Stirring the Pot: Cry It Out (CIO)

I wish I didn’t need to say this, but I want to start with a disclaimer here: I will share experience from my own parenting, but I can’t guarantee you will/would have the same results.  I am a conscientious parent, a registered nurse, and loving mama.  What I’m about to share are my opinions.  

If there’s one thing that can set me on edge in an instant, it’s the sound of one of my babies crying.  At half-past-fussy-time when I’m stirring the spaghetti sauce with one hand and bouncing the baby with my other, I feel like I am going to lose my mind.  I don’t want them to cry, I don’t like hearing it, and I hate seeing tears roll down their cheeks.  I never thought I’d be this way as a parent, but I’m a total softy.

So then there was this one time when Judah reached about 5 months.  He was a fairly good sleeper and had been in his own crib since week 3 (at the insistence of my loving huz, who wanted our room to be our room, not a nursery).  But I was starting to get this inkling that things were going to need to change pretty soon since he wasn’t sleeping through the night.  So I did what we all do: I went to Mother Internet.  She told me a host of conflicting things, but one that I kept seeing over and over was CIO (the Cry It Out method).  People do that?  They just let the baby cry?  Huh.

Most of the articles I read said this should happen around 6 months, but my little cherub wasn’t quite there.  Surely he wasn’t ready for this torture!  He needs his mother!

So I continued my crazy cycle of nursing the baby to sleep, laying him down just so, tip-toeing out of the room on the ancient wooden floor hoping with each step that none of the floorboards would creeeeeek! And bam, baby’s awake, and I rock and rock him back to sleep only to start all over again.

One night, I was feeling a little desperate.  This just wasn’t working, so maybe he was ready to CIO?  I tried.  I put him down, he started crying, and I was strong for 15 minutes until I just couldn’t take it any more.  He needed me!  He was crying!  He was not 6 months yet, so this was wrong!  The look on that baby’s face when I came for him and he stopped crying can be described as nothing short of smug.

We continued this little charade until one night when something funny happened.  I had successfully crept out of his room, squeaking none of the loudest floorboards, and made it downstairs.  Less than half an hour later, our hero the Judah-baby woke up to find himself utterly alone, and began his work of crying for me to right this wrong.  Dutiful slave to his crying that I was, I began my walk through the house, up the stairs, creaking on the wood as I walked.  He heard me coming for him and his crying stopped.  Help was on the way.  I creak-creak-creaked up the stairs, across the hall, and just as I stepped into his room he mustered his most pathetic cry (and remember he had actually stopped his crying before I came).  I couldn’t believe it.  The joke was on me.  Here he was, not even 6 months old but terribly aware that he could control me with his crying.

That was it.  I was ready.  We both were.

So began our experience with crying it out.  It took us 7 days, also known as a week.  One week.  The first night, both of us cried.  My loving huz, who is much better at almost everything, was fine.  He held me back for the full hour that the Judah-screamer cried about his terrible life.  At 30 minutes, then 45, then 50, I was certain he would never stop.  Ours would be the baby who had the emotional and physical fortitude to cry all night long.  But he didn’t!   Just past the one hour mark, there was silence.  And he slept all night!  By the way, I feel like I also need to say that he woke up happy as can be, with no evidence of ill-feelings towards me for the night before.

Night two: 45 minutes.  Night 3: 30 minutes.  Night 4: back up to 45 (should we quit? Is it working?).  Night 5: 20 minutes.  Night 6: 15 minutes.  And then came the glorious finish.  Our friend, a pediatrician, was spending the night at our house, and I put the baby down at bedtime.  Then I went downstairs to find out how long he would cry.  But I couldn’t hear anything.  No crying, no…nothing.  He just went to sleep.  Glory!  It worked!

And really, it does.  Throughout the whole process, I never saw any change in his emotions or behavior except for seeming more rested.  We were both happier that we were getting the rest we needed at night.  It was like magic!

Now that we’ve had a second baby, I’m more confident and less afraid of how hazardous crying might be to her health.  Baby #2 is very peaceful, and has never needed to cry more than 10 or 15 minutes.  After just a day or two of transition, both babies are sleeping all night long (they’re 18 months apart) in the same room!  They nap in the same room in the afternoon, then sleep all night there.  It is the best gift.  Babies who sleep!

Now, I also want to mention a few things.  People always comment about what a great sleeper our Judah-toddler is.  When we have people over around bedtime, questions almost always come up after they see that we go into his room, come out 2 minutes later, and that’s the last we hear from him for the night (and now that’s true of both of them).  The funny part, for me, is how people respond.  I tell them that we trained him/them to sleep.  How?  Well, we had to let him cry it out for a few nights.  Oh, I could never do that.  Well, that’s up to you, but  I know it works for us!

So that is my experience with the CIO method.  I only have my two little case studies, but I’m a believer.  Judah may have cried for a few days, but overall he has done almost no crying at all related to bedtime.  He sleeps at least 12 hours a night, and is the happiest, healthiest little guy I know.


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