*DISCLAIMER: This is simply what worked for us and my tips for other parents who are in a similar situation. I am not a doctor. Please do not try anything without researching and consulting your pediatrician.
If you search cry it out on Google you might end up reading a bunch of articles on why it just doesn’t work. You’ll likely hear about how it creates problems for babies and how they develop trust issues. You’ll also read about all the “simple fixes” that kept parents from doing CIO in the end.
Or at least that was my experience- with both kids.
Both of my boys were horrible sleepers. I blame breastfeeding. While it’s been amazing and I loved nursing Easton, and now Lincoln (almost 1 year down!), it caused a lot of issues with our sleep schedules. Especially because I have a really really really hard time sleeping.
I’m a light sleeper by nature. I could wake up from a dead sleep to the sound of the fridge door opening in the kitchen. And once I’ve been woken up I have a hard time going back to sleep. So while breastfeeding our babies, I really tried to do the least amount of fully waking up as possible.
With Easton it was easy because I was single and nursing and sleeping in a queen sized bed. I just took off all the blankets and pillows and slept in bed with him. Being a light sleeper, I woke up if I even touched him so I felt safe with him there.
With Lincoln it was more stressful to bed share because of Jake being a big guy and us still having a queen sized bed. So he slept in a rock n’ play beside our bed. This may not have been the “best” thing, but it worked because a) I had severe anxiety and needed him close or I’d panic, b) he would wake up screaming if he were alone in his bed, and c) he was nursing all the time.
For both kids, these sleeping situations worked for a few months. But towards the end of the first year (both boys were around 9-10 months when we did CIO), I was exhausted, still waking up to nurse all night long, and in physical pain from the awkward sleep positions.
When we hit this point with Easton, I knew I didn’t have any other options. I was going to be getting married and needed to get him to sleep in his own bed. So after a few weeks of trying a variety of different tips and tricks from moms and Pinterest alike, I went to CIO and after a few nights it worked like a charm.
And we’re talking, the kid would go to bed at 8:30pm and wake up at 10:30am kind of charm.
Lincoln was a little different. He grew out of his rock n’ play at around 4 or 5 months. We then had him sleep in his DockATot, which worked really well for a few months. And then he got too big for that. But he wouldn’t sleep. I was waking up 5 times a night to be a pacifier and eventually ended up with him in our bed which gave me anxiety and kept me from sleeping.
At that point I’d exhausted all other options. I tried to wait until he was asleep and put him into bed. I tried letting him fall asleep in bed with me there. I tried putting him down for naps and then transitioning that to bedtime. I tried all kinds of baby massages and warm baths and lavender oils. And while I didn’t want to do CIO, it was our only untried option.
The first few nights it didn’t work at all. In fact, for the first week or two it was pure Hell. We probably spent a solid month going back and forth on whether we were going to commit to CIO or not. It was so hard with him. He would cry and scream for hours, fall asleep, and then wake up to cry and scream again throughout the night. I was sleeping less than before.
But as I got closer to the start of my student teaching semester I knew that I needed him to get at least a solid 8 hour stretch or I wouldn’t be able to function properly. So we tried again. This time we made it in less than a week. Here’s how we did it:
I stopped nursing him to sleep:
For the first 9 months of Lincoln’s life he was nursed to sleep every night. When we finally committed to CIO, I had to stop nursing him to sleep. I would nurse him in his room until he was drowsy, then put him in bed. Because his body was more relaxed and sleepy, it made it easier for him fall asleep. But because he wasn’t totally asleep yet, he got used to falling asleep on his own.
I stepped out of the room:
We still co-sleep with Lincoln in our room, so while he was crying I had to step out of the room. We tried the whole come in every 15-20 minutes and let him know you’re still there thing, but that only made him scream until he threw up. Instead, I would just step out of the room.
We expected the worst:
We’d tried it briefly with Lincoln before and had done it with Easton several years ago, so we knew what we were getting into. If you’re a first time parent, you may not know what to expect. Understand that it might suck really bad the first night. Maybe even the first two nights. Heck, it might suck for a week. But when you’re able to put your baby in bed and have him fall asleep on his own and stay asleep through the night, it will be worth it.
We set a solid bed time and tried our best to stick to it:
We have a weird schedule because Jake works valet and typically works the swing shift. For a while we were all over the place with Lincoln’s sleep schedule, meaning some nights he was up late with us. But when we set out to crack this crazy sleeping nightmare, we knew that there needed to be a solid routine or it wouldn’t work. So we made sure that along with not nursing him to sleep anymore, he was also going to bed around 7:30/8pm every single night.
All of these things together helped him to be a better sleeper and at this point, he’s actually happy to go to bed and is a very easy and pleasant sleeper!
Like I said, there is a lot of information on CIO out there. For some it may not work at all. For others (like us) it’s been more of a necessary evil. But at this point our kids are happy, healthy, and we’re all getting a solid night’s sleep!
*A note: I do not recommend CIO for any child under at least 6 months of age. Both of my kids were 9-10 months old and waking frequently throughout the night/not getting the recommended amount of sleep at night. Children under 6 months may be waking because it is developmentally normal. Please do not try CIO without doing your own research and consulting your pediatrician first.