I feel like I’ve seen a lot of blogs talking about how terrible the cry it out method is. From desensitizing you from your child’s cry to causing attachment issues. Everyone keeps talking about how bad it is. Here’s the thing: if it’s so bad, how come so many families have benefited from it so much? Well, we happen to be one of those families.
I think there are times when children do need sleep training. My daughter absolutely needed help. Bed time was horrible when Peanut turned about 6 months old. We had a great routine we did every night religiously: bath, nurse, PJs, book and cuddles, go to sleep. The problem was, going to sleep wasn’t happening. I would rock her, walk her, bounce her, pat her back hunched over the crib for an hour at a time…everything under the sun. If we did get her to sleep, the transition to get out of the chair, set her down in the crib or moving in any way would wake her back up no matter how long we waited once she fell asleep. When she woke back up after we moved, she pushed away, screamed, and fought us putting her back to sleep (in all the fantastic, back-breaking methods mentioned above) or screamed in her crib. Eventually, after months of this she just started fighting as soon as the book was over. Bed time was taking HOURS. The most dreaded hours of my day. Everyone was frustrated. My husband wouldn’t even try to put her to bed, I was getting to the point where I hated putting her to bed, and everyone was stressed out. We couldn’t do it anymore. It was affecting our parent-child relationship. Something HAD to be done.
My educational and behavioral background told me I had to pick a method I was going to stick with and be consistent. When I began researching things I could do, I hit a lot of dead-ends. I was already doing so many of these things and they weren’t working. I knew about CIO, but all I had heard was the bad things and thought I would be a terrible parent if I did CIO with my daughter. Then, I came across the Ferber Method of Modified CIO. It made absolute sense from a behavioral standpoint. You would fade out the behavior slowly by increasing the intervals of time you’re out of the room and not reinforce the unwanted behavior of crying and not sleeping. Then, Ferber reminds us that a behavior will get worse before it gets better; an extinction burst, usually happening a few days to a few weeks in.
I didn’t follow the method by the book. The first night we started CIO, I did our routine and put Peanut in her crib. I set the timer for ONE minute and left. Of course she was upset. But, it was one minute and then I was able to go back in and spend three minutes with her patting her back and calming her down. Then, I would go back out for ONE minute again. It took a long time the first night. It was almost two hours. But, she would get calmer when I went back in, not completely calm but calmer, and she knew I was there for her. The next night I would set the timer for two minutes and be in her room for 3 minutes. The second night it was around an hour before she was asleep–which was already less time than I was spending putting her to sleep when I was putting her to sleep the so-called “right” way. I continued to follow this routine every night adding one minute to my time out of her room.
I was amazed at how quickly it worked. By the fourth night, there was less than 15 minutes of crying and I only went into her room 3 times. It just improved from there. Before 10 nights were up, I could lay her down in her crib, walk out, and she’d fall asleep. I cried. I cried because I was so relieved. How on earth had I not done this earlier? We’d had months of her fighting sleep and frustrating nights where NO ONE was happy and all it took was a few nights of modified CIO to make bed time a calm, happy time in our house. I will confidently say, it changed our life.
Did I stick my child in her room and let her cry until she was in hysterics? Absolutely not. It would be awful for her and ME. No one can tell me that continuing the bedtime routine we had would be better than modified CIO. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, Peanut was distressed every night at bed time, I was mad at my husband for not knowing what to do to fix it (how would he know?!), and it was down right TERRIBLE. Since we’ve done MCIO, Peanut happily goes to bed and falls immediately back to sleep after she is nursed, get a bottle, or has a diaper change. So, don’t tell me CIO should never be done.
Please, consider all of your options when dealing with sleep problems. Understand that sometimes baby needs something and that’s why sleep is hard. But, don’t be afraid of CIO. Set up a method that will work for you and that you’ll stick with. If you can only stay out of the room 30 seconds the first night, than that’s where you need to start. But, I’ve been there and done it. I still respond when my daughter cries, I still have a great relationship with my daughter (probably BETTER now!), and she is one of the most well attached children I have met. Just remember: You’re the parent and if bed time is hell and you feel like something needs to be done, it probably does!