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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


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 (477)

[...] it can lead to separation anxiety in the short term and generalised anxiety in the long term. Several studies have also shown an increased incidence in addictive personalities in adults who were repeatedly [...]

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBaby Led Mummy » Blog Ar

[...] someone who believes, based on my instincts and research on excessive crying in general, that the cry it out met..., but that has also been told over and over again by commenters that none of the research about the [...]

We did CIO for our daughter and it only took 3 nights of crying with intermittent reassuring. Now, I haven't personally read the research provided in this article, but I highly doubt that 3 nights of a total of 3 hours or less of crying is going to have a life long negative impact on my daughter's psychological development; that's just ludicrous. I cannot speak for those who tried CIO for weeks at a time, but then again, I've never heard of parents being that stubborn. The bottom line is all children are different, and all of them cannot be categorized by black and white with grey research. I'm not against those who co sleep or use other non CIO methods, but I don't respect those comments that lump all CIO into one "bad" category. You know what, it worked for us and we have a very happy daughter who just started kindergarten and hasn't had any sleep issues since those three days.

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChad

[...] in the first place. Ferber even retracted some of what he said. This is an article I like on it... Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us | PhD in Parenting But yeah, anyway, every parent has the right to do things the way they see fit, and I know we all [...]

I apologize if someone has already asked this, but has it occurred to you that your absolutist view may in fact be irresponsible? I 100% co-slept with my son until he was 4 months old. At about 2.5 months old previous methods of soothing were not working and he would cry for up to an hour *in my arms*, being rocked, shushed, etc. I was at a loss of what to do so I just kept it up for a little while. One day a light bulb went on in my head that perhaps he needed to be left alone and was becoming overstimulated. Well lo and behold, as soon as I started putting him down before getting overtired (this is crucial), he would spend 5-15 minutes fussing (not shrieking, screaming, crying or choking) before going to sleep by himself. He has had an enviable sleep schedule ever since and I do not feel sorry when I see other parents coping with fussiness and brattiness issues that are rare in my son. I truly believe that my decision to move away from co-sleeping (and yes, responding to every whimper in the middle of the night, that was my second epiphany, which came later, but I won't bore you with the details) is a big reason why my son, at 10.5 months is often very alert, interactive and funny when other kids are rubbing their eyes and clinging to their moms.

Does your argument account for examples like mine? I make a point of not pushing my own experience as I am aware that each kid is different and each parent has a different "frustration threshold." I feel that the tone of this site may be an effective scare tactic for parents who could find a wonderful solution *for their children* in cry-it-out. I truly believe that for some kids, a slow move towards "sleep independence" at 4-6 months (I do not believe it is appropriate at an earlier age) is far more beneficial than clinging stubbornly to your principles. There may only be a bare minimum of crying involved!

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth


My "absolutist view" is what kept me from giving in to societal pressure, sleep deprivation, and frustration during the times when my babies were not sleeping well. It is what kept me looking for ways to meet their needs and improve their sleep. I "cling stubbornly to my principles" because I truly believe that my children will be better off and that our relationship will be stronger if I do not leave them to cry on their own.

I find it disturbing that you seem to attribute fussiness and "brattiness" to a parent's refusal to let their child cry to sleep. Do you have any research to back that up?

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I understand. And you have every right to raise your child as you see fit. I congratulate you on your success with co-sleeping and subsequent happy children! (no sarcasm) If it works, go for it!

I just wonder why you can't adopt this attitude towards other sleep techniques and make no distinction on this website between 10 minutes of fussing to sleep and hours-long orphanage-style screaming bloody murder (which I doubt many good parents actually resort to- you can disagree with me on that one). Those 10 minutes of fussing might be the difference for some parents between a very easy baby and a not so easy (tired and frustrated) baby. Parents CAN help create sleep DISorders in *some babies* through over-solicitous nighttime parenting. I don't need any studies to confirm what I've observed with my own eyes (12 month old babies who cannot nap for longer than 20 minutes). Other babies respond extremely well to co-sleeping and would not be happy any other way. This is not a black and white issue, and I don't think it is helpful to make it one.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Me again. :) I just realized you've had this argument over and over. Silly of me not to realize that. Anyway, consider it another vote for the CIO-within-reason team. Have a nice day.

PS- I find it curious that you quoted choice words in my first comment back to me. Your website is full of inflammatory language supporting your view. Please consider a slightly more balanced approach. I know what you think and it's totally fine to think it, but this is a public website and parenting is hard enough without the gloom and doom. Isn't everyone's objective happy babies? I fear the stance represented by this website might lead parents to avoid doing the one thing that would make their child happier and healthier.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth


Sure, there are babies who cannot nap for longer than 20 minutes. That may be partly attributed to "luck of the draw" and may also be that the parents have not done other things that could be conducive to creating a good sleep environment. I don't see crying as part of a conducive sleep environment though. I prefer http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/02/28/gentle-baby-and-toddler-sleep-tips/" rel="nofollow">gentle methods to encouraging good sleep.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Yes, I did quote some of your words back to you. I did so partially to show that I was responding directly to your comments. I also did it because I wanted to ask you about one of your assertions, but "bratty" is a term that I try to avoid using when referring to a child.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

How exactly does a child rationalize to themselves that a parent who leaves them alone is "cruel"...or what exactly "cruel" even is?? Is this to say that a child can recognize other kinds of "wrong" or "cruel" behavior, or is it that they are simply responding to something that is unpleasant to them? If your child suddenly didn't like to have his diaper changed, and cried every single time you changed his diaper, would you stop changing him? No. He'd simply have to get over it. Are children emotionally scarred when they're "wrongfully" forced into the cold world, thus making them cry? Are you trying to insinuate that children who suffer from extended spells of crying as with colic are somehow mentally or developmentally "less than" children with no colic?

None of this makes any sense. Children don't know that something is wrong or right (hence the reason we have to raise them), they simply know if it is uncomfortable or that they don't like it. They don't sit and ponder why, or what the moral implications of their own actions are, much less the moral implications of their parents. If they can't rationalize or understand that Mommy and Daddy need sleep or rest, then they can't rationalize that Mommy and Daddy don't love them (they don't even know that THEY love US) and aren't coming back. They don't have a concept of how long they've been crying, either. They don't sit and say to themselves, "Oops...its been 30 minutes". Besides, if the real damage is done by crying, and not by simply putting a child to sleep in a room without that nifty co-sleeper you forked out $200 for, then you should be advocating whatever method gets your child to sleep with the fewest tears, EVEN if that means you use a Ferber method. You HAVE to realize that your beliefs are based on dubious psychological assumptions about the nature of a child's psyche, and on top of that, they contradict themselves often. So much for the "phd", huh? How does one measure the empathy levels of a 6 month old anyway?? Use your brain and stop making other moms feel bad in an effort to make yourself feel better. If you like AP that much, more power to you, and I'm happy its working for you, but that doesn't mean you have to assume that every family and every child is just like yours and will respond similarly. For someone who advocates being "kind" and "respectful" of a child's needs, you sure miss the mark by disrespecting the individuality of other families and assuming that your chosen method would be best for everyone.

And while you're busy judging and harassing and scolding other mothers, and pontificating about your own greatness to the tune of a 10-point article about the merits of your chosen methods and the dangers of anyone else's method...who was tending to your child?

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

And while you’re busy judging and harassing and scolding other mothers, and pontificating about your own greatness to the tune of a 10-point article about the merits of your chosen methods and the dangers of anyone else’s method…who was tending to your child?

I answered that one for you here Kim:


September 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I really like this post. I see so much flaming, and I'll admit, I'm guilty of it myself (after about 30 seconds of sleep in the past 4 months) so for that I apologize. Thanks, Beth for raising the bar. I was beginning to lose hope that there were other moms out there who just want happy babies and realize that we MUST respect each other, or we'll end up with children who are just as hard to get along with. PhD, I see many of your points, but I find irregularities in other points, which is why I chose to co-sleep for the first 4 months of my sweetie's life...when she started falling asleep in random places and not getting as much sleep at night with us, I chose to implement a very soft Ferber method. I'll admit, its probably not working as well because I check on her every 5 minutes. The funny thing is...I worry more about her needs (fed, clean, warm, sleepy) more now that I have to put her down than when she just went to bed with us. In our bed, she just got whatever made me and Daddy comfy, so I almost feel more in touch with her this way. Anywho...mark me for the CIO-within-reason team, too. Best of luck. Thanks again, Beth!

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Where do you answer the part about how a child rationalizes the abstract concept of cruelty to themselves? Because right now my baby is having a hard time remembering the toy she just dropped, much less a complex intangible concept like cruelty or abandonment...just saying. :)

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

This (and others) response is awesome. How come you don't respond to comments that call to question the very logic of your argument?

I love this post. Basically...absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. thank you,

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Because I get tired of repeating myself. I responded to numerous comments on here that call into question the logic of my argument and even wrote follow-up posts that are linked from the end of the post. I'm happy to let people who disagree with me have their say, but I don't have time to get into an involved argument with everyone.

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I would highly recommend http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/075663993X?ie=UTF8&tag=phdinpar-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=075663993X" rel="nofollow">The Science of Parenting for information on brain research and how being left to cry impacts the child's brain. They don't have to understand a "complex intangible concept" in order for it to impact their brains.

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Kim - it sounds like you have a lot of questions about the potentially harmful effects of CIO but you also sound so angry. The questioning part of your comment is understandable, the attacking is not. If you'd like to read about the science of attachment parenting, look into the psychology text "Becoming Attached". It's not a parenting book. We can't all agree all the time, but we can be respectful. When I read the original post by PhD, I don't find her saying, "Dear Kim, this is how you should parent". This is her blog, her place to share her thoughts. We're guests and the least we can do is act civilized.

I have to add that I find it disappointing that you, as well as so many others who respond, totally miss the positive message of LOVE in her posts. She is clearly making the choices she's making out of love. Who can argue that a parent making a decision out of love, whether they let their child cry or not, is wrong? Our ability to empathize is what makes us human.

The point of all this discourse should be to learn from each other and to try to grow. This may mean stepping outside of our comfort zone to look into something we disagree with and to LISTEN to the voices of individuals who come here from so many different walks of life. When we leave here, some may incorporate the feedback of Pro-CIO parents into their routines, and some may take that of No-CIO parents. If you'd like to learn more about the No-CIO approach, why not try asking PhD or other No-CIO parents how they arrived at that choice. I think you might find it has a lot less to do with science and facts than it does about a person's core beliefs that evolved from the thousands of tiny steps that led them through life up to this moment in time. And this goes both ways. To expect someone to see things exactly as you do would mean you would have had to carry them on your back throughout all the moments of your life. If we aren't here to try to understand where each other is coming from, then why are we here at all? There's way too much fighting in the world as it is.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLainya

[...] sleep hours, to save them up for the times when we would most need them? I want our children to feel loved, safe and secure …… but honestly, 3 and 4 hours of sleep a night is just not cutting it. Have you spoken [...]

Bear with me. It's late and I'm feeling chatty. . .

I have trouble following your line of reasoning re: marriage resilience and putting mommy and daddy's needs as a couple in last place. Regardless of the method, philosophy, or training tactic you may use to get your child to sleep, if you are raising that child with a partner, how you and that partner relate to and communicate with one another is a crucial part of the concept of raising an emotionally healthy child. If mom and dad aren't connecting and intimate with one another, and yes, having regular sex and snuggle time with each-other, then the child will sense that tension and frustration in the family vibe.

A few years of focusing on the child/children to the exclusion of your spouse and his/her emotional and physical needs could very well spell disaster for that couple and, ultimately, their child(ren). You mention the possibility of divorce in your comment here, but only as a problem to focus on as a last resort once everything else has already started to fall apart, rather than encouraging couples to concientiously pay attention to each-other each and every day.

I'm not advocating for going at it for three hours while baby screams in the next room over, but carving out time - and space - for mom and dad to be together is a huge part of the happy family equation.

Our seven-month old sleeps with us and has since she was born. I practice a kind of parenting I like to think of as leading with love. We carry her, talk and sing to her, feed her, play with her, and engage her all with constant love and respect. She is readily responded to, but sometimes she has a good cry because we recognize her complex emotions as something we don't always have the cure for as parents. We also recognize that to have the energy to give her everything she deserves, we need to feel fulfilled and happy with ourselves as individuals and a couple. We cannot parent her to the exclusion of our couple hood. It doesn't work like that. There is always a balance to strike.

I believe you have valid reasons behind your convictions and I respect your point of view and decisions as a parent that you've written about here, but you strike me as somewhat dogmatic in your views and your opinions come across like verdicts from above. There is a tone issue at work here; I think this causes more of the arguments on here than the actual content of your blog.

I'm curious if you and your husband are in complete agreement about these issues, or if there have been tough conversations along the way, trying to find a middle road between the expected variations in how two different people view the complex maze that is parenting. No sarcasm. I'm very interested to know how parents come to the conclusions that they do, and about the process that got them there, and the possible trade-offs. Great sleep for the baby but no sex for a week, two weeks, three?

One more comment, and then I'll step off my soapbox. When labels are applied to anything as complex as all of the choices and love and anguish that go into being a parent, that role is immediately trivialized and for some frightening reason parenting is converting into following a set of rules (or "principles") rather than living in the moment, responding to your child and doing the best you can with what you've got. Labels are labels, no matter how good you perceive the tenets behind that label to be. Every time you attach one to yourself, you paint on one additional layer of self-limitation. I could go down the checklist of "AP" principles and recognize them all in my style of parenting, but I'm not an attachment parent. I'm just me. I'm my daughter's mom and my partner's teammate and best friend. Why do others feel the need for such labels? This is something I honestly struggle to understand.

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Most of the studies that have been done on this topic say that it isn't "crying" that is harmful but rather being "left alone to cry". There is a difference.

Crying alone raises the stress level of a child, yes... but probably not avoidable 100% of the time. When a child is left to cry alone, however, that infant does not suddenly realize, "oh, I'm being silly...mommy and daddy are downstairs listening to me on the monitor and will come up later". Rather, that infant eventually "gives up" and "shuts down" to conserve energy. Two different responses.

I agree that a child doesn't understand a parent's motives but that to me argues against CIO.

You know that you are just downstairs in a locked, secured house. You know that you will be coming back into the room later. You know that you will be feeding your baby later. You know that you have a monitor.

But your child doesn't. All your child knows is that he or she is alone and apart from the sole source of food, warmth, security, and love.

As to your other comments, I think Annie is very clear that she is not out to label parents as individuals as "good" or "bad" parents or to tell people that they all have to parent the same way. At the same time, there is worth in the exercise of looking at research, medical and anthropological and otherwise, and discussing these things.

We are, most of us, trying to do the best we can to raise our children with our values. And posts like these come from a place of love--for children and for other parents, as well.

I linked to this on my blog! Fantastic! I couldn't have summed it up better. Thank you!

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Blackmer

Beautiful! I do not allow my daughter (6mos) to Cry It Out. I do let her 'talk' or 'sing' herself to sleep as long as I can tell by her tone that she is sleepy and not distraught or frightened. If her cries change to 'needy' or frightened I go in and reassure her that I'm still there then leave when she's calm. She usually drifts peacefully off to sleep without a single peep while listening to music and snuggling 'pink bear' and sleeps 12-14hrs at night.

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNia'sMama

[...] and let their baby scream. And sometimes those searches bring them here, to my blog, to my posts on Cry It Out: 10 reasons why it is not for us and Cry it Out: Is it harmful or [...]

My $.02
I have found, for myself, that sometimes my feelings influence my baby more than I might imagine, for example the more tired I get the less I am able to conceal my frustration and anxiety at bedtime, my babe picks up on this and our efforts for a calm, effective bedtime are undermined. Taking care of myself is crucial to our sleep hygiene, and I had to break the cycle we were stuck in, but CIO has never been an option. I know this may not be an option for most people but acupuncture worked miracles for us. There are pediatric acupuncturists who specialize in babies and children, they do not use needles. After one treatment I felt like my babe had been reset and our sleep improved dramatically. Chiropractic care also helped a lot. While the specifics of what worked for us may not be relevant, I would suggest being creative and opening up your mind to the many causes and possible solutions to good sleep that do not involve CIO.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCat

No offense but your post is full of fluff. You don't have any research, just going by feelings and personal intuition (faith based parenting). There are so many other factors involved in parenting it's ludicrous to suggest that one can be the reason for almost anything.

Maybe you should link these so called studies in your posts... I'm willing to be they have small sample sizes, use highly abnormal cases, or have agendas. I don't buy the b.s. here anymore then I do an extreme CIO book... which has it's own anecdotes and studies I might add.

You also don't mention any downsides to attachment parenting, which there are plenty (try kicking your kid out of your bed at 4!). I personally use what I think is in the middle of the two extremes, and my kids are loved, smart, and sleep most nights like a rock.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercaptain_smith


There is a list of links to the articles/studies I used at the bottom of my post.

Why would I want to kick a kid out of my bed? Attachment parenting, to me, doesn't mean meeting my kids needs and treating them with respect for X number of months/years and then starting to treat them like crap. If I wanted my kid out of my bed at any age, it would be a gentle, respectful process, not "kicking" anyone out.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Man, you are not much of a learner are you? There have been so many good points made by people even just recently like Beth and Captain_Smith and you just find a word or phrase to camp on, using it in an attempt to discredit the actual good points they are making, and then you hardly address their good points at all. Your post IS extreme and filled with fluff. You DO NOT take healthy balance into account instead you treat every version of CIO as though it's 'screaming orphanage-style abandonment'. I think your post IS irresponsible and a use of 'scare tactics' that come from some laughable sources. You said you put your marriage couple time on hold for a COUPLE years and then you respond to Captain Smith as though at 4 you will be smiling and happy if your child is still sleeping with you every night. And the only thing you respond to is his obvious joke (although admittedly poorly chosen joke since clearly you are not the type to laugh) with the word 'kick'. People who let their children minorly fuss and twitch and toss and turn to fall asleep (much like we do as adults!) do not love their children any less. My 4 children are amazing sleepers, and they are wonderfully secure and healthy and happy and attached to us and their siblings. We would be a miserable family if all 4 kids (ages 5 and under) were all still trying to sleep in our bed (which you clearly alluded to the fact that atleast at 4 you would probably still be allowing to happen if your child wanted). Which brings me to my last point of your irresponsibility in leading new and confused parents down your path of reasoning. When did you adapt the belief that a child knows what is best for him/herself? And at what age do you plan on changing your belief? Certainly you will not stick to your belief when your 3 year old thinks it'd be best to never eat a green veggie and always eat ice cream and candy. (Now if you dont allow them those things you are in danger of stunting their personal security by being told no right? Shouldn't you let them do whatever they want, withholding something is not respectful to them as a person) How about when your teenager thinks it best to drink with his buddies and then drive himself home? I do not believe a child knows what is best, thats why they have parents, to parent them, coach them, teach them the ways to maneuver the world in healthy ways that will help them strive and grow up strong, safe and secure. Learning how to sleep on their own, instead of being scared to be alone, is one of those healthy habits. And I teach my children it with love and patience. If you think I used extreme examples to prove my point, you need to read your own post again.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKmac


1) I didn't say we put our marriage couple time on hold for a couple of years. Although I do stay with my children when they go to sleep at night and respond to them when they need me at night, that doesn't mean that I have to stay with them the whole time. The bed is for sleeping...the rest of the house is for "marriage couple time".

2) I didn't say that people who use CIO love their children less. I just think it can have unintended consequences that the "baby trainers" don't tell parents about when they advise them to use those techniques.

3) I believe that my child is a person with needs and that especially when my child is a baby, those needs are only expressed through cries. I wouldn't ignore my husband saying that he is lonely, hurt, hungry or scared, so why would I ignore my children when they say that? Do "children know best" - perhaps not about everything, but I plan to teach them things with love and patience - not by ignoring them or by throwing them into situations they are not ready for. Even if I did follow your logic about children not knowing best and them needing parents to parent them, in this case I am the parent and I say what is best for my kids is for them to be lovingly responded to. As they get older, I can work with them to develop the confidence to try things they might otherwise have been scared to do, but just as I don't shove my kids down the slide at the park when they are not ready, I also do not force them to sleep alone when they are not ready.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am glad your plan is to teach them things with love and patience. That is exactly what I told you I do, I do not ignore them or throw them into situations they are not ready for. My main frustration with your post and continued comments disregarding everything people keep saying to you is that you seem to not have a very good grip on what ACTUAL CIO-within-reason looks like. It involves the exact same 'tending to' that you seem to describe. OFCOURSE it is best for a child to be lovingly responded to, we have no argument there! When you say things like that you are not making a case against CIO, and it can be incredibly confusing to a parent who is trusting your post to provide them with legitimate information. It would be an irresponsible parent indeed who ignored a hungry, hurt or frightened child. I happen to know I am very much in tune to the different sounds and cries of my children, down to their slight facial twitches and squirms. I would never let my baby or child cry when something like that was wrong, but those are not the only reasons a baby would ever cry. Sometimes an overstimulated baby will cry because they NEED to not be touched any more AT ALL, sometimes an overtired baby will cry because they have been woken by other bodies and movements so often that their little bodies have not been allowed to taste the deeper levels of sleep that only come AFTER ACTIVE SLEEP which can easily be mistaken for 'waking up and needing to be responded to' if you're not willing to wait a second to find out. CIO does not mean you lock the door and never respond to anything, it doesn't even mean you can't respond often and assure them of your presence and soothe them if they need it, and it certainly does not refer to allowing a child to become hysterical, lonely and frightened. It means with love and patience, you provide them, as they become ready, with the skill of sleeping on their own. A very valuable tool that every human being needs to learn.

I would not push my child down the slide either, I would show them the slide, I would go down it with them a couple times, I would hold their hand as they went down on their own, I would catch them at the bottom and I would cheer and be attentive as they learned this skill. Even if one time they felt a quick leap in their tummy that might have startled them for a second, I'd assure them it was okay, and normal, maybe take a few steps backwards in the progress till they got confident again, and keep at it. But I wouldn't keep them from the slide all together. Think of all the wonderful joys and benefits I, as the wise adult who knows much more about the world, would be with-holding from them by not helping them learn. I guess our differing opinion comes mostly in when we think a child is ready, so I challenge the research that has brought you to think that it can not be a skill they comfortably and safely learn when they are babies and toddlers. Just as I would challenge someone who told me that a 4 year old can not possibly be ready to go down a slide on their own and to try to teach them to do so might expose them to harmful anxiety and abandonment issues for the rest of their life.

For the record, I am yet another vote for the CIO within-reason team, and unless your 6 and 3 year old are still sleeping with you every night, or never shed one single tear of protest at whatever point you attempted a transition into their own beds, I think you might actually be one too. We're just disagreeing on timing and when there's no credible research to tell me otherwise, I choose to help them learn, with love and patience, from the beginning. I don't like to switch the ways of the world up on my kids when they get too big for my bed.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKmac

Every single version of CIO involves leaving a baby to cry, alone, for a specified interval, whether that interval starts at 5 minutes and increases by 5 minutes each night or is until the child collapses and falls asleep. If you are not leaving your child to cry alone, you are not "crying" "it" "out".

It is in the very title of the method.

On the other hand, attachment parenting is NOT permissive parenting or helicopter parenting or anything like that. It is being responsive to and respectful of a child's developmentally appropriate needs to build a healthy attachment.

No one building a healthy attachment suddenly changes their parenting around completely at a specified date...we don't wait to teach children ways to soothe until they are four. What we do is gradually introduce, model, and help a child learn these ways from the start. In the beginning, babies need their parents for everything but eventually they learn object permanence and know you are nearby, they learn to sing to themselves, they grow attached to special plush animals, or can " read" books to help themselves fall asleep... all techniques learned from their parents.

Of course babies cry, some more than others...attachment parenting doesn't seek to end all tears, it seeks to nurture strength and independence through guidance and love. And it means that if a child cries, the parent is there to help guide the child.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCandace


My 6 year old doesn't sleep with us. He was never left alone at night until he was comfortable doing so. We gave him reassurances and said we'd just be in the next room. At first, he wasn't okay with that, so we stayed. But eventually, he was okay with it and drifted off to sleep on his own.

Our 3 year old does still sleep with us. A few times recently she has said that she wants to go to sleep on her own. She tries it for a bit, but eventually ends up calling for me and I do go to her. The time will come when she is ready.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What I want to know is the quality of sleep that co-sleepers get. I am more concerned for my daughter's life than her need/want to snuggle and nurse 5 times a night. I have never allowed my child to sleep with me for even one second. One wrong move and it would be a decision I'd regret for the rest of my life. My daughter slept in a bassinet in my room til she was 3 months old. At which point I was back to work and exhausted. I moved her to her own room and gently taught her to sleep there on her own. Within a month she was sleeping 10-12hrs at night. Now at 6.5 months she sleeps 12hrs at night and takes a 4hr nap in the afternoon. All in her crib. All without CIO. She lays down hugs her bear and goes to sleep. While in a completely different room, comfortable in our own bed my husband and I enjoy a full nights sleep. Free from worry over suffocating our child. Free from being peed on and puked on in our own bed. And free from shockingly strong feet to the kidneys. Our daughter is happy and safe in her own crib. And yes, occasionally, wakes up & 'talks' to herself or even cries but I only go to her if she sounds frightened or hungry. Parents need rest to be good parents and they can't get rest when they have school age children that cannot put themselves to sleep and/or stay asleep. Allowing my daughter to sleep in her own room in her own bed has been so beneficial to the whole family that if we have another child he/she will never sleep in our room at all. I firmly believe that my daughter would have slept through the night earlier had she been in her own room sooner.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNiasmama


My quality of sleep with my babies was good because I was co-sleeping. Neither of them was able to sleep well on their own. They woke up at least every hour when they were on their own, sometimes more often. Co-sleeping was initially a survival technique for us, but as I learned more about the http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/01/09/cosleeping-benefits/" rel="nofollow">benefits of co-sleeping, it also became an important lifestyle choice. Parents who choose to co-sleep should educate themselves about http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/01/11/co-sleeping-safety/" rel="nofollow">co-sleeping safety, but as long as they do that and as long as there are not other risk factors pregnant (alcohol use, drug use, smoking, etc.), then co-sleeping is just as safe as crib sleeping.

I'm surprised that if you are so concerned about not taking any risks whatsoever to your baby's life that you would be willing to have your next baby sleep in a separate room. Research has shown that having the baby sleep in the same room as the parents (as long as they are not smokers), decreases the risk of SIDS.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I just wanted to add to this that what you are doing right now is working (right now) without any need to for crying it out. If your 6 month old child sleeps along happily without CIO, that's wonderful. Every child is different. I would add every child is different at every month.

I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and another on the way...my bit of friendly advice, one mother to another, is that you will be surprised how much they change from month to month and how different two children can be. Rather than predetermining what you will do in the future, just continue to trust the instincts that seem to have served you well so far.

A few things you may or may not find...your mileage may, of course, vary:

* Your child may go through a separation anxiety stage (usually somewhere around 8-12 months_ where you will have to decide whether or not you are willing to CIO to maintain this arrangement. My first daughter slept much better alone until about 15 months, at which point she slept much better with us until about 22 months, at which point she slept much better alone again.

* You so not mention if you are breastfeeding. If you do breastfeed, personally I find it much easier to have my infant nearby. I get MUCH more sleep that way.

* Allowing a baby or a toddler into bed with you is not dangerous. Certainly not with a 6 month old. Unless you are on some serious medication, you will not suffocate your six month old child.

* What you did seems to have worked very well (up to this point), so why wouldn't you repeat it? An infant is safer near the parents...even the pediatric association agrees with this despite their ridiculous stance against co-sleeping.

* When your 3 or 4 year old is sick, regardless of whether or not he or she is used to sleeping alone, he or she will try to crawl into bed with you or ask that you crawl into his or her bed. Unless you are willing to refuse that comfort to a sick child, you *will* be puked/peed on several times at night during your parenthood. And even if you do draw a line at sharing the bed, you will still be woken in the night, go to the kid's bedside, and get puked on. I can almost guarantee this.

There is no avoiding puke, no matter your parenting style. It is a commonality we can all bond over.

My school age kids sleep just fine in their own room & put themselves to sleep & then put themselves back to sleep when they wake up (since EVERYONE wakes up at night occasionally, not just babies). And *gasp* I never once had to spend a single minute "teaching" them how to. They just did it. When they were ready. & until then I was/am happy to nurse them to sleep.
I have to say you're incredibly lucky that you have an easy going baby. I hope if you have another you get that lucky again. Some of us weren't that lucky though and it was a choice between co-sleeping or never sleeping (or CIO, but that was never an option with a newborn for me, & shouldn't be for anyone). My 2nd & 3rd babies probably would be have slept ok separately from me, but by then neither my husband nor I considered not co-sleeping an acceptable option. My quality of sleep is great, thanks, even though I'm not one of those lucky women who can nurse while sleeping. My oldest was a really horrible sleeper & was awake every hour or so, but my youngest was sleeping about 5 hours at a time most night from birth. They stir, I wake up, gradually, without being startled out of a sound sleep, I close my eyes & relax while I nurse them back to sleep, then roll over & crash out again without having to try to transfer a sleeping baby to a crib without waking them.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

My intent was not to sound malicious. Yes, I breastfeed exclusively. I always put my darling down sleepy but awake, turn music on and leave the room. If she cries I listen to see if its her scared or hungry cry or if its just the 'yayaya' noise that indicates sleep is moments away. If she is frightened or hungry I tend to her. She gets really excited when she sees her bed because she's tired and her bed means sleep. I am terrified of co-sleeping! My boobs are H/I so I can't let go of them while nursing due to risk of nipple damage and/or suffocating the baby. Its easier now but when she was a newborn my breasts were so large that she could (and did)become trapped under them. Also my husband suffers from night terrors and we are both overweight. Our bed is just a dangerous place for our baby. I nurse the baby in bed in the morning and its our very special time because I work 3-11 and my husband works 11-7 so around 8:30 is magical at our house. I nurse the baby while she hold her daddy's hand then we read, talk and listen to music for about an hour before daddy has to go to sleep. And yes, we realize how very very blessed we are to have such a good baby. We often joke that we're afraid to have another baby because you can't win the lotto twice :)

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterniasmama

My decision not to use it is based on the fact that I never even heard of it until my girlfriend talked about her pediatrician telling her mother to just "leave her to cry" when she would cry at night, telling her mother that she only cried because she was overstimulated and needed to be left alone. This girl is a mess as an adult. I stopped at least one suicide attempt, she sees sleep as the hell to avoid at all costs (to the point that one night, she got a total of 2 hours of sleep and crashed her van into a telephone pole) and when she does sleep, it's so deep that she couldn't be roused without extreme measures. She would fill her bed with crap (books, pillows, anything she could find to fill half of it) in a desperate attempt to feel less alone at night.

That's what CIO did to her. I would be an utter failure as a parent if I did that to my child. I didn't know the connection until later when I found out what CIO does to the brain when I had my first baby. I also learned then what it did to me--and I was only left to CIO occasionally and as a toddler. I have adult separation anxiety and abandonment complex and had severe sleeping disorders for the vast majority of my life. I also have serious trust issues.

"CIO is harmless" my ass.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

My breasts are an I cup and I've never had a problem cosleeping or nursing and I, too, have to use a c-hold every. time. I. nurse. It doesn't disturb my sleep too much. In fact, I sleep better than I have ever before in my life.

Just saying, huge boobies and severe ptosis haven't made cosleeping even slightly a problem for us ;)

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Oh come on, this is just embarrassing. Phdinparenting, please tell me even you are going to step in on this one. Yes Heather, you and your friend sound like you have real and severe issues. But CIO is the reason your friend is suicidal, crashed her van into a pole and hoards junk in her bed?? I really can't even bare to write anymore, it's just silly. Atleast before the discussion was somewhat intellectual.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKmac


I think it is probably a combination of things. Different people are wired differently. Some people seem to have extremely resilient brains and can survive anything and come out okay, whether that is CIO or something even worse. Other people have more fragile brains and I do think that something like the decision to CIO or not CIO can contribute to their mental health or lack thereof.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] Read more at PhD in Parenting [...]

I tried the CIO route twice with my 10 month old son. Each time we experienced the "hours-long orphanage-style screaming bloody murder" ridiculed by Beth a few months ago. My son was never a good sleeper, but we thought he'd grow out of it. At 8 months old he instead hit a huge sleep regression and suddenly began getting up every hour, often staying awake for an hour at a time. We tried crying it out then, and then again at 10 months when things had continued to deteriorate. We never thought it was a great idea, but my husband was against co-sleeping and we both work full time, and we were starting to come apart at the seams. Each time we had the same results. My son screamed ALL NIGHT LONG. He didn't drop off into a deep sleep. Sometimes he'd pass out for 15 minutes, but he'd wake right back up and keep screaming, like he was being stabbed. We did the reassurance checks, but they seemed to make it worse, as he didn't understand why we wouldn't pick him up and comfort him. The next day he wasn't happy and rested, he was terrified of his room and of sleep in general, and he'd have hysterics when he started getting sleepy -- which was all the time, since he wasn't sleeping at night. The second time we tried we hoped he'd be better able to handle it because he was older. Nothing changed, except he ended up vomiting all over himself. We then acknowledged that this wasn't helping anyone, and decided to do whatever it took to keep our son calm and happy.

It's taken a few weeks to repair the damage we did to his sleep by attempting to cry it out. He was so scared at first that he wouldn't let us put him down at all. He is slowly getting comfortable with the idea that we'll come when he calls now, and his calls are correspondingly less urgent, if not less frequent. We've also starting co-sleeping for the second half of the night. It's not perfect, and our son still wakes up the same amount next to us, but we can get him back to sleep much faster. We don't love co-sleeping, our son is very mobile and wakes us up all night and since he currently prefers his mommy for comfort, it means I'm effectively the sole parent on duty at night, when previously my husband and I would switch off every other night.

Note that I'm not at all anti-CIO. I know lots of people whose children only cried for a half an hour the first night, 15 minutes the second, and not at all after that. However, not every kid is built that way. Even Ferber (I have read ALL the sleep books in an attempt to help our situation) acknowledges that some kids get worse with CIO instead of better. Now we're letting our son lead the way, and just seeing what calms him down and keeps him feeling safe and helps him get some much-needed sleep. We can only hope that this will help him get back to better sleep patterns over the next few months.

Meanwhile, most of the people we know have told us, nicely or otherwise, that they're sure we just did it "wrong," and if we'd just keep going with the CIO, it would sooner or later work.... I really wish people would just stop pretending they know our kid and can tell us what works for him!

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStacy

I feel for you. My daughter was (and is) a very intense child. At some points co-sleeping "worked" (as in it resulted in more sleep) and at some points it didn't (as in she was too overstimulated being in bed with us and would try to climb the walls). We were very gradually able to nudge her towards more independence at night. For us, making sure she had the right amount of nap time was critical. Also, using some of Pantley's suggestions for gradually encouraging the child to require less and less parental comfort to fall asleep were mostly helpful (as in some days some of the techniques seemed to get her to go to sleep faster and stay asleep long). In the end, a lot of it was just growth. As she got older and was able to talk through her feelings with us, it got a lot easier. Other things got harder, of course, but the bedtime is much, much easier. There's hope!

[...] CIO" that I really like. It really puts the potential adverse effects in perspective for you. Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us | PhD in Parenting Now, how accurate or likely all of those things are could easily vary from baby to baby, but the [...]

Good evening,
I would like to preface my comments with the knowlege that I am the only parent in my group of friends who hasnt committed to a CIO method and my friends have great kids and they are good parents.
I personally am a working mother and feel that AP is the best thing for my child. He, like the single mom's baby, wants to be breast fed to sleep many nights-lately every night. I work at least fourty hours a week and my commute totals an hour and a half a day on average.
My husband takes part in our bedtime routine as much as he can, maybe less than he could-but he tries so I can't say I know what it's like to be a single parent.
BUT! What I appreciate about this post is that it brings together points from multiple sources, some which i have read, some I haven't, but most importantly, I feel better about my choice not to use CIO thus far and confirms that my afternoon nap effort was flawed because of the CIO attempt. This afternoon for my son's nap, I attempted to let him cry. I let him cry 12 minutes in his crib. I was five feet away reading online about CIO methods...
When I returned to his room, he was in such a state that it broke my heart and made me ask what was so important that he cry inconsolably in his crib without understanding why I'm not coming to him? I don't believe he has me trained any more than I can train him- he's a human being, inteligent with feelings. If he didn't have feelings that were important, he could live for more than a few days without human contact at birth. I think human intellect is a powerful point. I believe he is learning as babies do, at his own pace. One day, he will wake up and be able to fall back asleep knowing I'm just down stairs, and I will come if he needs me. And that will make him feel safe and secure.
I have endured a NICU stay the first five days of his life and I made it through spinal fusion surgery when he was ten weeks old. I suppose I feel like every minute counts. I lost six days and nights with him durring my maternity leave before he was even three months old.

Another thing: there is something called pre-verbal memory. I had it. I have several memories from before I was three years of age. One in particular, crying in my crib - for a blanket with the silky nylon binding if you know what type I am talking about.. Well my parents didn't know what to do with me. I couldn't talk but I pointed to the livingroom where I knew my blanket was. After a while (probably a long while) my parents put me in the basement in a safe seat on the table in the laundry room. They claim they don't remember doing anything like this. But I remember my dad coming down to get me, his shaddow coming down the stairs looked like something from "where the wild things are" He had long hair and a long beard. I was a baby though I remember this vividly. My parents - especially my Dad, cringe when I tell this and other stories because they remember them well and it frightens them that I remember things from such a young age.

I find it difficult to believe that letting a child cry it out could do NO harm. My parents were not perfect but I know they loved me. They didn't beat me, they didn't do drugs in front of me, they just were ill informed and lacking in support or cooperation from anyone around them or each other...

I will hold my Son when he needs me, and thank you for stating a case for children. We all need love and compassion, we're all a child of someone. I need to be held sometimes. Don't you?

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Binford

GREAT reply!

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNina

Lisa, I agree-- what you did was not CIO.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

[...] 2010, Candace left 66 comments on my blog. I have a very old post called Cry it Out: 10 reasons why it is not for us that still gets a lot of attention and comments. Candace has been a consistent commenter on the [...]

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