Cry It Out vs. No Cry Sleep Solutions

Answers from a few threads that covered many of the different positions about Cry it out vs. No Cry it Out solutions.


General tips:


  • Swaddling, just the legs and leaving the arms free for hand-sucking
  • Using a swing to get her to sleep
  • Putting her in a sling and walking around the house while she dozes
  • Doing a modified cry it out


PSP member stories and experiences:


"I had a lot of luck with Weissbluth, who I think is generally considered more humane than Ferber (actually, in California, where my older daughter was born, Ferber was a kind of dirty word, broken only in a horrified whisper, so I was amused and astonished to find everyone "Ferberizing" without guilt when I moved back to NY!).Basically, though, crying it out is crying it out, and whatever "method" you use, you will get results that have more to do with your baby's temperament than anything else--or so I believe after my two VERY different experiences with two kids. It's a bit of wishful thinking to believe that somehow what you do is ultimately responsible for what kind of sleeper (or eater, or nurser, or whatever!) you end up with, and I wish I'd known that earlier (as if you can know these things without experiencing them firsthand). Of course your actions will have an impact, and Weissbluth is chock-a- block with case histories and suggestions for things like routines and nap schedules and bedtimes and so forth, which I did find very helpful--partly for practical purposes and partly to reassure myself that I wasn't stuck with the very worst sleeper in the history of babies, even if she was waking up every hour or half hour ALL NIGHT LONG at 4 months old!"


"I lived in awe of the people who have the very good fortune to have babies who just sleep--no fuss, no bother, no crying--while also hating them just a little bit (ok a lot) through my sleep-deprived haze. So we became rigorous about naps (time and place), we set a  firm bedtime, and we steeled ourselves for endless crying and complaining, which still happens on occasion even now that she's three. And we managed to get through it, although we couldn't help  wondering what we were doing wrong. And then we had a child who, to our utter amazement, just started putting herself to sleep at around 4 months, and that was that. So choose the advice and/or method that suits you best, use or discard the bits of it that make sense for you and your baby, and try and make peace with the fact that no method is perfect or foolproof, and you just do what you can. And it becomes the first in a series of similar experiences that, I imagine, are what define parenting!"


"I have a 6 1/2 month old daughter and i have to say my experience was that 4 months was a difficult time in terms of sleep. It has gotten much easier. And also with crying. My baby girl needed to cry to fall asleep for many months and it was very stressful. I didn't want to hear her cry. But if we went in to comfort her, it felt like she just had to start all over again. But the good news is that your baby is sleeping well at night. that is a huge accomplishment and much more important than naptime. Also nightsleep gets set before daytime sleep. It's harder for them to nap at 4 months. It will get easier. For me, what was helpful was establishing a pattern - for us that consisted of a regular bedtime, a tape of wave sounds with a heartbeat which really calmed her, a lullaby, and rocking. The rocking definitely gets too much at times. (my daughter insisted that we stand up as well. In fact, she still does, but now we rock her for a few minutes and put her down and she turns on her side and grabs her teddy bear or her little soft blanket that has a duck head. And we leave the room. Sometimes sheplays for a while and then drifts off to sleep. Or she just goes straight to sleep. It's rare that she cries. If she does it's usually just for a few minutes.) What I tried to do, though i wasn't always good about it and my husband was even worse, was try to keep the rocking to a minimum. If your baby isn't fussing, she seems to be asleep, she has a clean diaper and she has eaten,  you can try putting her down and walking out of the room. Look at the clock and decide to let her cry for a short time- just a few minutes - see if the crying changes. Sometimes they need to cry to fall asleep. I think the hardest thing at 4 months is that you don’t yet know the different cries well enough. Now I can tell if my baby is crying a little because she is tired and she is trying to fall asleep or if she is crying because she wants or needs me. At 4 months it all sounded so dire and difficult. But i think in our case, she was just trying to fall asleep and that was hard for her. And it was more important for me that she got the nap and i got the break. Otherwise, we all just got more exhausted."


"In other words, a little crying was worth it. But it was never easy. Also sometimes they need to cry to let off some steam, to make the transition. Anyway, none of this is what i consider crying it out. You don't have to leave her for an indefinite period of time. You could just try it and see if she can do it.  Again, the daytime sleep is harder for them than nighttime sleep at 4 months. So you could also just focus on nighttime sleep and be glad that is going well and know that the daytime sleep will come. The other thing that gets easier is giving them soft things and stuffed animals. My daughter really went for that, but at 4 months I didn't feel comfortable leaving anything in her crib. Does she take a pacifier? What i would do when she woke up at that age was give her a pacifier and put my hand on her chest and she would grab my hand with her arms and go back to sleep. Other times she would want me to pick her up."


"Quite a few people said 4 months isn't too young to cry it out and say it worked for them. Many people assured me it's just a phase and we will work through it eventually. (Thanks for that... I need to remind myself!)"


"Following the Baby Whisperer or No Cry Sleep Solution approaches I ran out last night and bought the Baby Whisperer book and started implementing the pick up/put down technique and the E.A.S.Y. routine today. We actually got three naps today, including one that was 90 minutes! (with a brief wake up after 45min) And while it took about an hour to get her down for the night, it wasn't nearly as exhausting on me and I now have hope that it will get easier each night. There's still quite a bit of crying involved, but I feel better when it's happening in my arms for some reason."


"I agree with the poster who said take him out and nurse him. This too shall pass. i always considered parenting a 24 hour job, tough as that is, but they really need us at night. i nursed both my children through the night for the first two years and they are now 5 and 7 and sleep fantastic. the crying it out is just so extreme and harsh. It never felt right to me."


"I can pretty much tell the difference between momentary murfle and the I-won't-go-back-to-sleep without some boob cry, and I find that if I wait one minute to see if it stops before putting son back on the boob, I can cut out one or two feedings. But the night nursing is the only way I can sleep. I also found that the night nursing actually increased to 3 to 4 between 7-10 months and is now back to only one (11 months) my advice, just follow your gut. if he sounds sad, nurse. if he's just murfling, let him cry a bit."


"I am probably the worst person to ask since I night nursed until my son was almost two years old ( and won't have that luxury with #2) but I don't think that infants are wired to sleep alone or sleep through the night at 6 or 7 months. There are some that do and I envy their parents but that's the minority, I believe. At about 7, 8, 9 months, separation anxiety sets in. Perhaps he is in a growth phase and more hungry than usual. I would try to ride this phase out by being responsive to your child's needs if your schedule allows it. If not, I guess you have to sleep-train him, probably more than once. If other parents have good suggestions, I'd love to read them on the list since I'll have to deal with the same issues in due time."


"Just so you know where I'm coming from...I have also read Weissbluth, and subscribe to a milder form of his methods, but firmly believe in the importance of sleep and protecting sleep schedules. I also like The Sleep Lady's book, which is a nice middle ground philosophy... When my son turned 6 months, he was a totally different creature much more alert, assertive and AWARE. He had many new tricks, as I'm sure your son does, and sleeping became much less interesting than practicing all the cool new stunts. Also, I think it was genuinely harder for him to sleep. The sleep cycles do change, for sure, and the physical stuff is so compelling for them.

It's very difficult to stay consistent when your baby is constantly changing. Just remember that things always keep changing. I try to balance my consistency with compassion - it will mean being less rigid, but not so ever-changing that your baby won't know what to expect.

I caution you to not backslide from your sleep routine, though it may be tempting to bring your baby back into your bed and/or just "nurse it out". Unless sick or teething or otherwise in pain or afraid, nursing your baby in the middle of the night is a slippery slope that happens very quickly ("oh, just this one night" quickly becomes "oh, god, not ANOTHER night of this!") and is so hard for both of you to break. I think it's also an unfair message to send to your baby unless you're prepared to do it every time. Consistency is the strongest message delivery system; sending mixed messages by responding differently each time he wakes, is very confusing to all of you.

If your baby is healthy, has a clean diaper, is a comfy temperature, etc., have your husband go in and do the soothing for a while. That way, you and your baby won't be tempted to nurse, which is certainly the easiest short term fix, but will present hard-to-break long term issues."


"I had the same issue with my son at around the same age. I would just go to him when he would cry and give him a pacifier or pick him up and rock him, but trying not to nurse worked for us and now he sleeps beautifully...I never let him cry it out though, I personally do not believe in that technique at all, on the contrary I firmly believe that comforting him whenever he needed gave him confidence to be able to stay by himself at night..."


"My son was the same way, he gets hysterical if i try to sooth him at night (he is 17 months now and the sleep is fairly constant) I still have to stay with him at night until he falls asleep but he falls asleep without crying so it works for me. i ended up having to let him scream it out when he woke up after i put him down for the night. it is terrible and luckily for us he was usually quiet after 20 min but he would scream that awful scream usually before he gave in and fell back asleep now he cries a bit when he wakes up but will usually put himself back to sleep in a few minutes. i gave myself 20 min and if he was still crying I would go in. I found that if I went in i would be up for the next 1.5-2 hours trying to get him back to sleep so if he fell asleep on his own it was much better and it helped thinking about that when i watched the clock for 20 min. he never took the bottle so i couldn't give him a bottle. That worked for some of my friends. if he is teething you can always try giving tylenol before he goes to sleep and see if that helps."


"Consider Good Night Sleep Tight (yes, another book) - but bottom line is, consider putting him in bed, sitting down next to the crib,soothing him from the other side, hugging, engaging a bit, playing, making it obvious that you aren't going anywhere but he isn't going to leave the crib. Sometimes that approach really ticked off our son around that age, but often and mostly it really helped - he would eventually settle down, play a little, commiserate, and eventually lie down and fall asleep - often looking over to be sure I'm still there. It sometimes takes more time than others but sometimes takes just seconds. The idea is, don't leave him to wail, but don't remove him from the crib - so there isn't abandonment or total capitulation. Sometimes I've had to take my son from the crib – if he really was hungry/thirsty, needed a little nursing, whatever – but most of the time this is what has worked, and still does. Now he's almost 15 months old and has a cute habit of lying down, I think he's going to sleep but insted he starts sticking his little feet or arms out the sides of the crib, knowing I'm going to tickle them a bit - it's a game- I'll engage for a bit, it's so cute, but then I stop, and he goes to sleep. Hope this option helps a bit."


"The same thing is happenign with my daughter who is a little over 6 months. I spoke with parents of older kids and it seems it is sort of developmental. Kids start crawling etc. and really interacting with the outside world around this time. That must be exciting and also scary and produces often restlessness. But in most cases it just goes away after a while. So try to take it easy and comfort your son when he seems to need it. I have found it to be the least nerve-wrecking to just respond to crying at night with nursing. And I trust it will pass."


"I'll just share my experience and hope it helps you.... We too read Healthy Sleep Habits, and we're big fans. My son has been a very good sleeper most of the time since we put him on a nap/bedtime schedule (he's now 12 months), but what I realize now is that sleep training and sleep changes are an ongoing thing -- with each developmental milestone/sleep cycle change it seems his sleep changes. When he learned to crawl, he had night wakings; pull up, night wakings; it has recently changed again, and he is fighting taking his second nap even though he's clearly tired."


"What we have done when he starts crying at night after weeks/months of sleeping straight thru is to go to him, comfort him, etc. Then after a few nights, when we are convinced that he's no longer hurt/sick/extra emotionally needy for some reason, etc, then we sleep train him again. It's much harder than when he was younger since, as you point out, the crying is really intense at times and in our experience it takes a little longer since he's older now.
What we do for the retraining is this:
  - we put him to bed as usual with our bedtime routine.
  - Then each time he wakes in the middle of the night, i go in and say in a soothing voice: "It's ok go back to sleep. We love you, and we'll see you in the morning." We do this so he doesn't feel abandoned since now he knows more about time passing and that his parents can come into the room or not. This is what our pediatrician recommended we do.
  - After a few days of being very consistent, he sleeps thru the night again with no wakings.
One thing our doctor also mentioned about the crying is that when he wakes in the middle of the night (but he's not sick or in pain), he's crying because he just doesn't want to be awake. This helped give me the strength to let him cry - knowing that he wants to go back to sleep as much as we want him to. It also explains why we (and you, it seems from what you write) have a lot of trouble comforting him when he wakes at night. He just wants to go back to sleep."


"Seems like nursing him is the thing to do. I remember that phase too (my son's now 6) and the most peaceful thing to do was to just put our son in the bed with us and nurse him. It let everybody fall back to sleep faster and more easily with a LOT less fuss. It may seem inconvenient orannoying at first, but these phases don't last that long in retrospect. And we all felt much less sleep-deprived and exhausted once we started doing it that way (maybe it's just me, but there's nothing more grating to me than listening to a baby cry in the middle of the night when I'm desperately exhausted to begin with). They DO start waking more, but twice, maybe 3 times a night isn't excessive, it's average... just from my own experience, it seemed like the key to family sanity all around was to find the way to make the middle-of-the-night interruptions as brief and gentle as possible. And eventually you'll get your bed back, too."


"Check his ears. He may have an ear infection (something that kept my son from sleeping for 17 months!) or maybe it's teething? I felt the same way about letting him cry. I think as moms we know which cry we should attend to. The sleepy cry: let him CIO; the hysterical cry: go to him.
Also, if you don't find anything physically wrong with him, ie, teeth or ears, try the fisher price aquarium. A few friends of mine SWEAR by it. In fact, they were shocked I didn't have one."


"My daughter went through that phase as well. My husband and I couldn’t handle the crying it out method. We would pick her up and rock her or sing or let her lie in the bed with us until she fell asleep again. We didnt feed her. Some nights were better than others, i would also try to tire her out before bedtime, so she would sleep deeper. I also believe it was partly caused by teething. She cut her first teeth around that age. Because like your son my daughter was on a great sleeping pattern and then all of a sudden she was waking up way too many times. Then just as it happened it stopped and she is back to her old sleeping patterns again. But she still has some nights, where she will wake up almost every hour. I dont know why, but it still happens but not too frequently- Thank goodness. Hope this helps, i think you just have to ride it out and hopefully it will change back."


Sleep issues with almost 7-month old:


"Seems like nursing him is the thing to do. I remember that phase too (my son's now 6) and the most peaceful thing to do was to just put our son in the bed with us and nurse him. It let everybody fall back to sleep faster and more easily with a LOT less fuss. It may seem inconvenient or annoying at first, but these phases don't last that long in retrospect. And we all felt much less sleep-deprived and exhausted once we started doing it that way (maybe it's just me, but there's nothing more grating to me than listening to a baby cry in the middle of the night when I'm desperately exhausted to begin with). They DO start waking more, but twice, maybe 3 times a night isn't excessive, it's average... just from my own experience, it seemed like the key to family sanity all around was to find the way to make the middle-of-the-night interruptions as brief and gentle as possible. And eventually you'll get your bed back, too."


"A few single-source endorsements:

"I've had great success with the book "the no-cry sleep solution" by Elizabeth Pantley."


"I found The Baby Whisperer to be a great sleeping resource. It tells you how to teach your child to fall asleep independently without leaving them to figure it our on their own.”


"I highly recommend Dr. Karp's Happiest Baby on the block. Skip the book, and get the video. He is all about swaddling, white noise, rocking, etc. It worked wonders for us and other than when she is teething, our 15 month old daughter has a near perfect record sleeping through the night.”


"I would recommend they read Weisbluth's book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," if they haven't already. If they already have, I don't have any other advice, unfortunately  “If they haven't, Weisbluth has a real holistic (if that's the right word) approach to sleep, examining what routines your baby is exposed to (he's very into the idea of creating a routine for putting your baby to sleep the same way every night), the importance of naps and intervals between sleep, etc. He has a lot of troubleshooting in his book -- so they may find suggestions for their particular problem. His answer to most problems seems to be "put your baby to sleep earlier", but his ideas have really worked for us overall. His ideas are much more complicated than simply having your baby cry it out, so it might help them formulate a whole sleep plan."


"Instead of Ferber, i used the Weissbluth method (healthy sleep habits,happy child) which is very similar except that you don't go into the room at all. although this sounds even more harsh at first, i chose the method for a few reasons... “i have twin boys and was worried about going in for one when the other was ok and disrupting the happy (or sleeping) one. i also felt that one of my boys would be furious if i went in but did not pick him up or nurse him. “i am fairly convinced that not going in was better in the long run. it was not took a bit longer that the wonder stories suggested, and we had to repeat the crying it out technique periodically when we had set backs. but i do highly recommend the method and the book. i don't think my boys ever would have slept without it.”


"We tried weissbluth method (which is a variation on ferber) ‘healthy sleep habits, happy child.’ it was tough - our daughter also screamed for the first few nights for 3+ hours, but i eventually got better and to this day she is a great sleeper. we just modified the approach as we saw fit. i.e. if after 45 minutes, we couldn't take it anymore, we gave up for the night and tried again the next. i found that consistency was the key. i did the same for naps that i did for nightime sleep - same routine, same sleep conditions (pulling shades, nightlight, etc.), cio and it seemed to work for us. “each baby is different, though, and what may work for one may not work for another. if they're looking for a no-cry solution, i thought the book "baby whisperer" was very good and had friends that swore by it.unfortunately, it just didn't work for us.”


"We are in our second week of sleep-training, and so far there's definitely been improvement. on the first night, our son wailed for 2 hours straight, then proceeded to cry on and off for the rest of the night (total crying time: 5 hours, i'm embarassed to say). "last night, he cried for just 11 minutes and woke up for feedings at 11 and 3. this is a vast improvement for us since he used to wake up hourly. I am not exaggerating. "also, we didn't ferberize him (meaning we didn't check in on him every 5, 10, 20 minutes). we used the ‘extinction’ method (didn't check in on him at all) endorsed by weissbluth's ‘healthy sleep habits, happy child.’ According to him, for really fussy and determined babies (and mine is one) the extinction method works best. checking in on him would only prolong the ordeal and crying."


"Not sure if this is what the parents might want to hear, but we tried ferberizing with my daughter when she was 4 months old.........the bummer was that it ticked her off more when we actually went into the room, the more upset she got, the more upset we got, the longer our visits in were, etc. - really awful “after three nights of trying the ferber method we realized we weren't helping our daughter so we turned to the 'cold turkey' option - we basically established a nighttime routine, set a bedtime and a wakeup time, and once we put her to bed we didn't go back in until the next morning - it was very tough but it was really important that our daughter knew when we said 'good night, we'll see you in the morning' we meant it...........the middle of the night wakings improved after two nights, the initial going to bedtime improved after 4 nights, and it took about a week and a half to stretch her wakeup time from 5:45 to about 7 a.m. “she slept beautifully (8 to 7) from 4 months to a year - barring travel and sickness - once she hit a year old her teeth started coming in full force and our schedule at home (my husband went back to work and then I stayed home) changed so it was rocky, but we always revert back to cold turkey whenever we need (daylight savings, jet lag, etc.) and it doesn't take too long at all to get back to business.”


"We tried that method with our 4 month old, and after a week, gave up. We started rocking her which seemed to work. Eventually, she just wanted to be put down and not rocked. I can't guarantee that would work, but it's worth something to give up the Ferber method for now, and try something that is more sane for the parents and child. There is also the Weissbluth book, or the No cry Sleep Solution book that others seem to like."


"We tried when our son was 5.5 months old and had little success until we discovered 2 things: he did not like his crib and he did not like footy pajamas. So, now he's 10 months old and still sleeping in his pack-n-play at home, wearing 2 piece pjs. If the baby seems to sleep better "on the road" in the pack-n-play (which is how we discovered it) or spends time grappling with their sleep suit - it might be worth a try to see how they do. Just a suggestion - hope it works. Getting our son to sleep on schedule was the best thing I think we've done so far. what a relief!"


Other advice:


"We did full CIO and had some success: The night waking mostly went away. Maybe once she wakes up to eat-she eats and falls immediately back to sleep. Or if she woke up upon being put down she could nod off on her own. The 2 hour middle of the night bouncing went away.
However, the nights she doesn't wake, she wakes up at 5 am ready to go. Doesn't work for me. So I dream feed her when I naturally wake up to pee between 2-4. She sleeps till 630 those days. I think she just might need a little bit more food at night for now. And I prefer a 30 minute easy night feed instead of entertaining a 5 mo at 5 am. Once a week I drop the dream feed and see if she goes till 630. Not yet, but I'm hoping soon:-)
The initial put down at night sometimes produced no crying but other nights it could be 30 minutes while she tossed and turned trying to get onto her side with her thumb in her mouth. She'd get so worked up that it spiraled and she physically couldn't soothe herself. Those nights we would go in, pick her up and she'd be out in 5 seconds. I was afraid we're were screwing up the sleep training, but she does sleep well once she's down.
So, in a way I just vented and hope you might find something useful here. Ultimately, we've come to the conclusion that we will give her opportunities to fuss and soothe herself, but if it's just not what she is able to do then so be it. You know your baby and I think there's nothing wrong with saying WE are not in a place to "train" tonight. You gotta do what will serve your baby best. It's hard to decide when you know teaching them to self soothe is super important. But I think also getting them to sleep is important too. It's hard to strike a balance. All the literature makes us feel like we're going to screw up the "training" if we do one thing inconsistently. Life just ain't consistent and neither are the needs 5 month olds. Keep at it girl."

"CIO has not worked for us ever. We did start giving her a bath every night because we were finding that she slept longer afterwards.   I tried dream-feeding a few times and it kind of worked - she gave me an extra few hours in the morning. Then I told my mom about it - she's a pediatric dietician - and she said that she's seen a lot of older babies who are dream - fed and their parents are finding it really hard to break the night feeding habit. She thinks of it as force feeding and generally doesn't recommend. However, she's also my mom, a new grandma, and kind of an alarmist so.... grain of salt etc"