The basic idea of letting your baby cry it out sounds simple enough: instead of getting up to soothe your fussy baby in the night, you let the little one cry a bit and then fall asleep again without help. But, like many parenting techniques, there are many different ways to cry it out. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the different methods and find one that works for you and your family.
As with most parenting decisions, there are potential pros and cons to using any cry it out approach, and each method has its proponents and detractors. Although the variety of choices may seem like a good thing at first, when you're listening to a baby cry his head off at three in the morning, chances are this won't matter much. You will just want the method that's right for your family (and your own sanity).
By reviewing these methods of crying it out, you can familiarize yourself with the techniques that have worked for other families. Chances are, you will come across a method that sounds like the right fit for your little one. Whatever approach to sleep training you choose, hopefully you and your baby will be well on your way to more restful slumbers in no time.
1. The Ferber Method
Richard Ferber, pediatrician and OG sleep training advocate, introduced his method of teaching babies to self-soothe in his 1985 book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. According to Baby Center, the "Ferberizing" method has gained popularity, although its original ideas are often misconstrued by detractors (for instance, he does not advocate leaving your baby alone to cry all night out of the blue). Ferber's actual method is more nuanced, and he advocates "gradual extinction," in which you delay responding to your baby's nighttime wakings in a progressive manner, as noted in Parenting. The method encourages caregivers to check in on the baby incrementally, and you can even plan out a schedule for gradually lengthening your times between check-ins, as explained by the Baby Sleep Site.
2. The Babywise Method
Written by infant care management experts Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep presents another approach to sleep management. According to The Baby Sleep Site, the Babywise method involves a schedule in which your baby eats, plays, and then naps. Although many caregivers love this parent-led schedule, there has been some controversy about Babywise, it does run counter to the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of feeding babies on demand, as noted in Baby Center. If you're interested in the Babywise method but feel concerned about sticking to the schedule, have a chat with your pediatrician about what would work best for your little one.
3. The Basic Bedtime Method
Like the other methods, Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep by Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., relies on routines and schedules to help your little one get through the night in peace. Mindell, the associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, advocates a research-based "basic bedtime method" to help with all kinds of bedtime problems, as noted by the Seattle Children's Hospital. By focusing heavily on the bedtime routine, you may avoid those middle-of-the-night problems altogether.
4. The Weissbluth Method
Another cry-it-out method is advocated by Marc Weissbluth M.D. in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. This method examines the obstacles many caregivers face when dealing with babies of different temperaments and their common sleep problems. As noted by Sleeplady, this method differs from others in that you are encouraged to let your baby cry until he's asleep, without the gradual "check-ins" encouraged by the Ferber Method.
And you can also get technology involved. Does your baby need a nap? There's an app for that. According to Weissbluth Pediatrics, you can use the Weissbluth apps to tailor your child's sleep individual sleep habits. Whatever method or tool you choose, hopefully you and your family can enjoy more restful nights in no time.