What Is The Cry It Out Method Of Sleep Training?

cry it out method

You're at your wit's end. Your baby won't sleep, and it's taking a toll on everyone in the house — including your little one. You've heard about the cry-it-out method of sleep training, and now you're wondering if it's right for your baby.

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution for sleep training, the cry-it-out method (also known as CIO) is a popular option. Let’s examine how it works and the pros and cons to help you decide if it’s something you want to try.

But first, let’s talk about sleep training in general.

Table Of Contents

What Is Sleep Training?

Mom doing the cry it out method

Sleep training is the process of helping your baby learn to sleep through the night. There are several different approaches, and what works for one family may not work for another. Here are a few popular sleep training methods to help you sort the options.

The Cry-It-Out Method

As the name suggests, this approach involves letting your baby cry so they learn how to self-soothe and fall back asleep on their own.

The Ferber Method

Also known as graduated extinction, this method starts with letting your baby cry for a set time (usually three to five minutes at first) before going in to check on them. Then, the intervals between checks gradually get longer until your baby falls asleep on their own.

Though it’s similar to the cry-it-out method, the regular check-ins help some parents feel better using this version.

The Pick-Up/Put-Down Method

With this approach, you start by putting your baby down for a nap or bedtime when they're drowsy but before they fall asleep. Then, if they cry for more than a few minutes, you pick them up again for a brief snuggle before putting them back down.

You'd repeat this pick-up and put-down process until your baby falls asleep on their own.

The Chair Method

Rocking chair in a nursery

Considered a more gentle approach to sleep training, this method starts with sitting in a chair next to your baby's crib while they fall asleep. You can soothe them with your presence, pats on the back, and your voice.

Once they're sleeping, leave the room. If your little one wakes up again, go back and sit down, repeating the process. Over time, your goal is to gradually move the chair away from their crib until you're no longer in the room after you put them in their crib.

No matter which method you choose, some tears will likely be involved as your baby adjusts to sleeping through the night. But with a bit of patience and consistency, you can help your little one learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

How The Cry It Out Method Works

cry it out method

Now that you know more about your options and the goal of sleep training, let's look more closely at the cry-it-out method.

There are a few variations of this style of sleep training, but the basic idea is to put your baby to bed when they're drowsy, and then walk away until it's time for them to eat again or until morning (depending on your baby's age.)

While it may sound harsh to let your baby cry, remember that you're not leaving them alone; you're just out of sight. As long as you've changed their diaper, fed them, and burped them before putting them down, you can be confident that their needs are met.

It's also important to remember that crying is a normal, developmentally appropriate way for babies to express themselves. They simply don't have the words to communicate differently.

When Can You Start Letting Your Baby Cry It Out?

Deciding to try the cry-it-out method is a personal decision. But, if you want to try it, you may wonder when you can start.

Many experts recommend waiting until your child is about six months old to begin sleep training of any kind. By then, most babies can go longer between feedings, and their bodies have gotten more used to the rhythms of day and night.

Do You Just Let Your Baby Cry Nonstop?

One common misconception about the CIO method is that you just let your baby cry until they fall asleep, no matter what. But that's not entirely accurate.

While some parents take a “let them cry no matter how long it takes” stance, no rule says you have to let your baby scream for hours on end. In fact, it may be helpful to go in and check on your baby periodically, especially at first.

During this time, ensure they don't have a physical need, such as a dirty diaper or an upset tummy. If there's an issue, pick your little one up and take care of things before returning them to bed. Use your voice to tell them that you’re there and love them.

Pros And Cons Of CIO

Baby doing the cry it out method

Now that you know how CIO works, it's time to consider the pros and cons of this approach.


      • It’s safe and effective. Studies have found no physical or psychological harm comes to your baby through sleep training.
      • It teaches your baby to self-soothe. One of the goals of sleep training is to help your baby learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. That’s the purpose of this method.
      • It’s faster than other methods. With some sleep training methods, it can take weeks or even months for your baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own. The cry-it-out method is often quicker.


      • It can be harder on the parents than on the baby. Listening to your baby cry can be tough, and it may be tempting to go in and comfort them. But if you do, you'll just be prolonging the process.
      • It won’t be a good fit for everyone. Letting your baby cry seems too cruel for some parents, and if that's how you feel, this method may not be right for you.
      • It can be difficult for the whole family. If you have other children, they may wake up when they hear their sibling crying, which can impact their sleep.
      • Crying can trigger a letdown. If you're nursing your baby, the sound of their crying can trigger your letdown reflex, making it harder for you to stay away from their room and let them cry.

Tips For Using The Cry It Out Method

baby laying on crib mattress

If you’re ready to try the cry-it-out method, these tips can help.

      • Follow safe sleep guidelines. Make sure your baby is in a safe environment before you start sleep training. Put them to sleep on their back without pillows or blankets. A Sleep Sack for Babies can help keep them cozy if it’s chilly.
      • Develop a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine, such as a bath and a story, can help signal to your baby that it's time to wind down and go to sleep. This can make sleep training more effective.
      • Make sure their mattress is comfortable. Do you want to sleep on a lumpy, old bed? Neither does your baby. A Newton Baby Crib Mattress ensures their sleeping area is comfortable so they can drift off to dreamland more easily.
      • Start with naptime. Sometimes, it's easier to start with naptime before you tackle bedtime. Then, once your baby can self-soothe during the day, give it a try at night.
      • Be consistent. Consistency is key when sleep training. Once you start the process, stick with it for a few nights to give your baby time to adjust.
      • Be patient. It takes time for your baby to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. This means they may be crying a bit for several days. But with patience, your baby will soon fall asleep without tears.

Remember, you know your baby best. If you're not comfortable with the cry-it-out method or if it's not working for you, there are other sleep training options.

If you’d like some assistance getting your baby to sleep, consider a Newton Sleep Consultation Powered by Tot Squad. During your virtual consultation, a sleep expert provides one-on-one guidance and answers all of your questions about baby sleep habits.

Sweet Dreams, Baby!

up-close of a baby sleeping with a pacifier

Whether or not you decide to use the cry-it-out method, know that eventually, your baby will sleep through the night.

In the meantime, help prepare your baby for success by establishing a bedtime routine, ensuring their sleep clothes are cozy, and ensuring their sleeping environment is comfortable with a Newton Baby Crib Mattress.

Then, sit back and enjoy watching your little one dream. And if they wake up, remember that this season of parenting won't last forever. In the blink of an eye, they'll be off to college, and you'll be wondering where the time went.