Cry It Out Method
Although it can be heart-wrenching to listen to your baby cry, some parents find the most effective way to establish a healthy sleep pattern with their baby is to try one of the Cry It Out methods. These methods work on the theory that babies need to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep, and if parents immediately rush in when they cry they will take longer to develop this skill. There are many sleep method experts who advocate versions of Cry It Out, and we’ll explore some of their ideas in this article.
Perhaps the most well known Cry it Out sleep method expert is Dr Richard Ferber, who first wrote about it in his 1985 book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep problems” – though he has never actually called it “Cry It Out”. Ferber Method nicknamed “Ferberizing”, this method aims to encourage babies to learn how to settle themselves both at bedtime and if they wake in the night. Ferber recommends his sleep method for babies aged six months and over.
“Ferberizing” starts with an established routine – bath, story and cuddle, for example – with baby placed in the cot while still awake. If the baby cries, on the first night the parent should wait five minutes before returning to the room for no more than 2-3 minutes to talk to the baby and stroke or pat them. The baby should not be lifted from the cot, rocked, cuddled, fed or given any kind of soother. If the baby continues to cry the parent should then wait 10 minutes before returning, then every 15 minutes until the baby is asleep. On the second night the gap between visits should be lengthened by 5 minutes to 10, 15 and 20 minutes, and so on.
During night time wakefulness Ferber originally recommended the same routine, but now suggests parents wait five minutes to see if the baby settles on their own, but then uses rocking, feeding etc to send baby off to sleep. This ensures both baby and parents get some sleep at night, and should not affect the overall development of a good sleep pattern if Ferber’s method is stuck to consistently at bedtime.
Dr Marcus Weissbluth, author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, believes that many sleep problems occur because babies are overtired. Weissbluth’s Cry It Out method aims for parents to put in place a fixed pattern of regular naps and consistently early bedtime to prevent overtiredness, which can lead a baby to be unable to sleep. He suggests that from a young age babies should be put down for a nap after two hours of wakefulness, and left to cry for between 5-20 minutes. Between 4 and 12 months he says babies need no more than two proper naps a day (in their cot – never in the car or pushchair) followed by an early bedtime. They should be left to cry for an hour at naptime, but at bedtime parents should not return to a crying baby at all as they need to learn that it is now “down time”. This “extinction” method can be very hard on parents.
Whether you prefer Weissbluth’s hardline attitude to baby sleep patterns or Ferber’s more gentle approach, Cry It Out methods are not easy. As with everything though, every baby develops at their own pace.