Cry It Out: When Is It A No-No And When Could It Be an Option?
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Important: the goal of this page is to offer general information on alternative approaches. Heidi's approach differs from this one, and she does not support any form of crying it out.
When is Cry It Out not safe at all? Does it ever actually make sense? At what age? In which situation?
It Out methods, sometimes called ferberizing,
are not safe for newborn, young or sick babies and
successful at that age. On the other hand, there are very specific situations
where you could
consider it (in my opinion only if other methods are bothering rather than helping, see example below).
Having looked at the pro's
and con's of crying it out, you may decide
to give baby sleep training a try. To make the most
of it, check the two
lists below: when is crying it out a clear no-no and
it actually work.
When is Cry It Out a no-no
Sleep training your baby with a Cry
It Out method will not work and may even be harmful for
your baby when:
- Your baby is a newborn (!!)
- Your baby is under 6 to 12 months, depending on
maturity (see below)
- Your baby is ill, whether seriously or just
having a cold or teething - read the infant
sleep problems pages for help
- You know your baby is in pain, is afraid or
- Your baby has separation anxiety - check the baby
separation anxiety page to help with sleep in this case
- Your doctor has disadvised crying it our for
- You, as a parent, feel lightly or seriously
depressed (post natal depression/baby blues)
- You don't believe the crying will
help your baby sleep better
The reason for not
trying letting young babies cry to sleep - apart from they
not strong enough mentally and physically - is that before six months
their sleep patterns are just not mature enough to be messed about.
Erratic as they may seem, the development
of baby sleep patterns is crucial for your baby to reach good
sleep habits. In this case it is not the
sooner the better.
Allowing the natural sleep patterns to develop, with guidance but
without forcing, is most effective.
When could cry it out work?
"At 2 years old, I
realized that my daughter was not settling at bedtime, for no 'legit' reason at all. She was totally fine,
did not need night feeds anymore and had learnt to soothe herself to
sleep quite well since she was eight months old.
suddenly refused to go to bed and we spent hours before she would
settle down for the night. It was so clear to me that our presence actually made things worse. I was so certain of that, that I decided to let her 'figure it out' one bedtime
(hoping she wouldn't cry much!).
I made clear rules about bedtime and routine, gave her all the hugs and
attention in the world. But I was firm: time for bed meant quiet time
in her bed.
I think my determination must have been clear: she only fussed a bit
the first night and then went to bed with a smile every night after
This is a situation when
crying it out could be an option to consider:
- When your baby is old enough and
know that she's not crying because she's afraid, in pain or
It can be a very thin line between just being cranky or over-helped and
really having a problem. But as a parent, follow your instincts to
decide when and if crying it out is right for
Also, before cry it out
work, you will want to have the
- A bedtime
- A baby sleep schedule
- A safe sleep environment
rules about when and where baby is sleeping.
Without these, you can't really expect your baby to sleep well.
Start at the sleeping
through the night pages for practical tips on these
basics and download your free e-copy of Baby Sleep
for the 9 keys to good sleep.
In any case, remember that there are
always alternatives (with more reliable and lasting results) and you
never have to let your baby cry if it does not feel right to you!