Teaching your children to sleep independently is one of the biggest challenges parents of young children face. Which is why many parents put it off until sleep deprivation has them desperate for a way to help their little one sleep without the constant help of a parent. Cry it out sleep training methods aren’t for everyone. Some infants and toddlers learn to sleep on their own with little help. But for those that don’t, when tear-free methods have failed and you find yourself considering cry it out sleep training, here are some tips to make it successful.
What is Cry It Out?
Cry it out refers to any method of sleep training that says it’s ok to allow baby to cry for a specified period of time as part of sleep training. There are two different ways to approach cry it out sleep training, extinction and check and console.
What is Extinction?
Using the extinction method of cry it out means you leave your baby alone to cry it out until they fall asleep, however long it takes. Typically after a few rough nights, your baby learns to fall asleep on their own.
What is Check and Console?
Check and console cry it out methods involve checking on your baby at set intervals and consoling them during the sleep training process.
This is also referred to as modified cry it out. And it can be successful. An example of how this method works is you set a timer for five minutes after laying your child down. Then when the timer goes off, you go into your baby’s room and help them calm down. Then you set the timer for ten minutes the next time. Then twenty minutes. From that point on you check on them every twenty minutes until they are asleep.
Which Method Should You Use?
Most parents who opt for any cry it out method have usually exhausted other options first. If your baby happily falls asleep without your assistance in the form of rocking, singing, feedings, a parent sleeping on their floor, sleeping in their parent’s bed, or whatever other methods you’ve been using to help them sleep there would be no need for crying it out.
Extinction is a difficult method, often as hard on mom and dad as it probably is on a baby. Honestly, for this reason, I like to use the check and console method. However, for some little ones, that check in becomes like a tease and only makes them angrier and more frustrated. So, to know which method you want to use, consider your child’s temperament and your own. And decide what will work best for your family.
Cry It Out Sleep Training Tips
1. Set Up a Safe and Sleep Friendly Environment
Before you leave your baby alone in any room to sleep make sure it is free of hazards. Blind cords and other hazards should be out of reach. The crib should be free of bumpers, blankets, stuffed animals or anything else as is age appropriate for your child. Check out this link to see what a safe sleep environment looks like. You will want to set up your baby monitor to help you check in even when you aren’t in the room. A video monitor is best for this if you have one.
2. Provide All the Comfort You Can
There are ways to provide a comforting environment for your child even without you in the room. Create a bedtime routine and use it every night to help your child wind down and get used to falling asleep at a set time.
Many babies are soothed by loud, rumbling white noise and it can help lull them to sleep during sleep training. A dark room at a comfortable temperature will also help the process. For toddlers over a year old, a small lovey is also acceptable.
Pacifiers are controversial. Although they can be comforting, they can create a sleep association you will have to break later which can disrupt sleep. And when they fall out there is often sleep disruption. However, they do provide comfort and can help with the initial falling asleep.
3. Follow Through
Make sure both parents are committed to using a cry it out sleep training method before you start. This might be a tough couple of nights and you will need each other’s support. Once you start using a cry it out method you need to follow it through. Starting and stopping or otherwise being inconsistent will prolong the process and likely make everything worse by teaching your baby you will give up if they cry long enough.
4. Set Up Distractions
Listening to your child cry is upsetting. There is no way around this unless you leave the house. I know some parents who have taken turns leaving during cry it out sleep training so that they each get a break. Or if there is one parent more likely to fold and give up, consider if they should go for a walk outside.
If you’re staying in the house, rent a movie you’re eager to see. Or commit to playing a board game as a couple, or anything else you can do to distract yourself and resist the urge to give up on sleep training.
5. Have Realistic Expectations
The truth is you will probably sleep train your child over and over again. No one wants to hear that, but it’s true. Every time you go on vacation or they have an illness or their bedtime routine has a hiccup it will be like starting over again. Although, it will likely take less time each time you begin again. It’s not unusual to have to go back to the basics of sleep training several times throughout the baby and toddler years.
Cry it out sleep training methods may also take several nights to work. I’ve seen articles that say it will take two or three days but like all things parenting, it really depends on your child. It’s better not to have a set number of days in your head so you don’t feel discouraged if it takes longer. It takes as long as it takes.
Cry It Out DON’T’s
Cry it out sleep training is difficult enough without making these sure to backfire mistakes.
1. DON’T Night Wean and Sleep Train at the Same Time
Night weaning and sleep training are two completely different things. And need to be handled separately. If you need to night wean before you attempt sleep training, check out these tips.
2. DON’T Start Sleep Training Too Young
Newborns are not ready to be sleep trained. If you try before your child is ready, you are setting yourself up to fail and putting your baby and yourself through miserable nights to no purpose. Your child should be at least four to six months old before you attempt any sleep training method.
3. DON’T Do Naps and Nights at the Same Time
This is too much stress for you and your baby. Focus on one at a time. Usually, it’s best to start with nights. An overtired child who hasn’t napped is going to have a more difficult time sleep training at night. While you’re starting with nights do whatever it takes to make naps happen to improve your chances of success.
Sleep Training Success
The early years with young children present all sorts of challenges and sleep training is one of the biggest. If you’ve determined a cry it out sleep training method is right for your family, I hope these tips can help set you up for success.