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The Cry It Out Method and How It Works

One of the most common concerns of new parents is putting their newborn child to sleep, and perhaps one of the most controversial ways to do this is through the cry it out method. 

The ultimate goal of the CIO or cry it out method, like many baby sleep training methods, is to help the baby fall asleep by themselves. Many parents use sleep training methods like this as a means to foster independence in their child and promote healthy sleeping habits. 

However, unlike other baby sleep training methods, CIO requires you to step back from your crying baby during bedtime, allowing them to comfort themselves and fall asleep on their own. The goal is to help your baby self-soothe and, when they wake up in the middle of the night, know how to fall back asleep again.

But does the cry it out method really work?

Different methods work for different families. This is why you might get mixed responses if you ask other parents about their success with CIO. But despite its controversial reputation, many parents actually claim that CIO has helped them tremendously with sleep training. 

A lot of misconceptions surround CIO, including safety issues, but there have been several studies proving that the method is safe for babies. And unlike what the name suggests, it doesn't really mean leaving your baby to fend for themselves. Instead, the method encourages parents to keep a keen eye on their baby while minimizing contact. 

Then again, just like all parenting practices, the cry it out method is definitely not for everyone. Read on if you are curious to know how the method works and whether or not it will work for your family.

7 Things You Need to Follow the Cry It Out Method Successfully

1. Know the basics of the CIO method.

  • Help your baby fall asleep on their own by avoiding “soothing” activities like rocking and nursing to sleep.
  • Begin training when your baby is around 4 to 6 months old.
  • Expect a fair amount of crying and fussing.
  • Check on your baby from time to time (more about this later) and offer comfort but don’t pick your baby up.

2. Learn how to identify your baby’s sleep cues.

Parenting a newborn baby can be challenging because they are not yet able to verbally express their needs, which is why it is important to understand your baby’s non-verbal cues. Before attempting to sleep train, learn to anticipate when your baby is getting tired or sleepy. Cues that signify this may include rubbing of eyes, quietness, and slower movements. Be aware of these cues and avoid letting your baby get overtired or overstimulated. 

3. Create a safe sleep zone for your child.

The CIO method requires you to minimize contact, and this is why it is crucial to create a safe sleep zone that you can leave your baby in. Let your newborn baby get used to sleeping in this sleep zone, which includes a sturdy crib and a firm crib mattress with fully elasticized cotton fitted sheets.

4. Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

To be successful in sleep training, you need to have established a consistent bedtime routine since day 1. Your bedtime routine will include winding down activities like nursing, baby massage, and reading bedtime stories. Throw in a lot of hugs, cuddles, and physical affection during your bedtime routine.

5. Monitor your baby.

Following the cry it out method does NOT mean leaving your baby alone for the entirety of the night! When you first do it, let your baby self-soothe for 5 minutes then go into the room to offer comfort by shushing, rubbing their back, and saying “I love you.” 

Keep your contact to a minimum; the goal is to let your baby know that you are present. Gradually increase the time interval to 10 minutes, then to 15 minutes, and so on, until your baby is comfortable enough to be by themselves at night.

It is okay to peep into your baby to make sure that they are in a safe sleeping position, but don’t pick them up. To minimize contact and disruption, use a baby monitor with a camera instead. 

6. Use the same technique for nap time.

For the sake of consistency and to help your baby develop healthy sleeping habits through the day, it is best to use the CIO method during naps, too. Your baby will display the same tiredness cues during daytime, so take note of these and place them in their safe sleeping space when it’s almost time for a nap.

7. If your baby resists, stop insisting. 

Again, the cry it out method is not for everyone. If you have been doing the CIO method for a week now and you haven’t seen any improvement since day 1, it may be time to give it a rest. Your baby might still be too young to be sleep trained. If they are at the right age, then you might want to consider using other methods. There are a number of other gentler sleep training methods that may work for you. 


Many myths and misconceptions surround the CIO or cry it out method, but many parents and experts swear on its effectiveness. But while it does not deserve its negative reputation, the truth remains that the CIO method is not for every family. However, if you think that the cry it out method is the perfect sleep training solution for you and your baby, then it is best to prepare by reading everything you need to know about it.

Featured image by Irina Murza on Unsplash
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