her early waking. It didn’t work. SO, had read about a method called ‘wake to sleep’. This is where you rouse them (not fully wake them) an hour before they’d usually wake. For our little one that meant moving her to a different position in her cot and covering her. She moaned a little and then drifted back to sleep AND slept through till 6 (now 6am we can cope with!!) The theory is that it interrupts their sleep cycle and they start a new sleep cycle again. It was suggested to do this for three days. We did it for two mornings and then tempted fate by not doing it on the third day. Seems she didn’t need it. We now have a little one who naps pretty well and sleeps from 7pm to 6 – 6:30am!!

  9. Hi Alexis,

    Thanks so much for your blog…these steps/tips have been a life saver. We were experiencing the dreaded 4 month sleep regression in June and it was a tough time to ride through. I was beginning to daydream of my previous childless life more and more. Our son woke up every 30-45 mins and took forever to put back down. Once he started to consistently wake up less and less, we decided to try out these 14 steps. We started this weekend and we couldn’t have been happier. The first two nights he cried for 30 mins (but still woke up every 2 hours) but by the 3rd and 4th night, he cried for 8 mins and only woke up 3x. The last couple of nights, only fussing but same number of wake ups. Another thing we’ve noticed is that his naps are a little more consistent this week… does that mean we should start sleep training for those? These are huge improvements. Let me know where to send the thank you chocolates and wine.

    Then, last night, we noticed he was rolling over in his Merlin Magic Sleepsuit. Well no more fat suit for him! Without it, he continued to roll over easily in his sleep, waking himself up screaming. What would you suggest? Do we let him try to figure it out or do we help him flip over? Poor guy, once he figured something out, something else changes.

    • Hi there

      I’m no expert, but thought I’d give you my two cents. :) We too use the Magic Merlin sleep suits, used it with my daughter (now 2 and 4mo) and son (5.5mo). My daughter actually used it until she was about 1!! It’s completely ok if they roll over in it, it won’t prevent them from rolling back or anything. Towards the end, my daughter was rolling, sitting, standing, etc in her sleep suit. It became more of a “comfort blanket” than a true swaddle transition, but this was OK with us.
      Just thought I would mention this…

  10. We have been trying CIO with checks for three nights with our 9 month old. She is having an easier time falling asleep each night, however, she falls asleep sitting up. She starts to slump over and startles then goes right back to sleep about every 10 minutes. Last night she added standing into the mix just to keep things interesting. I am worried that she is not getting restful sleep but when I try to lay her down she wakes up and it starts all over again. We would appreciate any suggestions.

  11. Hi Alexis,
    I have a 12 month old who is NOT breastfed.
    He has a bath and bottle between 6-7pm and is ready for bed, we put him into his crib awake and he cries himself to sleep (10 – 15 minutes).
    He is consistently waking up at 11:15pm, crying until we go to him, we have let him cry for up to an hour.
    We usually just bring him into our bed at that point, give him a bottle, change his diaper because we dont have any other success.
    His naps also are terrible.
    HELP!
    1. How can i get his naps to last longer than 20 minutes
    2. How can i get a full nights sleep? I need help getting his constant night waking to stop!
    Thank you!

  12. When my son was 3.5 months I did CIO for his night wakings. He has always fallen asleep well no to very little crying. I do an eat/play/sleep schedule. He’s been on a schedule that worked really well he was taking three naps 2 2hr naps 1 1hr nap then he would sleep to 7-6:30/7 I would dream feed at 10. For the last couple weeks he has regressed. He is about to turn six months this week. He seems to have dropped his late afternoon nap. I put him down and he would just cry and not take a nap so I am getting him up after about 30 minutes or 40 . so he ends up being awake from about 3 o’clock until 730pm. because of him dropping that nap and turning six months I have changed his schedule just a little bit through the day everything a little bit later maybe 30 minutes later. I don’t know if it’s teething, growth spurt, gas or just a new habit but he has been waking up for the last few weeks and around the same time 9:30 so I go ahead and feed him then since it’s close to his dream feed time. He wakes at again at 3:30 and 5 or 6. This morning I let him cry for about an hour when he woke up at five I ended up going in and consoling him and feeding him but of course he fell asleep at the breast and now it’s time for his normal daily routine I’m just at a loss what to do. I do you think some of it is that is slightly confused because my husband will rock him to help him go to sleep and I don’t he still puts him down when he is awake but very sleepy. I hate hope all this information is not confusing and that you might have some suggestions.

  13. Hi Alexis,

    I’m wondering if we are doing this correctly…
    To give you a little background, my 7 month old son is an EXTREMELY overly-stimulated individual! We’ve struggled for months with getting him to sleep on his own and when he finally slept in his own crib, then he would only fall sleep with rocking, shushing, patting, etc and sleep for 45 minute cycles and then wake up crying! We started your program this week and are currently on day 4. Day 1- 45 minutes of CIO and then woke up twice, falling asleep within 10 minutes of fussing; Day 2- 32 minutes, woke up twice again with 10 minutes or less of fussing; Day 3- 30 seconds; slept for 7 hours and woke up fussing for 45 minutes before I intervened; Day 4: 1 minute (currently in Day 4)…

    Things are seeming great, however I’m worried that I’m not doing this correctly. My little one requires a LOT of quiet time before bed. We usually spend about an hour, taking a nice walk around the block, reading some books in his room, listening to some soft music and slowly dancing around his room, taking a bath, feeding him his last bottle, and then eventually, laying him in his crib. Usually by this time, his eyes are getting very heavy and I know he’s about to crash. The last two nights he has rolled around and cried for about a minute and then closed his eyes. My concern is that I’m aiding too much in the CIO process. We haven’t started naps yet and I know when I have to put my little one in childcare in a few weeks (as I go back to teaching) she won’t go through the “calming process” that I do at night. Would you suggest that I shouldn’t spend the time calming him like this at night? How much is too much? I was hoping to pull back a bit more from the routine (shortening it) after a week of starting our CIO routine. I’m also worried about starting the nap time CIO but KNOW this is necessary as the childcare provider needs this! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for such an AWESOME and informative website! I had been apprehensive to try CIO until I read your site and felt confident that we could overcome this! :)
    Thank you again!

  14. Alexis,
    Just a quick question:
    We’ve only done 3 nights of CIO with our 6 month old, but the crying has become successively worse.
    Night 1: 45 min
    Night 2: 60 min
    Night 3: 80 min.

    I’m prepared to stick it out, but I’m wondering if it might be a bedtime issue? We typically put him down two hours after he wakes from his afternoon nap, which generally has him going to bed in the 8:00-8:30 range. Should I wait a little longer to put him down? Or just carry on?

    Thank you for your website! It’s amazing what a little humor will do for a bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived parent.

  15. Hi Alexis

    We are on day 12 of putting Travis (13months) to bed awake with a lot of screaming but the time taken for him to fall asleep has reduced from 1 hour of screaming to currently 20. Since day 4 he has been falling asleep sitting up and wakes crying again because of odd positions like leaning against the crib and sleeping.the night wakings thereafter for feeds are still 3-4times it has not reduced.i am wondering how long should I wait till I consider this as an ok thing to do as there has been so much crying ever since.

  16. We have a 7mo little boy. From about three weeks on he has required a lot of help to sleep. He gives very clear signals that he is tired, but has always required us to stand and bounce him in our arms to get sleepy. We have got it to where we do not have to have him completely out prior to laying him down, just super tired (after loads of bouncing) and when we lay him down he rolls over and goes to sleep (hopefully or he pops his head up and screams at us). Unfortunately, we have not been able to wean him off of the bouncing (he weighs 17lbs:( ) and he is starting to battle us more and more. We end up bouncing him for anywhere from 20-45min to get naps or bed-time and he screams and fights us most of the time. We have a consistent routine and try to make sure that his awake time is not too long between sleep and we are trying to introduce a lovey. We use a fan for white noise, we stopped swaddling (at 4.5 months) since he rolls over now.
    (Confession: we may have dabbled in CIO and given in once, cause it was awful) Now we mostly just put him in the crib when he starts screaming and fighting us, wait a bit and then commence with more bouncing (and repeat) until he is too tired to fight us and goes to sleep. Are we at CIO? He actually does seem to get close to his target amount of sleep for his age, it’s just such a battle – all day.
    I feel like I failed, like I should have been able to teach him to lay down awake better. If we do CIO for bedtime should I keep bouncing him for naps even though he fights me so hard? Please help!

  17. Hi Alexis,

    Please help! My 8 month old previously great sleeper (through the night) has suddenly decided not to go down for us and wakes 1-2 times per night. After 2 months of this and trying different things, we have resorted to CIO. It sucks. She’s doing well (we’re on night 6 and we’ve gone from just over an hour of crying time to 15/20 mins). My question is that since we started this, she’s woken up 2x at night (before it was the odd time). The times are anywhere between 12 and 2 and then pretty regularly 5. We let her CIO for the early wake up and it’s horrible (usually around an hour) but feed her for the 5:00 and she typically cries for under 10 mins for that one.

    I feel like we broke her :( What are we doing wrong? And what do we do with her night feedings? I know she doesn’t NEED them (her dr calls her robust ;) but she chugs that 5 am bottle and is obviously satisfied. I don’t want to create a horrible habit, but also don’t want to yorture my child. Please, please advise!!!

  18. CIO has yet to work with our 10 month old daughter. She continually gets more worked up. She’ll scream for hours along with coughing/gagging. We need to get her sleeping through the night in her crib! (Right now she wakes 2-3 times and sleeps in our bed).

  19. Hello! Mother to a 3 year old and 9.5 month old. My 3 year old has always been a great overnight sleeper but not a great napper. I used to let him CIO and would jump in the shower. By the time I came out he had passed out and I didn’t have to listen to it! My 9 month old is a different story and I know my husband and I have created a monster. Our major issue is that we are afraid his crying will wake his brother at night and when our 3 year old is woken up, he’s a streaking, irrational mess! We dread it. For the most part he has never been woken up by crying, but my husband and I mostly cave in at night out of fear he will and rock or feed our 9 month old back to sleep if he starts to cry. This has left us sleep deprived and desperate for a baby that sleeps through the night. Tonight is night one. Do you have any advice as to how we can lessen the effects of CIO on our 3 year old??

    • White noise in the 3 year old’s room? I’ve started using it for my toddler again since the baby was born. Noise really travels in our house. He likes it and asks for it to be turned on at bedtime.

  20. We sleep trained our son at 5 months, and while it was hard going for about 3 weeks, once he figured it out I stopped dreading night time for the first time since he was born. He would cry lightly for less than 10 minutes before falling asleep most nights. He’s now 6.5 months, and this week has gone back to SCREAMING for 30+ minutes at bedtime. I don’t understand what’s changed. Naps are still good, so I don’t think he’s overtired.

    I went in tonight after 15 minutes because I was concerned something was wrong he was crying so hysterically. He calmed down when I picked him up, but started screaming again and clinging to me as soon as I put him down. Is this a phase? Do I need to treat this like sleep training again and let him CIO? Has anyone else experienced this kind f set back after successful sleep training and have any advice/encouragement to share?

    • Nothing jumps out at me except the possibility that he is not awake long enough prior to bedtime. As kiddos get older they can be awake longer before bedtime and maybe he has “outgrown” how long he’s awake now. I would try a later bedtime and see if things improve. Good luck!

  21. My daughter is almost 11 months. She has slept in her crib, in our room since she was born. I have been getting up between 3-5 times with her. Today we decided to move her upstairs and to break all the bad habits. We did our bedtime routine we have done since she was born. This time I rocked and sang to her, then put her to bed awake. Closed the door behind me and sat on the stairs and waited. As I watched her from the monitor, she stood up and I was telling myself I could do this! She cried for 7 minutes…. 7 minutes!!! I have lost so much sleep in the past 11 months and it all boils down to letting her cry for 7 minutes!! She slept ALL night. I heard her wake up a couple of times but she put herself back to sleep. 6:15 this morning she is awake and playing with her baby doll. Still no crying! Thank you for all the info! Hoping tonight and every night after are this good.

    • Day 7.
      Just laid my baby girl down for a nap and she went down so well. She watched me leave the room and by the time I got downstairs to the monitor she was nestling in and going to sleep. I have not had to go into her room from 7pm to 5:30am since day 1! Super proud of her. Ladies, it’ll be worth every second of those poor little cries before bedtime. Pretty soon there will be no crying! I’ve got proof!

  22. Hi Alexis! I Just stumbled upon your website and I think you are about one response away from saving my sanity!!! Anthony is 8 months old (diagnosed with reflux and on medication) and we have a few big sleep related problems on our hands! Anthony is not a self soother, at all. He has a VERY bad nurse to sleep association for bedtime and nap time he needs to be rocked, bounced, driven (car or stroller) to sleep and it is only getting worse. It is now taking hours to get him to go to sleep! I will feed him solids (after reading your other responses I will avoid doing this before bed) then bath, massage, pajamas, say goodnight to daddy, book and nurse and rock to sleep. Recently he was been protesting the entire time I nurse and rock. I have tried laying him in his crib, having daddy hold him and sway, music, sound machine, night light, projector, pacifier…pretty much anything to no avail. Recently I have felt so defeated I have just brought him back out to the living room and trying again when I see tired cues. He’s been going to bed around 11-12 at night (we start trying between 7-8.) We tried CIO for bedtime for one week, he cried for 40 minutes for a few nights, went down to 30 another and then back up to 40..this lasted a week and then I threw in the towel because i figured he wasn’t ready. He wakes up about 3-5 times a night to comfort nurse (actively nurses for a very short time and then passes out) I continued the night nursing through the CIO time and am not sure if that confused him and I should’ve just done it all cold turkey. He is also a horrible napper. I get two (sometimes one) 20-35 minute naps a day. And LAST but not least he has just learned to crawl and sit up from laying position..no matter how dead of a sleep he is in the SECOND I set him in his crib he sits up and wakes himself up and I am left to start the routine over, this has been going on for about 2 weeks so he is now sleeping in a swing :/ I try to comfort him in his crib as I know he is sleepy but he just cries and cries until I pick him up, if I nurse him..typically he will go right back to sleep or pops up wide awake. Hopefully I gave you enough information for you to help!! I am starting to lose it! I haven’t slept, let alone in my bed…for 8 months!!!
    Crystal recently posted..How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime EditionMy Profile

    • Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it sounds to me like you are sitting squarely in CIOsville. Your poor little guy wants to sleep so badly but he just simply does. not. know. how. without your help. And the older he gets, the less effective your help is, i.e. the nursing/rocking/bouncing etc. basically stops working.

      The answer to your problem is to follow the instructions in this post exactly. If you commit FULLY to CIO at bedtime for a couple of weeks I think it will solve your problem. It will likely suck but this baby is begging to learn how to fall asleep and he’ll be so much happier once he figures out how to do it! I know how hard it is, believe me. :-(

      Once he can fall asleep on his own at bedtime, the next question is what to do when he wakes up in the night. You say he nurses for “a very short time” which tells me he’s not needing food, just his sleep association. So probably no more milk at night is the right answer. But if you do think he’s getting some significant amount of milk at night, maybe keep one night feeding at a time you decide and wean off of that later after everything else is fixed. Good luck!

      • Thank you kate!! Do you think I should be doing ferber or full extinction? I have no problems with doing the checks and being in and out. Lately he has just been sucking for literally less than a minute and passing out. But if I do not go in there to let him comfort suck back to sleep he is screaming flopping around his crib and sitting up like a crazy man! Which also brings me to ask..he is sitting up in his sleep A LOT- if I’m doing CIO, what do you recommend I do when he does this? Thank you!!

        • Ferber vs. full extinction is really up to you. Alexis has a post about this–the research says they are equally effective. Despite that she usually recommends full extinction, but Ferber worked well for us. Just be sure you do your periodic checks correctly, i.e. keep it very brief, just a few soothing words to let baby know you haven’t left him and it’s time to sleep. I did Ferber because I was so very opposed to CIO that when I finally decided I HAD to do it, I couldn’t imagine not at least checking in on him while we did it.

          Sitting: If you decide to do Ferber and find him sitting when you go in, you could lay him down again. In general though I think the thing to do about the sitting up is nothing. He will eventually figure out that he has to lay himself back down.

          Of course all of this comes with the caveat that I’m no expert–just a mom of one little guy who had a major nurse-to-sleep association like yours. I think for you it will be very important to make sure there are at least 15-20 minutes between the last nursing and going into his crib. That tripped me up for a few months at first. When he nursed too close to bedtime he kept waking up all night long, even though he was falling asleep on his own.

          That little guy is now almost 3 and he’s been quite a good sleeper for a long time now. So hang in there! You can do this.

  23. My son is 11 months old and we started CIO 3 days ago. He never cries very long at bedtime of at all, so we have mainly focused on naps. This morning we put him down at 10. He woke up at 7:15 that morning. He cried for over an hour so we finally got him up at 11:15 with no nap. We put him down for his second nap at 1:30. He only cried for 5 minutes but then woke up crying less than an hour later. I’ve tried CIO when he wakes early from naps and it has never worked. Will rocking back to sleep in these situations just mess everything up? I’m just so confused. I think he is transitioning to one nap as well because if he does take a good morning nap, he rarely takes an afternoon one.

  24. hi, just wondering if anyone can help.
    we started cry it out with my son 2 weeks ago. it only took 3 or 4 nights for him to settle into being able to go to sleep on his own. since then he’s gone to sleep fine and slept straight through every night.
    then last night he cried for 35 minutes before he went to sleep, and tonight he cried for 20 minutes before he went to sleep.
    he’s 7 month old and not going through anything new developmentally as far as we can tell.

    thanks in advance for any replies

  25. We did CIO at 6 months old,my daughter is now 10 months. I had not read this and probably did it somewhat wrong, but it worked. Previously she had been in our bed and using me as a pacifer. We were trying to get her in her own bed. We would put her down, she would sleep 2-3 hours and then be in my bed waking up every hour and using me to fall back asleep. We did full extinction. Started a bedtime routine which did/does include rocking/nursing. The first night she woke up at 10 or 11 and cried for an hour. After that night she was basically sleeping until 4 or 5 am, eating and then sleeping another 1.5 hours.

    Now to my problem. This has stopped. She is 10 months old. Same bedtime routine that ends in rocking/nursing. She sleeps 7-8 hours. At about 3 am she wakes up and I’ve been nursing her. She sleeps 2 hours. Then from 5-7 am it’s an up down, up down battle. Usually she comes to bed with me at 5:30 and by 6 I put her in her crib with toys to play for a while before I finally get up. This up and down starting at 3am is KILLING me! Also, her naps are just OK. Sometimes she takes 2 45min -1 hour naps but it can be a battle, especially at home. At daycare she is better about it.

    What should I do? She really doesn’t need to nurse at 3am. I can justify a 4 or 5am feeding, but not earlier. Should I CIO if it’s before 4am? Should I change our bedtime routine and try to stop the rocking/nursing to sleep which I know is technically against the CIO method? She does sleep 7-8 doing this. It’s just after that that’s the problem. Also, there are some nights where she is kind of awake when we put her down because the rocking just isn’t working and she does go to sleep. Sometimes we try that, especially at nap time and it’s a no go. I know this is all over the place, but we need help!

    Thanks,

    Elena

    • I think you need to shift nursing to earlier in the bedtime routine. She still has a sleep association with nursing/rocking at put-down-time, and that is likely messing her up. She’s making the sleep transitions ok early in the night, but at 3 am she gets into a very light sleep phase and can’t make it back to sleep without rocking/nursing. So you want to put a good 15-20 minutes between the end of nursing and going into bed. She needs to go into her bed fully awake, NOT having just nursed. This can be hard–I really struggled with it too. But I think it will solve your problem.

      Have you read Alexis’s three part series on here “What you Need to Know about Sleeping Through the Night”? All the basics are in there, and it works! Good luck–let us know how it goes!

      • Thanks Kate.

        Last night we made some changes. I nursed and gave her a small bottle after dinner, before her bath. Then I got her ready for bed and did the usual music box and sound machine while I walked her around and sang to her for a bit. I put her down awake with a lovey. She did not cry at all and went to sleep. She woke up at 4am. I did nurse her. It was really short though. She went back to sleep until 5:45am. She came to bed with me and nursed then was awake and ready to go. I let her play in her crib with some toys for about 45 min before I had to get up. This is an improvement and I’m hoping that she will progressively wake up later and later. If I do nurse her, I’m going to try to make it shorter and shorter, or just pick her up and not nurse her. Should I let her cry at 4am? She is 10 months old.

        • Elena, that’s fantastic! One little tweak with the bedtime routine and it sounds much better already? In general based on my experience and everything I’ve read on this site, crying at 4 am just leads to miserable baby and miserable parents, not more sleep for anyone. So I would say for now, keep feeding her at 4 am at least until her wakeup time is consistently in the 6 am range, THEN work on shortening that feeding and maybe you can make it go away?

          My son was like 21 months old before he finally stopped waking at 4 am wanting to nurse (I know, crazy town.) But when that 4 am wakeup went away, he started waking up ready for the day at 5! So he was “sleeping through the night”, like 7 pm to 5 am. No bueno. Younger babies seem to do that too based on what I’ve read here, so if your choice is between 4 am feeding and 5 am “up for the day,” if it’s me I keep that 4 am feeding. Whatever happens, you are on the right track!

          • Thanks for the positive support Kate. I have to stop comparing her sleep to other’s. She is a super happy and loving girl, so even if she’s not sleeping from 7pm-6am like some babies, she’s doing ok. I agree that crying it out at 4am seems like it would be counterproductive. I’m just hoping she keeps sleeping a little longer each night with this new routine. I’m just so proud of her for going to sleep last night without crying :-) Also, she fell asleep on our way home from daycare and woke up a little after 6pm which helped her stay up until 8pm. This might have had something to do with it too. She used to do 3 short naps a day, but lately she hasn’t been getting the 3rd one at daycare. I’m going to see what this week brings and hope for the best. Fingers crossed!

            • You’re so right. No comparing! She’s doing really well. I always just tell myself that the babies who sleep 7-6 have liars for parents. :-) There’s some truth to that I think, and anyway it makes me feel better.

            • So we are on day three of changing out night time routine. I thought it seemed to be improving after night 1 when when she woke up at 4 and 6:15am. But… for the last two nights it’s been 3am and 5:45am and then 3am, 5am and 7am. When I go in at 3 and 5 it takes maybe 5 min of nursing for her to go back to sleep. If I don’t go in, like the first night she was awake and doing some crying for an hour.

              Even though she goes right back to sleep, I can’t and end up awake in bed and then exhausted at work.

              Here is our night routine, should I change something else?

              Pick up from Daycare between 5 & 5:30pm

              Sometimes she falls asleep for 20-30 min on way home or once home. This has not seemed to affect her positively or negatively.

              I nurse her either right when we get home or after she wakes up from the short nap.

              Sometime between 6 & 6:30pm: Dinner

              Play a bit, read stories etc.

              Small formula bottle (2-3 oz)

              7:15ish – Bath, PJs, Lights out, Turn on music box/and sound machine. Sing song songs and walk or rock in dark until music box stops (sometimes I rewind it and do one more round of songs if she’s taking a minute to settle)

              Sometime between 7:30 and 8pm: Put down in crib awake with lovey.

              I am TIRED. It’s been 10 months since I’ve had a full night of sleep without interruption. I’m still wondering if I should CIO at 3am since I know she’s not actually hungry at that time, just looking for mommy. I also think she just got on a new clock somehow; sort of how even on the weekends we often wake up when our weekday alarm would normally go off. If that’s the case, how do I change that?

  26. My son is 4.5 months old and I am on day 3 of CIO with checks and so far it is going great. It took around 25 minutes the first night and only took him 8 minutes to fall asleep last night. The problem we are having is that he is having really early wake-ups (4:45/5:00am). He is still tired and yawning/fussy within minutes of waking. You say that it is unlikely that he will fall back to sleep at this time after 20 minutes. If I begin his day and feed him at this time, I’m worried he will always wake at this time ready to eat. I’m not sure how to handle this. You said it is probably temporary but how can I be sure not to reinforce this early wake time?
    Christina recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

    • Many babies hang on to a 4/5 am feeding for a long time. They will do a quick pre-breakfast in the dark and then back to sleep for another hour or two. I used to bring my son into bed with me for that last stretch of the morning, but you can also feed in a chair and put back in his bed if you prefer. But go to him quickly, don’t let him get all amped up or he may have trouble falling back to sleep. At his age he is very likely quite hungry at that time and unable to go a full 11-12 hours without food.

      You’re doing great! My second baby is nearing this age and I’m trying to decide whether to do this now or keep trying to avoid it . . .

      • I guess I’m not getting to him fast enough, because he’s not falling back to sleep very easily at that time (seems to be staying awake about 1.5 hours). He woke up this morning at around 3:30am but rolled around and fell back to sleep and then he was up at 5. I went in and fed him, but he was wide awake. I took him to my bed and he fell back asleep at 6:30-8. Maybe I should have fed at 3:30?
        Christina recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

        • Try going to feed him right away when he wakes up and see what happens. I predict he’ll go back to sleep easier and then sleep until a more reasonable hour. One night feeding in the 3-4 am range at his age is really, really good!

  27. No it’s not, I agree. Thanks a lot! Good luck with your little one as well!
    Christina recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

  28. Hello, was I do is my son is 18 months and I lay him in his crib with some toys and stuffed animals, his favprote blanket, amd his pillow pet. Then I put on his nightlight and turn the fan away from him just. He sleeps amazing, sometimes until noon, and he takez a few hour nap during the day. My 9 month old xoes the exact same. She was a preemie. But she does the same thing. I let them cry it out before, now they dont cry at all.

  29. Hi. Just wondering how long a baby should be left to cry? I tried this at 5.5 months and the first night I have up and rocked her to sleep after 3 hours of screaming, not crying. The second night after 1.5 hrs of screaming my husband came in and wouldn’t let me continue. Then he went back to sleeping in the guest bed and letting me be awake all night… Until at 6.5 months I broke down and told him I couldn’t do it anymore (I work full time, have a 3 yr old and was sleeping 3 hrs a night tops). Anyway him helping has made it worse. Now he wants to let her CIO again…

    So she doesn’t cry, she screams. Crazy screams. She never cries, easy baby until bedtime. And she doesn’t nap either. (Daycare, she is actually ok at it with me on the weekends).

    So how long is too long? I’m not doing 3 hrs again. I’ve heard 90 min?

    Thanks!!

    • Hi Tipi,

      Honestly that’s a pretty loaded question. Truthfully you don’t want to start CIO unless your fully prepared to commit to “as long as is necessary.” Was 3 hours unusual? Yes but not entirely outside of the bounds of plausibility. Rough? Definitely.

      But let’s look at things from a different perspective: you rocked her to sleep and she went to sleep yes? If she was in pain or physically incapable of sleep for some reason (say a huge ear infection) then the rocking wouldn’t have worked. So the fact that it worked suggests that she is in fact entirely capable of falling asleep. She may not like figuring out how to sleep, and she may be very upset about it. But she’s totally capable.

      Personally I would consider taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture of sleep for your family. A 6 month old kiddo who doesn’t nap at all is a baby who is significantly sleep deprived. IF she’s awake for 12 hours heading into bedtime she’s going to be full of cortisol (a hormone our body produces when we’re extremely overtired) which is a stimulant, which is going to make it really hard for her to fall asleep. So I would look at naps and see if there is anything that can be done to improve things there first. Or at minimum try CIO on a Sunday night after she’s napped with you for 2 solid days.

      But there is no limit. If you let her cry for 90 minutes and you go rock her to sleep then you’re effectively wasting that 90 minutes of crying or possibly worse, you’re encouraging her to cry because if she fights sleep long enough she’ll get what she wants – you rocking her to sleep. I know this makes me sound terribly cold and harsh but this is the reality.

      One option might be, as she loves rocking, is using a swing to help transition her into sleeping alone. The swing CAN be used for CIO but I would encourage:
      a) a swing with a 5-point harness and
      b) a night vision monitor so you can make sure she’s not getting tangled up in any way

      SO if the crying is not OK with you, while she’s still young-ish, you could commit to that strategy.

      Good luck – we’re all rooting for you!
      Alexis
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

  30. Do I really need to take away the paci? He can stick the thing back in his mouth by himself. I think he’s only ever fallen asleep 2x without it

    • Does he demand that you schlep back in and give it to him during the night? If “no” then it’s probably not an issue. Sometimes sucking to sleep (with a paci) maintains the suck=sleep association which can make night weaning a challenge. But if you put a few pacis in the crib and he happily finds them and reinserts them himself then it’s probably not an issue.
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

      • Thanks for your response. He does find it & reinsert himself. I just recently got comfortable with the idea of CIO but then I read the part about no pacifiers, and wasn’t prepared to wean him from the paci yet. My 8.5 month old has been falling asleep on his own for naps great & when he first goes to bed with a little bit of a fight. We were co-sleeping after he woke up to nurse(12ish) but that wasn’t working anymore. The last 2 nights, I put him back in his bed to sleep and he cried about an hour each night. He was full, his diaper was clean & his pacifier was in his mouth while he was crying. My husband said, from the baby monitor, it looked like he fell asleep kneeling. If it was just once that he woke, it would be easier, but he continues to wake every 2 hours. I don’t feed him or pick him up until around 4 am, but at that point I put him back to bed asleep. Any tips? Will it get better soon. He is certainly a challenge during the day, being overtired.

  31. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a baby (9 mo.) who has learned how to pull himself up to standing but hasn’t quite gotten the hang of sitting down from standing? Side note: love your website, it’s so welcoming and supportive.

  32. thank you for your reply. things settled down again after about 4 nights.
    we were wondering if you could give us some advice on cio at nap times please? at the minute he still has his dummy for nap time’s along with white noise and being pushed in his pram to go to sleep.

  33. Hi! I found this post super helpful in figuring out our bedtime strategy for our 12-month old. After about a week of sleep training at night and making naps happen however we can, I am starting to think about when and how to tackle napping and wondering whether you have plans to do a write-up on that any time soon! (For us, currently bedtime is great–fingers crossed it stays that way–but we have a night-eater (so we are slowly pushing back that middle-of-the night feed) and a good napper (who still needs help falling asleep for his nap/naps.) Right now I am inclined to work on improving our nap routine but hold off on making him nap on his own for a while.)

  34. Greetings from Melbourne! I have been lurking on this site for MONTHS and thought I’d contribute our experience.

    First child now just over 3yo and has only been sleeping alone in her own room since no. 2 was born!

    Baby no. 2 is now 8.5 mths old and sleep went downhill from 4 months, then even worse from 6 months. We started bringing her into bed with us at first waking (which subsequently became earlier and earlier). I nursed her to sleep each time but it was getting more and more difficult to put her down, night wakings were frequent and boob was required at least 3 times.

    Four days ago I started CIO at bedtime, using all the advice here. I was nervous but committed. Braced myself. Bought another bed to put in her room so I could “camp out” more comfortably. First night she cried 18 min with me shushing. Second night 3 min with shushing. Third night I was confident enough to just leave her. 18 min crying. Tonight…..zilch!!! First 2 nights I shushed for night wakings but last night just left her to it and she whinged a couple of times but went back to sleep. I’m still feeding twice but will reduce to one feeding at 9 mths.

    I finally feel in control! I can watch crappy TV and eat timtams without getting up multiple times! I can talk in bed with hubby! I have an unnecessary bed!

    Thanks Alexis and thanks everyone sharing their stories. It gave me a much needed kick up the arse.

  35. Hi Alexis! I found your site about 2 years ago when we had our first daughter and I was up all night nursing and wondering if I would ever sleep again. Your site saved me and your advice got me through some rough nights. Thank you! I’m wondering if you think we need to try CIO with our 2 1/2 year old? My daughter used to be the best sleeper, practically putting herself to bed every night and sleeping 11-12 hours. Recently, she has started fighting bedtime with all of her might. We have an 8 week old now and we moved the 2 1/2 year old to a big girl bed about 2 months ago, so I’m sure all of the changes are not helping, but we have kept to the same routine (bath, book, snuggles, bed) and she goes to bed around 7:45-8pm. However, now she is screaming and crying for hours, jumping out of her bed (which makes me nervous as I don’t want her to get hurt), begging for one more book, one more kiss, crying for mommy..basically, it’s torture every night now. No one is sleeping b/c it takes hours to get her down and then just a few hours later she will be back up and screaming. We never really let her sleep in our bed except for a few times here and there but she is also begging to come sleep with mommy and daddy, but with the 8 week old in our room nursing at night, that just isn’t an option.

    I’m to the point where putting her in bed, closing the door and leaving her there is the only other thing I can think of trying. We tried that last night and eventually she ended up falling asleep on the floor next to her door. I’d really like to get her back to her normal routine (she used to love her big girl bed), but I don’t know if this is just a temporary phase or if we have done something wrong and I’m soooo tired. Please help! Any suggestions or should we just wait it out and see if this is a temporary phase? Is this just something that two year olds go through?

  36. Hi, Alexis.

    I am having a hard time understanding the co-sleeping bit. We are on our first night of CIO. She cried for 1 hour 25 minutes and fell asleep. Usually, I bring her to bed with me at 4ish/5ish to co-sleep until 8-9. What I don’t understand is how this won’t confuse her. At that time it’s still dark, it’s still “night”. How will she know to differentiate? Won’t it set her back at bedtime as well?

    • Well in an ideal scenario you would be fully consistent in where she sleeps. “Bed hopping” (starting the night in one bed and finishing in another) is often associated with lower overall sleep (because kids have to fully wake up to switch locations).

      That being said many people enjoy co-sleeping in the early morning and many babies do this successfully, meaning the 5 AM co-sleeping doesn’t blow things the rest of the night. If the 5 AM waking starts moving up on you (4 am, 3 am, etc.) you may have to re-evaluate your strategy. But as long as she’s sleeping through till 5 ish consistently it’s probably just fine!
      Alexis recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

      • Okay. And naps. You say it’s better to establish bedtime first and then work on naps? You said you’d post on this soon. Is there a blog you can direct me to regarding this yet?

  37. Hi Alexis,

    Wow! You have changed our lives, thank you! Our 4.5 month old had a serious paci habit that had us up 15+ times a night, despite a great bedtime routine (where we separated bottle from sleep, took 30 mins to complete, swaddled, used white noise and music on repeat all night). We talked to our doctor and because he is a big boy (21 lbs! – almost 11 at birth) she approved CIO for him to eliminate the paci. We did not eliminate his two regular night feedings at 11:30 and 2:30 – we will night wean in a few weeks. After the hours of reading I did on your site, following all the rules you outlined, CIO wasn’t so bad!

    Day 1: 20-30 mins on night 1 plus a few night wakings and a 4am “up for the day” (11 total hours of sleep)
    Day 2: 10 mins of crying and a 5am wake up (12 total hours of sleep)
    Day 3: NO crying and a manageable 6am wake up! (11:15 total hours of sleep)

    Our boy is finally rested and is eating and napping better after only 3 days. I think he hated the paci maintenance as much as we did.

    We have been using the paci and swaddle (and music and white noise) for naps, per your advice, to make sure he is really well rested going into CIO.

    But here’s the kicker: Today, the morning after Day 3 of CIO – HE LEARNED TO ROLL FROM BACK TO TUMMY! No more swaddle. I am terrified this will set us back. But we are making the immediate switch to a snug sleep sack where his arms are exposed. I like to think that all the extra rest the last 3 days made his brain strong enough to conquer this milestone.

    My questions are these:
    1. How long should we wait before we stop using the paci at nap time? With the paci he generally hangs in his crib quiet for a few mins and goes right to sleep for 1-2 hours – no popping it in and out like we used to do at night.

    2. Any tips for our swaddle conundrum? Or good sleep sacks/swaddle transition products you can recommend?

    3. He has a really hard time making it to his 7pm bedtime (we usually cave and start the 30 min night time routine at 6 or 6:15) – we have been doing 4 naps with the last one being a cat nap from 4:30 to 5:30 or so, but sometimes he won’t go down for this one, or we wake him up from it and he is majorly grumpy until bed time. My plan is to embrace the 4th nap for now and continue to push bedtime 15 mins each day until we get to 7pm and see if he wakes up a bit later than 6. What do you think?

    Again, thank you for your practical and detailed advice. You’re a life saver – our smiling boy is proof!

    • Update: Things are not going well without the swaddle. It’s almost impossible to get him napping more than 45 minutes the last two days, and there have been way more night wakings as he wriggles all around his crib flipping over and putting his hands to his mouth and face. As I write this he has been screaming for 20 mins since waking 2 hours after he fell asleep. All of our amazing progress is gone. How long can I expect the cold turkey swaddle adjustment and rolling over obsession to last? Please help.

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