Crying it Out – A Gentle Method That Works Like Magic

“Crying it out” is a sleep training method that lets your baby shed a few tears before running in and consoling them. This teaches baby how to self-soothe which is a crucial skill for babies to be able to fall asleep on their own.

A newborn’s sleep cycle is 40 minutes long so at the end of each cycle instead of waking up and crying for mom, baby will learn to self-soothe back to sleep (unless it’s time to eat of course). A toddler’s sleep cycle is 60 minutes so teaching baby how to fall back asleep on their own early on will set you up for years of healthy, successful sleep.

Rocking your baby to sleep is a habit that will prevent them from learning how to self-soothe. I know because this is what I did with my son. As a first time mom who was exhausted, my son would cry for me and I would pick him up right away and rock him to sleep and then go back to bed. Doing this all night long every 1- 2 hours for 16 long weeks made my life fall apart.

Severe sleep deprivation set in. I was so tired that my health deteriorated. 

I was too tired to eat properly and go to the gym like normal so I gained 40 lbs.

My marriage was affected – we both were so exhausted that we often argued and there was no intimacy because we were so tired all the time. We dreaded nighttime sleep.

My business began to suffer which affected our livelihood and income. 

And the worst part of it all was, our baby was not getting healthy, good sleep.

Babies thrive and develop best when they sleep well – we desperately needed a change and wanted our son to thrive.So, we hired a certified child sleep consultant and our lives changed the very first night of implementing the sleep plan.

Three things we learned about the Cry it Out Method:

1. It does NOT means letting your baby cry all night long or for hours at a time.

2. WITHOUT proper training and support, Cry it Out probably won’t work. We tried it on our own from reading a book and articles on the internet, but it didn’t work. We were worried about our baby crying so hard and we gave up almost right away. Working with a sleep consultant however, was completely different. She educated us on the gentle cry it out method and healthy sleep overall for babies. She empowered us so when it came time to follow the plan, we knew exactly what to do, what to expect, had  the confidence that we would be successful, and most importantly we knew that our baby would be okay no matter how hard he cried in the allotted Cry it Out time frame.

3. Crying it Out is harder for the parents than it is for the baby. Our sleep consultant assured us that babies are okay to cry and this is the best ways to teach them how to self-soothe on their own. It’s hard for parents to hear their babies cry, but she was right!  We followed the plan and it worked. 

I remember vividly when we started to implement the sleep plan to teach our 9 month old to fall asleep by himself. It was a few days before New Year’s and after such severe sleep deprivation we wanted to start the new year off right and get back to a healthy sleep routine.

As a reminder, at this point I was waking up every 1-2 hours ALL NIGHT long to rock my son back to sleep. The sleep consultant explained to us what my baby felt was this – say you went to sleep comfy in your bed under the covers and then when you woke up, you found yourself sleeping outside on the front lawn. This would be scary and startling right? This is how a baby feels when they are used to being rocked to sleep. They fall asleep in mom’s arms (or dad’s)
and while sleeping are placed down in the cradle or crib to sleep. When they wake up in between sleep cycles, they realize – “Hey, wait a minute. I’m not in mom’s arms anymore.” Then the crying begins. Only after being in mom’s arms again will baby fall back asleep.

So there were multiple other elements to the sleep plan such as a specific bedtime and nap routine along with sleep environment factors, so everything together with the Cry it Out Method made this process so successful for us, but I will focus here on the gentle cry it out method only and how it worked for us:

We first determined a key phrase. Something we say firmly when it’s time to sleep. We decided on, “Na-Night Vas. Time to Sleep.”

Day 1 began and we were 100% all in. You must be 100% committed for this to work. IT WILL WORK. DON’T GIVE UP.

So we started at night and after completing the sleep routine and getting the sleep environment just right, we laid our baby in the crib swaddled in a Woombie baby swaddle and on his back.  We turned on the sound machine, shut the night light off so it was pitch black, and said, “Na-Nigh Vas. Time to Sleep.”

We have a SafeSleep Breathe-Through Crib Mattress, so we don’t worry if he does roll during sleep since we know he can breathe normally right through his mattress.  Thankfully, the SafeSleep Breathe-Through Crib Mattress has removed anxiety from our sleep problems.

Next, we closed the door and left the room. We set the timer for 10 minutes.  There’s an important rule too – if baby stops crying completely or has a low calming cry the timer must be reset to 10 minutes and start over. So say your child cries for 4 minutes but then stops crying and then a minute later cries again, the timer restarts at 10 minutes when the crying starts again. These periods of crying and stopping is when your baby is teaching themselves to self soothe so this is why restarting the 10 minute timer based on baby crying and stopping is so crucial.

Our son cried hard for the first 10 minute timer – we kept reminding ourselves that our baby is okay even if he’s crying and we are helping him not hurting him.

When the timer went off we went upstairs for the next step to console our baby and let him know we were there for him.  This took a very specific technique. Without turning the lights on and without picking up our baby we went into the room, closed the door behind us so baby cannot see me, and did a very loud shooshing sound over and over. Our baby continued to cry very loudly but we shooshed as loudly as possible for two minutes and I even touched his head lightly to let him know mama was there. DO NOT PICK UP YOUR BABY.

After 2 minutes, we said the key phase again with a firm voice, “Na-night Vas. Time to sleep.” And we shut the door.

I went back downstairs and my husband and I again set the 10 minute timer. 

Our son continued to cry the entire time. After 10 minutes we repeated the process of going in the dark, not picking baby up, and doing loud shooshing for 2 minutes. I touched my baby’s head lightly while I shooshed. Then as I left the room, “Na-night Vas. Time to Sleep.”

Again the timer was set for 10 minutes.

The first night we had to set the timer 5 times – so that was a total of 1 hour of setting the timer and shooshing for 2 minutes each time. Then something magical happened. Our son fell asleep! He slept in his crib 6 hours straight on night one. It felt like heaven being able to sleep all night. I was really shocked that it was working so fast.

Night two came and we did the exact same method. It’s SO important to stick to the method and don’t change or waiver.

On night two we only had to set the timer 4 times do 4 shooshing times and our baby was sleeping 11 hours straight all night long.

On night three we only had to set the timer 3 times and go up and shoosh three times and he again slept 11 hours all night.

On night four we only had to set the timer 2 times and go up and shoosh twice and then he slept all night for 11 hours straight.

On the fifth night something miraculous happened. Our son cried a little but within the first 10 minute timer he was asleep! We never had to go up and shoosh. 

The sixth night and every night since there was NO crying when we put him down. By then he knew that it was time to sleep and he knew how to self-soothe himself to sleep.

Sleep is so important for the harmony of a home and despite the strong opinions about the Cry it Out method, for us it worked like magic. We believe that without the help of a certified child sleep consultant we would have never been able to do the correct cry it out method and be confident enough to succeed. We highly suggest parents work with a sleep consultant around 4 or 5 months of age when baby is first learning how to sleep, but if your baby is older and is still
not sleeping, working with a sleep consultant will change your life.

We recommend finding a certified child sleep consultant at the Family Sleep Institute.  We also recommend following safe sleep recommendations.  We purchased the SafeSleep Breathe-Through Crib Mattress after our pediatrician recommended it, and we love it.