Should You Let Your Baby Cry It Out?

This method of baby sleep training has critics and proponent

crying baby
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Should you let your baby "cry it out" sometimes to go to sleep? This is a hotly-debated topic among parents and parenting experts, and the simple answer is: There's no simple answer. All babies and all parents are different, and to expect one method to work for all of them is probably unrealistic. 

Plenty of parents have struggled with how to best teach their baby how to go sleep. Like a lot of things in parenting, it's a difficult balance to strike.

On one hand, you know that babies sometimes just need you, but on the other hand, sometimes you need sleep too, and the baby isn't getting into any kind of pattern.

Sleep deprivation has very real dangerous effects on both mothers and fathers, with everything from raising risks of postpartum depression to obesity. Lack of sleep is a big motivation for some parents to try a cry it out method of sleep training. And although letting a baby cry herself to sleep is a method that has been met with criticism, some studies show that crying it out may help babies learn to sleep more at night.

How to Cry It Out

The "cry it out" method of sleep training, means different things to different people, but in general, it means putting your baby down to sleep awake and letting him or her cry for a set amount of time before soothing the baby. In a study that looked at different types of sleeping training, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls this method of sleep training graduated extinction, which refers to a "graduation" in the number of times a parent lets their baby cry before going in to soothe them.

In this method, on the first night it may take 10 minutes for your baby to self-soothe, while the second night, it may take less time. The goal with crying it out is to teach your baby to soothe herself back to sleep without you, so that during those inevitable nighttime awakenings (because it is totally normal for babies to wake up at night, even if they don't need anything) she can go back to sleep on her own This method also allows parents to put babies down to sleep quickly and easily without hours of feeding or reading or rocking.

The Effectiveness of Crying it Out

Advocates of crying it out swear that it works. Although it may be difficult for the first night or two, after the first initial hurdle, babies learn to sleep better on their own. The AAP study has actually found the cry it out method works. On average, the babies in the cry it out group slept 20 minutes longer than any other babies in the study. This may sound like a small amount, but I assure you, from the standpoint of any sleep-deprived parent, 20 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. Twenty minutes of extra sleep may as well be 20 hours when you're a new parent.

Crying it Out Isn't Harmful to Babies

Not only did researchers find that the cry-it-out method was effective as a way to help babies sleep longer, but that in fact, it was not harmful to babies. The study measured babies' stress levels through hormones and mother's observations before, after, and a year later, just to make sure and found that the babies did not display any short or long-term negative effects from crying it out.

So should you try the cry it out method with your baby? As a parent, you know what your baby needs and if you are considering using the cry-it-out method, just remember that crying it out does not mean leaving a very young baby to scream for hours alone in her room.

Crying it out needs to be a controlled aspect of sleep training that accounts for all of your baby's needs, including making sure she is fed, cuddled, diapered properly, and comfortable before you implement it. You also need to be sure you can see your baby, so invest in a good quality video monitor too and be sure to speak to your doctor before you start sleep training as well, to make sure you are following safe sleep recommendations.


Gradisar, M., Jackson, K. Spurrier, N.J., Gibson, J., Whitham, J., Williams, A., Dolby, R., Kennaway, D. (2016, May). Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, e20151486. Retrieved from 

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