Sleep Training: Cry it Out Method
Typically when I tell people that I have three young children their first statement involves the lack of sleep I must be getting. Most times I go along with joking about the lack of sleep, but in reality, I get a good night sleep regularly. Now don’t get me wrong some days even though I get a solid 8 hours of sleep I can still be tired because I am raising three young and incredibly active kids with my husband and a rockin’ a 9-5 job during the week. No one wants to see this momma without sleep (trust me it isn’t pretty) so this topic has been a big priority in our lives since our kids were little.
The reason I usually go along with the joking is that once I tell people I get a good night sleep everyone either doesn’t believe me or wants to know my secret. Well, the secret sauce starts with the cry it out method (also known as the Ferber method) and that is where I lose people. Before I lose you, hear me out because all three of my kids sleep through the night since they were infants. Now we did speak to our pediatrician to make sure they were age appropriate and that they weren’t needing their “midnight snack” prior to doing the method. Currently, they are happy, well-adjusted children who don’t fight bedtime, have fewer meltdowns because they are tired and at times will put themselves to bed. Even if your kids aren’t infant age the cry it out method can work for you too. So if you are still struggling with sleep, the Ferber method can still work for you although the habit will take longer to break in older kids.
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I don’t say these things to say our way is the best and its the only way to get your child to sleep. Whatever way you get your child to sleep in a healthy and positive manner will help all of those involved who live in the household. This is one strong method that does work and can be helpful to those moms struggling with getting sleep. I know that the cry it out method has a bad reputation and can be controversial for many parents and so parents shy away from the method and continue to live with poor sleepers. For our family, we have only seen positive outcomes by using this method and wanted to share our experience with others.
During my pregnancy, I read a few books that I had ordered online regarding those first few months of having a baby. In regards to helping my first born sleep, the books that stuck with me the most in those early days were Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child and Baby Wise. I also read blogs of moms who had utilized the method and after talking with my husband about what I read we both decided we would try this method out in sleep training our child. It truly was one of the best parenting decisions we made in those early months.
For all of my kids, they were sporadic sleepers in the first months, which is very typical for infants. As the months crept by and both parents were working we were struggling all around with the lack of sleep we were all getting on a daily basis. We needed to find some structure to our naps and night schedule and so I went back to the books now that I had a child and did more research. As new parents, we were petrified about the backlash that we saw on the internet about the cry it out method and we almost didn’t attempt the cry it out method.
I feel the biggest myth out there is that a baby is left to cry for long stretches of time and they would feel abandoned or have long-term emotional issues. This truly isn’t the case at all. The most we ever had to leave any of our children crying was in 3-minute intervals. We first started with 1-minute intervals to ease us into the cry it out method and gradually went to 3-minute intervals. We would set a timer for 1-3 minutes and as soon the timer dinged we would go in and calm our baby (without taking them out of the crib) and then say goodnight and leave the room starting the timer again for 1-3 minutes. The first night for all of our children this repetition lasted approximately 45 minutes to an hour depending on the child. The second night for our kids it was approximately five 3 minute intervals and they were asleep. On the third night, we did the intervals, but the crying only lasted a total of 5 minutes and by the fourth night our children would fall asleep without crying. Additionally, once they were sleep trained all of our children were sleeping for longer stretches and started to sleep through the night.
We did this method twice for our first child as she had a sleep regression at 9 months and both times the cry it out method worked in the span of 3 days. Three years later we had twins and our son only had to be sleep trained for 2 days with this method and our daughter had to be sleep trained twice (both times taking 3 days) for similar reasons as our first born.
So counting up those days we had to sleep train our children for a total of 14 nights (2 weeks!) of sleep training and what we have received is a solid five years of consistent sleep from our children. This isn’t to say we don’t have restless nights where they are singing themselves to sleep, are sick and having trouble sleeping, talking to each other (the twins share a room), or cry out for water, but it isn’t on a regular basis and typically lasts for about 5-10 minutes before they fall asleep.
Now I did mention that the cry it out method could work on older kids and I believe this to be true, but as they get older it gets increasingly difficult to utilize this method. Our oldest daughter went through a phase when she was four where she wanted someone to lay with her and rub her back. My husband being the sweetheart that he is started to lay with her and rub her back for comfort. This quickly turned into her only being able to sleep with us laying with her and rubbing her back. It impacted not only her night sleeping, but also ended her taking regular naps. She wasn’t sleeping through the night and because of the lack of sleep was having more tantrums at her preschool. I did not want her to be dependent on us to get sleep and so we made the decision to do the cry it out method again. It was harder and took a bit longer because she was older, but we still received positive results in sleep training even at 4 years old.
Overall, it worked for us and we had such a positive experience with the cry it out method that I do encourage others to try it out if they are having trouble with their infants sleeping. Every mom worries if they are making the right choices for their kids and even if this isn’t the right method for your family it is still good to know all the choices out there to make the best decision for your family. I would love to hear what others have found to be helpful with getting their children to sleep? Other methods you would recommend for those sleepless moms out there? Methods that have helped older kids maintain good sleeping habits?