Does Cry-It-Out (CIO) Work?

Crying it out

Short answer is sometimes yes. Crying-it-out (CIO) is a controlled crying method of sleep training. It requires baby to cry at set intervals without parental or care giver support or comfort during that time frame. The goal of controlled crying is to teach baby to sleep longer.

Resilient babies tend to do well with crying-it-out. However, because it's so common to recommend controlled crying for babies, many parents and caregivers are not aware about what to look for to know if crying it out is NOT working. If baby sleeps longer, we assume it worked. Sleep is not the only indicator that CIO has worked. It's recommended that parents analyze the entire child's behavior to assure that CIO has worked.

Here are some of the negative reactions to CIO that would indicate, that despite child sleeping longer, CIO did not work.

  • Baby becomes clingy.
  • Baby becomes somewhat indifferent to parent (often times moms will mention how their baby doesn't seem to care if parent comes or goes).
  • Older baby/toddlers may become aggressive towards parent and/or other children.
  • Parent needs to repeat a process of CIO when there's been a change in life (after vacation, after visitors leave, after baby has been sick...).
  • Baby continues to cry after a few day of attempting CIO.
  • Baby begins to throw up during CIO.
  • Baby seems down or shows signs of depression.
  • Baby has developmental delays.
That baby slept longer is not the sign that crying it out has worked. Look at the entire child's behavior to ensure that CIO has worked. If you've found that your child has one or more of these within a few months of CIO, you may have a child that did not respond well to CIO. According to research by Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally recognized authority on brain development and children, "During the first three years of life, the human brain develops to 90 percent of adult size and puts in place the majority of systems and structures that will be responsible for all future emotional, behavioral, social, and physiological functioning during the rest of life."

In my years of experience working with families, I found that we can achieve solid sleep for the child, without the use of CIO. And for parents who do not want to use CIO, my Gentle Sleep Coaching gives their child secure sleep (in their crib, child's bed or co-sleeping), while also learning fundamental sleep concepts that will benefit the entire family for years.

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The content of Granola Babies blog and website is for educational purposes and not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.