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Saturday
Jul052008

Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us

Intuitively and instinctively, the cry it out (CIO) method (also known as sleep training or ferberizing or controlled crying) of getting a baby to sleep is not something I ever felt comfortable with. And as I did research on infant sleep, I learned about what normal infant sleep is and I also learned more about the reasons why the CIO method is harmful. There are numerous scientific and emotional reasons why we have chosen not to let our babies cry it out, which I have summarized below.

1. Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies' brains


Babies cry. They cry to let us know that they need something. And when we don't respond to those cries, it causes them undue amounts of stress. Science has shown that stress in infancy can result in enduring negative impacts on the brain. Prolonged cries in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. Excessive crying results in an oversensitive stress system (likened to a faulty burglar alarm in one book) that can lead to a fear of being alone, separation anxiety, panic attacks and addictions. Harvard researchers found that it makes them more susceptible to stress as adults and changes the nervous system so that they are overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress in infancy can also lead to an over-active adrenaline system, which results in the child using increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence. Another study showed that persistent crying episodes in infancy is linked with a 10 times greater chance of the child having ADHD, resulting in poor school performance and antisocial behaviour. However, if you consistently soothe your child's distress and take any anguished crying seriously, highly effective stress response systems are established in the brain that allow your child to cope with stress later in life.

2. Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development


At an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings demonstrating that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.” More specifically, other studies have found that babies whose cries are ignored do not develop healthy intellectual and social skills, that they have an average IQ 9 points lower at age 5, they show poor fine motor development, show more difficulty controlling their emotions, and take longer to become independent as children (stay clingy for longer).

3. Cry it out can result in a detached baby


Researchers have shown that although leaving a baby to cry it out does often lead to the cries eventually stopping, the cries do not stop because the child is content or the problem has been alleviated. Rather, they stop because the baby has given up hope that a caregiver will respond and provide comfort. This results in a detached baby. Detached children are less responsive, appear to be depressed or "not there" and often lack empathy.

4. Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship


A child that is left to cry it out is less likely to turn to the parents in times of need. Being attended to as a baby is the most basic of needs and if a child learns at that point that she can count on her parents to respond to her needs, then she will also turn to them later in life when she needs their support. But I worry that if I leave my children to cry it out, then they will not see the point in reaching out to us if they have problems later in life and could try to deal with serious issues like bullying, drug addictions, teenage pregnancy, gambling problems, or flunking out of school on their own or turn to peers. Unfortunately, those problems are often too big for a teenager to be left to deal with alone or with peers and it can have disastrous results ranging from making poor decisions all the way to committing suicide out of a feeling of hopelessness.

5. Cry it out can make children insecure


Children whose caregivers are not consistently responsive and sensitive, often become insecure. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals are likely to be comfortable depending on others, can develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). Parents that use the cry it out method often do so because they are afraid that their children are becoming too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.

6. Cry it out often doesn't work at all


Some babies will not give in. They are resilient or stubborn enough that they refuse to believe that their parents could be so cruel as to leave them to cry to sleep. So instead of whimpering a bit and then drifting off to sleep as some supposed sleep experts would have you believe happens, they end up sobbing and sobbing and sobbing for hours on end. Some end up vomiting. Many end up shaking so hard and become so distraught that once their parents realize that CIO is not going to work, the baby is shaking uncontrollably and hiccuping, too distressed to sleep and too distraught to be calmed down even by a loving parent.

7. Even if cry it out does "work", parents often have to do it over and over again


I can't imagine putting my child through one or several nights of inconsolable crying to get her to go to sleep and I certainly can't imagine having to do it over and over again. However, that is the reality for many parents. I hear people tell me that they always let their child cry for thirty minutes to go to sleep. Or that they have to start the CIO sleep training process all over again after each round of teething, each growth spurt, each developmental milestone.

8. Cry it out is disrespectful of my child's needs


So-called sleep trainers will tell you that after a certain age, babies do not have any more needs at night. Some claim this is after a few short weeks, others after a few months, others after a year. Regardless of the age that is assigned to that message, to me it seems wrong. I'm an adult and yet there are days when I need someone else to comfort me. If I've had a really stressful week at work, if I've had a fight with someone that is important to me, if I've lost a loved one, then I need to be comforted. But how would I feel and what would it do to our relationship if my husband closed the door and walked out of the room and let me "cry it out" myself? I'm an adult and yet there are nights when I am so parched that I need a glass of water or I am so hungry that I need a snack. I'm not going to die if those needs are not met, but I am going to physically uncomfortable and unable to sleep soundly. If I were to let my child CIO, it would be like saying that his needs are not important and that to me is disrespectful. To quote Dr. William Sears on the sleep trainers, "Parents let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice".

9. Deep sleep from cry it out is often a result of trauma


Babies who are left to cry it out do sometimes fall into a deep sleep after they finally drop off. And their parents and sleep trainers will hail this as a success of the CIO method. However, babies and young children often sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. Therefore, the deep sleep that follows CIO shouldn't be seen as proof that it works. Rather, it should be seen as a disturbing shortcoming.

10. Our World Needs More Love


Rates of depression are skyrocketing. Violent and senseless crimes are on the rise. As human beings, we need to spend more time being there for each other, showing compassion, nurturing our children. Learning that you can't count on your parents to be there when you need them is a tough lesson to learn that early in life and can be a root of many of the social problems we are facing today. I want to give my kids every chance possible of escaping depression and staying away from violence. And I'm convinced that nurturing them and responding to their needs at night, as I do during the day, is the first step in the right direction.

Those are our reasons for not using the cry it out method. What are yours?

Do you need some gentle sleep tips? See Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips

Sources:

The following sources were used in the development of this post:

Note: Please note that not all of these sources look specifically at crying it out. Some of them look at the risks of excessive crying in general. It is my opinion that excessive crying is excessive crying, whether it happens at night or not. Also, as I discussed in my follow-up post Cry it Out (CIO): Is it harmful or helpful? and Another Academic Weighs in on CIO there is no evidence that cry it out is safe, despite what its supporters will tell you.

Image credit: Anna Szozda on flickr

 

 

   

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Reader Comments (474)

As a Doula and childbirth assistant, extended breastfeeder, babywearer, and natural and attachment method parenter, I have had alot of experience with both CIO and gentle sleep methods. I was 14 when my brother was born. He was easily disturbed and CIO worked for my mom with him. He was also sensory sensitive so the more you messed with him, the more upset he got. I had my first child at 19 and I lived at home while she was a baby. My mother always used the phrase, "sometimes you just gotta let them cry!!!" I still to this day hate when people say that to me because none of my 3 children ever responded well to me just letting them cry wether it was for sleep or anything else. My mother always acted (and still does) like I'm a hysterical parent because of the choices I make for my kids. She says I am killing myself to try to "look" like a good parent. Yes I have put my baby in their crib to cry when nothing else I have done is working because, with the experience from my brother, I know that sometimes, more stimulation means more crying, but if they have not settled down within a few minutes, I pick them up and usually by that time, they are more comforted by my touch. I have also modified several methods to make them work for us. Yes we co sleep, but usually only from 1 or 2 am until morning, because my son sleeps well in his crib (in our room) and gives my hubby and I time together and when he wakes up, I just bring him to bed and nurse throughout the early morning.

I can see both sides of the argument, and I guess whatever works for you, go for it, but for me, CIO is damaging to a baby's nervous system if the baby is crying for an extended period of time. I am not stating that anyone is a bad parent, just that I wouldn't do it for that reason.

November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

[...] a month ago, I wrote a post outlining the scientific and emotional reasons why we have chosen not to use the Cry It Out (CIO) method with our children. In brief, the ten reasons [...]

[...] would never ever agree with the cry-it-0ut method for any family (why not? this), but doubly so for an adoption situation.  Think about it – the baby has been abandoned, [...]

Our first baby is due in a month and a half. But I have to say, reading this post again made me think of when we first got our dog! Everyone told me about how much their dogs love their crates, and I decided to try it, though my family was a dog in the bed family. Anyway, he barked and barked, cried, his little nose ran, and he wet himself. We tried to let him CIO, so to speak, or maybe "Bark It Out." After 3 nights without sleep for us or him, we brought him into our bed and he went right to sleep. So we learned the hard way that our puppy just wanted to co-sleep. (I come from a co-sleeping family that crosses species, too.)

Though I don't think we'll co-sleep with our baby, as my husband can sometimes be a dangerous sleepwalker, I do plan to keep the baby in our room and pick him up/nurse on demand.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterabbie

@abbie:

One thing that I came to realize when my kids were little is that they needed me to sleep with them. My husband liked to have me sleep with him, but really we didn't need to share a bed all night long in order to be intimate. Both my husband and I have spent a lot of time sleeping with our kids in their rooms because we know that they need us when they are this little. We still have decades and decades where we will share a bed. Our kids only need us at night for a small period of time and we can manage not sleeping with each other for that time period if necessary.

All that to say that if you do find your little one needs to co-sleep, but you are worried about safety issues due to your husband's sleepwalking, you could always put a mattress on the floor in the baby's room and sleep there with the baby when he/she needs you.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for this- it makrs it easier to tell people the reasons why in a quick easy way!! I am glad I found you

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralisa

I also wanted to comment back to Abbie... I didn't know about co-sleeping until my boy was a month old when I learned the benefits of co-sleeping, and have been co-sleeping ever since, he's 2 y.o. now! I wanted to say is that the baby doesn't have to be sleeping between you two, in our bed, I'm in the middle =) And it works! We just have a bed rail on his side so he won't fall off. I do have to craw out of bed over my husband to take a potty break at night but that is a very small price to pay to have my little one beside me. All of us got much more sleep and whenever he cries out he knows that mommy is right beside him. I do have a king size pillow between him and I just because he's old enough to be a kicker so the pillow solves that.

I'm very glad we're co-sleeping, sometimes it didn't seem like a great idea, ex. when I didn't have much space to sleep in... but all I had to do is push the boys around a bit and claim my space for the night - lol. I treasure this time very much. I love to wake up in the morning and watch him sleep with his his arms up over his head, his beautiful perky red lips and calm steady breathing (hehe), it truly is lovely.

So if you decide that you can sleep in the middle for the sake of your baby, do so, it's really easy to do and you do get used to being sandwhiched =D Good luck in whatever you decide.

January 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

My 10 month old son does not nap, he sleeps for an hour or two each evening then wakes up and cannot be put back into his crib. It took nearly an hour on the dot to get my 10 month old to sleep tonight but here it is almost midnight and he's sleeping. If my husband were here this never would have played out. He travels alot and I'm taking this two day stretch of him being gone to try the CIO method. I work from home part time which is becoming impossible with the lack of sleep for me and the non existant naps for my son (unless I'm holding him which makes working difficult). I've deciding it's time for my rules to be the law of the house. My son slept from 8:15 PM to 10:23 PM. Once he awoke I fed him and rocked, walked him until he was asleep. It never fails that once I set him in his crib he wakes up. I even waited until he was snoring before I tried to place him in there (he has a cold which is why he snored but his waking up happens regardless of that). I've simply had enough of this happening every night that I had to take action. It was difficult to endure and I searched the internet for a reason to either not try or try CIO the entire hour he cried (checking in on him at 15 min intervals). Now that he's asleep I know it was the right thing. My four year old never woke up during this process which is great but hard to believe. I know all babies are different but if my experience can help someone out there at this time of night trying to justify the CIO method, great.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralp1118

@alp1118: My babies could never sleep in a crib either. Both of them would wake frequently if sleeping alone and you couldn't put them back down, but both of them slept fine if they were sleeping with me. So we set up a safe co-sleeping environment so that everyone got some rest and we didn't have to use any sleep training techniques that we weren't comfortable with.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You make a good point that all babies are different, mine are as well. My first would go to sleep in her crib if I nursed her to sleep and rocked her, this one will if I wear her to sleep. I can totally understand wanting to sleep (especially when my two are sick!!!), but I guess I wonder at feeling like this is the only option. There's a really great book out there called the "No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley and while her methods aren't necessarily quick (which isn't necessarily better!) they get behind the reasons baby won't sleep and what else you can do to help them along the path.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizette

BTW, I would read the post by Dr Mary Fay (look for it within the comments) she says many times there's an underlying medical issue for why kids won't sleep. If I can't sleep as an adult I can go to a doctor and try to figure out why, as babies...they need our help to get to the WHY rather than believing it's behavioural or a battle of wills.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizette

I have to agree on the medical reasons for not sleeping. Some babies can have an adrenal inbalance that keeps them from sleeping long periods of time.

I guess the other ting that I felt sort of disturbed about, is that a person feels like they have to show a 10 month old "who is boss!" how can you really expect a baby to even understand that. My 10 month old is going through some sleepless nights right now, and it's not easy, but I definitely can't imagine "sticking the rules" to him by any means. I guess if CIO worked for you and you feel it was the "right" thing, more power to you, but I personally can'timagine listening to any of my kids scream for an hour for any reason without feeling like something wasn't "right".

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

[...] SIDS had low levels of serotonin.  Babies that are left on their own to cry themselves to sleep (CIO and CC) have proven to have unnaturally high levels of cortisole. Crying to sleep is so unnatural, [...]

You seem to be contradicting yourself here. You say all babies are different, but in the same breath you are telling people what not to do. I had to move my daughter out of our bed at 9 months for medical reasons and I really did not want to let her cry. I bought "The No Cry Sleep Solution" and "The Happiest Baby on the Block". I did tons of research on child sleep. I tried everything that anyone suggested to get my daughter to sleep in her bed without letting her cry. The results? She would scream for hours while I held and rocked her because she knew I was going to put her in her bed rather than my bed. Finally, at the suggestion of my pediatrician, I put her in her bed and left her to cry for 5 minutes at a time. She cried for 15 minutes, then went to sleep and has never had another issue since (she's almost 2 now). That 15 minutes was much less crying than we went through with any of the "no cry" methods.

Yes, if a baby is left to cry for long periods of time, it does cause damage. In my research, that amount of time has to be several hours a day for several months. No one is talking about that when they talk about sleep training. You aren't going to damage your child by trying something for a few days. If it doesn't work, of course you shouldn't force it - the same goes for any method. It's all about doing what works the best for your child.

You also say that you are happy you aren't a "mainstream" parent because you don't do things simply because that's the way it's always been done without question. But really, is it any better to refuse to do something because you read something somewhere that clicked with you and you ran with it; essentially, you are not doing something because someone told you it was wrong and you never really questioned it. How is that better? Go and actually read some of the studies that Kellymom and Dr. Sears are claiming prove their theory and you will find that those studies have nothing to do with sleep training. The study that says excessive crying can be harmful was done on colicky babies. At least do your homework before you start spouting this kind of ignorance.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

(a) I'm not doing something because something I read somewhere clicked with me. I'm doing it because both my heart, my head, and the research I've done all lead me in that direction.

(b) I'm not telling anyone else what to do. I'm sharing our reasons for not doing CIO.

(c) I do believe that all babies are different. Some babies will sleep more easily than others. Some need to sleep alone, some need to sleep with their parents, some need to nurse to sleep and some don't. Some sleep through the night when they are 10 weeks old others don't sleep through the night when they are 30 years old. The fact that each baby is different means there is no magic approach that will teach all babies to sleep, but even if it is hard to figure out how to get a baby to sleep, I still don't feel right leaving a baby to cry to sleep alone.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

If you had really researched and not just taken another persons interpretations as the truth, you would know that there has never been a study done on controlled crying. Ever. None. Nada. I realize you aren't telling anyone what to do, but you are spreading misinformation.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

Actually there have been studies done on controlled crying. Unfortunately, they assessed the immediate effectiveness of controlled crying rather than long-term outcomes of it. But if you had read this post carefully, the note at the bottom, or read the follow-up posts (linked from note at the bottom of the post), you would realize that I never said there were conclusive studies specifically on controlled crying and would understand why.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

None of the referenced you cited had anything to do with controlled crying so please, enlighten me and post a link to a study that has dealt with it at all. You say that there is no proof that CIO is safe, I say there's no proof that it isn't, so you are the one that needs to post this secret information you have.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

My policy is that I try not to subject my kids to things that I am not sure are safe for kids.

In terms of the studies, in the post http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/01/15/another-academic-weighs-in-on-cio/" rel="nofollow">Another Academic Weighs in on CIO, I linked to http://www.infantsleep.org/images/WAIMH_Handout2.pdf" rel="nofollow">Is “crying out out” appropriate for infants? I linked to a paper that reviewed all of the research that has been done on controlled crying.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

So, you breastfed all of them exclusively for 1 year (yes, many doctors argue that you should not give any solids for the entire first year if life), only fed organic foods after you let them start feeding themselves at 1 year, never offered baby cereals, don't put anything in plastic, wore your baby every minute of every day, co-slept or didn't co-sleep, depending on who you asked, don't allow your children to sleep on commercially produced mattresses, don't use any Johnson's products, etc. etc. etc.? Is it just the things you pick and choose, or is it anything anyone says could be harmful for children? Or just the things you know about that could be harmful for children? What about all those things that you don't know about yet that you are doing wrong!?!

Most of the so called "research" from the paper that you listed was done on children with colic and the effects of excessive crying as a result, or studies of babies who are never touched or held by their mothers. Controlled crying is neither of these things. For example, the ADD and physiological responses of crying for 6-8 hours a day. Until you have read each one of those cited studies, don't list it as a valid study. You are still just taking someone else's word for it. You are also cheapening the experiences of those families whose children have endured colic and physiological consequences from it by using that data for your own agenda.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

I breastfed exclusively for 6 months (I'd love to see those doctors saying to do so for 1 year...I'm hard pressed finding one that is actually up on the 6 month recommendation), fed as much organic as possible after that, don't use Johnson & Johnson products, co-sleep using safety precautions, babywore frequently, avoided plastics and got rid of most of it as we became aware of the potential dangers, etc. I do the best I can. Sure, there may be things we don't know about yet and there are some things that are unavoidable (e.g. there are chemicals in both formula and breast milk that there is no way to get rid of until our environment is significantly cleaned up). But with something like CIO, it is easy (for me) to say that I will continue to provide comfort to my kids at night when they need me because (a) I think it is the right thing to do and (b) there could be negative consequences to letting them cry it out.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

But you are basing your opinions on something someone told you, not your own research. And you are choosing a very small fringe population of doctors to listen to instead of larger organizations like the AAP (who recommend sleep training after a certain age). I have no problem with saying "I don't feel comfortable with CIO because it doesn't feel right to me", "it breaks my heart to see my baby crying", "it didn't work for us so we tried something else" but to imply that other people who do choose to use a method that is and has been endorsed by major medical groups are harming their children is kinda a jerk thing to do. If you are going to imply that someone is hurting their children, you should be completely sure that's what they are actually doing. And if you spend that much time researching, when would you have time to spend with the children you are doing all this research for? Why do you feel the need to attack people's parenting choices (because make no mistake, by saying that someone is harming their children by their parenting choices, that is exactly what you are doing) when there are people out there who are actually harming their children by starving, beating and abusing them emotionally and sexually?

Do you really believe that letting a child cry for a couple hours a night for a week could permanently damage them? If the human species is that fragile, how have we survived at all, much less become the dominant species on the planet? Certainly if it doesn't work in that time, try something else, but you aren't going to permanently damage a human child by letting them cry for that short of a period of time.

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

I think letting a child cry for a couple of hours a night for a week has the potential to harm their relationship with their parents, make them fearful of going to sleep, etc. I also think that we don't know how much is too much and there is no definitive way to say that every human will be okay with being neglected for X number of minutes and every human will be damaged after being neglected for Y number of minutes. Each person is different and I'd rather err on the side of caution and would prefer that others do too. But obviously I cannot make that decision for them and although I think CIO is wrong, I recognize that other parents have the right to make their own choices.

Obviously I'm not going to convince you of anything, but I'm also not going to back down and say "OMG because she accused me of researching instead of spending time with my children I obviously need to shut up". Give me a break. I have plenty of other posts I could point you to on my blog that outline the reasons why I write about how we can become better parents, how I feel about the "don't judge me" requests, and so on. I would point you to them if I thought that you were actually listening and interested, but I don't get the sense that you are. You're obviously here just to tell me that I'm wrong and I'm not going to change my mind on this issue, so I'm going to go hang out with my kids instead of arguing with you.

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I certainly am not trying to shame you into arguing less - I am just trying to point out that there has to be a line between research and actually being a parent. Where it ends for you is completely your choice.

I also don't want you to back down in your beliefs - I just don't like that you say you aren't judging anyone in one breath and then in the next you say that if they do this, they could harm their children. Because really, if you saw someone beating their child, would you be able to say "I am not judging you, but I don't think that beating your child is right and you should stop, but I recognize that you have a right to parent the way you want to"? I would definitely judge someone who I thought was hurting their child. What you are doing here is basically saying that if you use CIO, you are guilty of child abuse. Gee, I wonder why people get upset about that?

The only thing you are doing "wrong" in my book is that you are presenting your OPINION as FACT and backing it up with fallacious data.

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

The reason that I don't judge is that I know everyone has limits. I think CIO is wrong. Period. But I don't judge parents who use it, because I know that some people may hit the wall earlier than I do when it comes to the frustration caused by an infant who doesn't sleep. That doesn't make CIO good or right, but I can understand why some people are driven to that point. I wish that they could find a way to get better support, rather than having to resort to CIO, but unless I'm living there in their house with them and am there to provide that support, I don't feel that I can judge their choice. That said, people who go hold opinions that babies cries are not meant to be answered, that they just have to toughen up and that say "ha ha....we can't hear you....LOL" as their baby screams for over an hour every night. Yeah...I judge that. That sucks. More on the difference between saying "I don't agree with that" and "I judge you for that" in this post: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/26/dont-judge-me/" rel="nofollow">"Don't Judge Me".

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

So, according to you, you are making a judgment* that people who use CIO have a lower threshold for frustration than you do caused by an infant that doesn't sleep. Yet, you have no idea what other parents have done, what they have dealt with in comparison to you, what their children need or are like, what reasons they decided to go the CIO route, or even what CIO means to them. Again, citing your own arguments on judgment and why you don't think you are doing it doesn't change the facts.

*Definition of judgment: a: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing b : an opinion or estimate so formed

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSigh

Sigh:

I don't know what every parent has gone through, but I have talked to a lot of parents and read the stories of a lot of parents who did decide to go the CIO route (as well as many who didn't). I do know plenty of people who were dealing with less frustrating sleep situations that I was and who did turn to CIO. But I'm not making a judgment that all parents who use CIO have a lower threshold for frustration than I do. I'm just making an allowance for the fact that that may be the case.

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

All I know is that when I had two kids under two, and a husband who was out of town half the time, CIO was pretty much the difference between repeatedly slapping my eighteen-month-old out of sheer exhaustion and frustration, and the sane and happy family life we have now.

And it took less than a week, and less than three hours of crying, to get here. The "cost" is almost entirely theoretical, and not particularly well-argued-for, in my opinion. (well, and there's the hassle of having to listen to a really angry toddler holler for awhile, but honestly, that was the least of our problems by the time I hit that wall)

But the benefit? Priceless and obvious. Chronic sleep deprivation is nothing to casually screw around with, and I think that actually goes double for the primary caretakers of small children and our charges.

Anyway, I thought this whole Attachment Parenting thing was a dying fashion. Do you still meet youngish AP moms? I don't believe at this point you could pay me to read anything by Dr. Sears. lol

Most of my AP friends have young babies. I wouldn't call it a dying fashion.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I guess the other thing I wonder is, do these experts who staunchly oppose CIO have a similar objection to forcing a kid to ride in a carseat? Because I've spent more time than I'd like to remember listening to a baby howl from his carseat. All I could do is make sure he/she was fed, changed, and comfortable, and then say, "Sorry, lil bud. You're just going to have to cope."

My oldest would ONLY sleep in his carseat for awhile, and now I suspect this is because we'd inadvertently trained him to know that the carseat was nonnegotiable. Like, from birth. (even newborns have moms who have to buy groceries.)

Is that "learned helplessness?" and if so, is learned helplessness always such an awful thing for a kiddo?

eh, maybe so. I've moved to what people call "The Heartland" since my eldest was born, and maybe it's just a geographic/cultural thing. AP was pretty fashionable back in my old hometown at that time, and I really think I got into it, not because I believed in it, but because that's what all the Cool Moms were doing. Stupid in retrospect, but the human is a social critter...

Anyway, what I've come to suspect is that there really are approximately 6,124 ways to skin a cat, and I'm not as maternally superior to my grandma as I thought I was back when I was 23. ;) Which, that's kind of a bummer, eh?

[...] baby alone in a room to scream and cry himself to sleep. Even if the sitter had chosen to “cry it out” with her own children, one would think that there is enough controversy about the practice [...]

[...] just at least say that you should for instance read this article before you're sure about this - Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us | PhD in Parenting This is probably my strongest point against CIO, and also a quote from the article: [...]

[...] Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us | PhD in Parenting [...]

My son is 9 months old and only sleeps in his crib from 7pm - 9:30 pm. We then bring him to bed with us for the night. He wakes up every 3 hours to eat (breast feed).

My wife starting working as a nurse. I had baby duty on my own for the first time at night, 2 nights ago. I was tempted to let him CIO, but after 4 minutes of hearing him cry/screen, I decided CIO is not for me.

The journal posted at the top comment is very informative. What have mothers done for millions of years? I bet it is not CIO...

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick

[...] cry without response for extended periods of time? Please take a second to read this if you can: Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us | PhD in Parenting I mean, does making her scream actually work for you? It sounds like it doesn't. So basically [...]

We do/did attachment parenting and are now following positive discipline. We have a child that happily goes to bed around 8pm and then happily wakes up around 7:30am. Why? Sleep training. Sleep training was such a blessing for our entire family. Our daughter is developmentally ahead, happy, engaged with us/communicative, and trusts that we are there to meet her needs. Your post would make it seem that she is an anomaly--but every parent I know who has done sleep training also has healthy, happy and well adjusted children.

Babies cry for all kinds of reasons. Ours had colic when she was really young and would cry for extended periods even when we constantly carried her around. This is normal. It's crazy to say that because a child cries for an extended period of time for a week they will have all kinds (or any) problems later.

"CIO" is not the correct term to use. When people say CIO what they mean is sleep training. There are various forms. And the Ferber method does not advocate leaving your baby alone to cry. I would recommend actually doing some real observations of children going through sleep training before you make judgments (and this whole web page was very, very judgmental and reads more like anti-CIO activism to scare would-be parents from sleep training their kids).

There was a post earlier from a dad with an 11 month old. Unfortunately you should wait to do sleep training until your child reaches 4 months old. Children under 4 months need to eat during the night and do not have the body mass to manage a whole night without food.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

[...] www.phdinparenting.com/2008/07/05/no-cry-it-out/ www.aaimhi.org/documents/position%20papers/controlled_crying.pdf www.parentingscience.com/sleep-tips.html [...]

[...] fought for on both sides of the fence more times than I care to think about. There are a number of reasons for us and many others that cry-it-out is just not the solution. I’m sure there are those [...]

My opinion on the matter is this. I have two children. The first is currently 3 yrs old. He is the best sleeper there is. This could be due to MANY things: genetics, activity, or just plain luck. We did however use the CIO method twice with him. This being said, I disagree with "reason 7" that many times CIO has to be done again and again. We always respond to him now, because he RARELY wakes up other than because of a bad dream or him not feeling well. I know SEVERAL people who REFUSE to let their children cry - as a result: one had to sleep on the child's bedroom floor for the first two years - another child is two and STILL does not sleep through the night. Now, I agree that this time is short and every moment should be cherished. I, however, resent the fact that I am a "bad parent" or my child will have "problems" because I let him cry for two nights. Also, my experience with the Ferber method is this: that you let them cry in SHORT intervals - 3 mins, 5 mins, 10 mins. and COMFORT them between each time. You are still "there" for them and not leaving them. Many have neglected to say this. As if the method is to let your child cry for 12 hours without any response! Again I am NO expert on the matter. All I know is what I have done. I also agree that every child is different. For example: the reason I happened upon this site..... My daughter the past few nights has been up every few hours crying. She IS teething, however she settles down when I pick her up and SCREAMS when she is put back in her crib. She is ordinarily VERY good natured and sleeps very well (9-10 hrs per night!) The fact that she is not still fussing when I hold her says to me that it is more about the attention than the fact that her teeth hurt. I was fully prepared to let her CIO tonight but then I happened upon the first post about the top 10 reasons to not let your child CIO and panicked! I immediately went in and picked her up and comforted her, she is now back to sleep... :P The moral of the story..... No one child is the same. I guess what I am saying is we are parents... not perfect by any means. And you can look up all the studies in the world and still not have a clue. I agree parents need to be informed, but bottom line, do what feels right, what works for you, and most importantly love your child unconditionally. I'm not sure any of this makes sense since I AM a little sleep deprived from my teething 8 month old.... and I know I sound indecisive on the matter and I guess that's because I am. My frustration with many of the comments is that they are SO one-sided and closed-minded. To all the frustrated mothers out there - don't be afraid of CIO HOWEVER realize that it is NOT for everyone and know (you will) when it is too far. Good night.... I AM GOING TO SLEEP!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara

I know you may not see this, as your post was months ago, but:
My oldest daughter was exactly the same way - right down to the "like clockwork" crying (11pm-3am). I tried walking her (post-c/s - that was fun), singing, bouncing, nursing, etc. My husabnd ended up taking her downstairs and bouncing her on his knee for hours every night, just so I could recover from surgery. (This started when she was just a couple days old.)

And, one day, my husband had to put her down in the playpen, whlie he used the bathroom. He came out about 3 minutes later, and she was asleep. Much against my better judgment, I tried it...and noticed that as soon as I left the room, her crying began to wind down. If I stayed there, my simple presence overstimulated her. She simply could NOT wind down and fall asleep, until *extreme* exhaustion took over, if there were people around. So, as soon as she started crying in that way, we'd put her down and leave the room. She got a lot more sleep that way. (We had similar problems with breastfeeding, as she'd get really wound up while nursing, too - way too overstimulated to peacefully nurse - and was always breaking off and relatching.)

However, I don't happen to consider this approach to dealing with a very sensory sensitive child to be CIO. CIO is about not responding to the child's cries, in order to teach them to self-soothe (usually with a lot of rot about making them be independent - because a child who can't yet sit up, crawl, walk or feed him/herself is dependent...they just are). Removing the source (oneself) of over-stimulation from a highly sensitive child is about responding to their need for a non-stimulating environment. I don't know about your son, but I do know that my daughter's cries would *immediately* begin to subside, once the door was closed (provided we hadn't inadvertently tormented her into a massively overstimulated state). Her needs were being honoured, not ignored. The whole point of CIO-style sleep training is to teach the baby that their cries will be ignored, and they may as well give up (never phrased that way, but even people who practice CIO say that, in other words). This simply does not apply to a baby who ISN'T CRYING OUT OF THE NEED FOR A RESPONSE in the first place.

I've talked with people on both sides of the CIO issue who say what I did was CIO. I disagree. And, I don't think CIO is healthy.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Attachment Parenting isn't a fashion. The AP *label* might be a bit trendy, but I was practicising AP in the early 90s, and I'd never heard of it until '05.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I knew people whose babies would only sleep (or only go to sleep) in a car over 30 years ago, and they weren't even using carseats. It's not likely to be about the seat being non-negotiable. It's more likely about the motion of the car or the seat (some of the buckets rock slightly when out of their base).

And, my daughter's carseat was also non-negotiable...and she *hated* it from the time she came home from the hospital until she went into a booster. She cried every time I put her in it for almost a year, and was noticeably unhappy for a lot longer than that. Fortunately, back then, we rarely went anywhere in a car, anyway.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

[...] crying it out has such a bad reputation on the Internet.  This post, which I read while I was researching crying it out, was particularly condemning.  For every [...]

[...] have big emotions. And a good temper tantrum is a great way to let them out. Science has shown that leaving kids to cry on their own can be damaging to their brains and their development, but there is an increasing movement recognizing the value of a “crying in arms” [...]

[...] www.phdinparenting.com/2008/07/05/no-cry-it-out/ www.aaimhi.org/documents/position%20papers/controlled_crying.pdf www.parentingscience.com/sleep-tips.html [...]

July 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCry Baby » Articles

I will start by saying I respect both sides in this issue, and I think both an attachment approach and a CIO approach may be valid for some babies in some situations. I don't judge either side.

However, I do judge people who try to spread misinformation, which appears to be the case here (and at many anti-CIO sites).

I've spent awhile reading this post and some of your others on the topic, as well as many comments and your responses. As far as I can tell, you freely admit that there are short-term studies that appear to support both the effectiveness of CIO and no apparent bad effects short-term. Thus, your argument appears to boil down to two things: (1) it hasn't been proven safe, and (2) you think it's cruel.

As for (2), that's your opinion, and I respect that. As for (1), though, you can actually NEVER prove something to be safe, especially something as difficult to study as long-term effects of a sleep strategy that might last for one week out of a child's entire life. I've seen you object in comments to parents who say they only needed a few nights or even 15 minutes of CIO to get to a child who cries less and sleeps much better. Really?? With all the studies that you even cite saying that excessive crying causes long-term problems, you're going to tell someone who let their child cry ONCE for 15 minutes that she did something cruel, even if it might have significantly reduced future crying spells (which, if they continued, could have resulted in all the damage you bring up)??

The fact is that things we do with children for a few hours could easily have significant future impacts. I don't dispute that. But most of these effects are unpredictable. We stay out with our child in the sun for an extra hour one day at a park, and perhaps the slight sunburn might create a propensity for future melanoma in that place in the child's skin. Can you PROVE that it didn't? Would you judge a parent as harshly for something like that? Perhaps allowing the child to have a couple extra ice cream scoops for his birthday just one particular time contributed to a sweet tooth that eventually led to obesity and diabetes. Maybe if the parent just changed that one thing, the kid's future would have been different. Can you PROVE it wouldn't?

Decisions we make everyday with our children can have significant future repercussions, but all we can do is try to do the best for them. Perhaps by NOT letting the child stay in the sun, he developed a minor vitamin D deficiency that many years later was a minor contributor to osteoporosis. Perhaps by NOT giving the child extra ice cream, and upsetting him, we alienated him a way that ultimately led to a strained parent-child relationship. Can you PROVE these things wouldn't have happened? These decisions are almost never clear-cut.

For that matter, the onus is on YOU in this debate as well. Can you PROVE that the long-term harm from a few nights of CIO is GREATER than the long-term harm caused by sleep disorders or excessive crying in an infant who (for whatever reason) sleep training would have worked after just a night or two (or even one longer bout of crying for less than 30 minutes on one day, which some parents claim worked for them)?

The fact is you don't have proof either way. CIO can't be proven safe, but neither can your approach. Chances are that for SOME babies, a CIO approach might be significantly better for their well-being in the long run. For SOME others, it might be significantly detrimental. How can you PROVE anything one way or the other?

Maybe the number of babies who would benefit from CIO is much smaller than those for whom it would be detrimental. MAYBE... but again, there isn't PROOF. And, regardless, that doesn't say that it might not be a very good approach for a particular baby in a particular situation.

In the end, it all just comes down to your personal opinion that you think it's cruel, because you don't actually have long-term studies to back up your claims, anymore than the CIO folks have. I know in some of your responses you claim something like "this is my opinion," or "these are the reasons I don't do it," but in the end, you claim to cite research in a way that makes it sound like the research supports you.

In fact, the research does not. Studies have shown sleep training to be effective. Studies have not shown short-term problems caused by it. (In fact, they tend to show minor, but statistically significant, improvements in some cases.) The only studies you can cite in response are basically ones done on infants who have been significantly neglected or have excessive crying bouts not caused by sleep training. Thus, there's no good evidence either way, and saying "it hasn't been proven safe" is misleading.

I could make any other sort of outrageous claim like this. I'll make one up: No amount of television viewing has been "proven safe" for children of any age -- even one hour of television watching at a young age might cause changes in cognitive development. Excessive television viewing has been shown to cause changes in cognitive development, as well as contributing to greater obesity, etc. But I claim that EVEN 15 MINUTES of viewing by an infant COULD scar a child for life!! Prove me wrong -- I dare you!

See how ridiculous such a claim is?

You don't like CIO or sleep training or whatever you want to call it. Fine. You have your opinion and you have reasons to back it up. But please don't pretend that a LACK of research supports you, when it could just as well support the opposite view, since the research doesn't exist.

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbob

Excellent post. It is such an old and outdated opinion that it is ok to let them cry it out. I remember as a child when my little brother was born, I wanted to pick him up. But my grandmother (who had good intentions) stated it was the only way that babies received exercise and that it was good for them. In my naivete, I believed her. Until I met my wife, I thought this was the truth. Thanks to her I was enlightened. Thanks for the great post.

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

As a first-time parent, all this information and advice can get overwhelming at times. Still, I'm grateful for forums like this one where I can read about all the experience out there!

My baby is now 3 1/2 months old. I'm learning that if I pay attention to her, she'll really show me what she needs. Right now, and from the start, that is a LOT of sleep. At first, at night, I thought I would try to do "co-sleeping" but my husband wasn't interested in having her in the bed, so we put her in a cosleeper next to our bed. For the first 5 weeks, none of us got any more than 1-2 hours at a time. She kept waking us up with her noises, and we'd keep her up with ours. Finally we moved her next door to her nursery crib where she immediately slept 6 hours straight, and has ever since.

The thing I noticed was how much she cried those first 6 weeks. We thought it was colic, allergies, food sensitivities to my breastmilk, any and everything. Turns out it was sleep deprivation. The other thing we observed was that when she got tired, she was TIRED, and if we hadn't already put her down at the first yawn or rub of the eye, she started to cry. I would hold her and rock her and sing to her, but as long as she was in my arms, she struggled, arched her back, and cried hysterically. So eventually I started two things: putting her down often and at the first sign of weariness; and if she got to crying and it was the "tired" cry, putting her down even though she was crying. In my arms, she'd cry for an hour. In her crib, she'd cry for 5 minutes.

Now I can put her down and if she's a bit fussy, she'll cry for a minute or two, never longer, and fall asleep. She soothes herself by feeling her blanket (swaddled around her) or sucking her thumb. She falls asleep great on her own! I sometimes feel as if, when she's crying, she's thinking, "WHY am I not asleep already?"

I haven't researched what my method is called, all I know is that it works well for us, and we'll keep changing and adapting as our baby grows.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersproutmama

[...] ANSWERS: How bad is it? http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/07/05… [...]

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