For many parents who are on the fence about the cry it out methods of sleep training, one of their biggest concerns is wondering how long it will take. The thought of listening your baby cry for any length of time can be hard to reason through, especially if it will be for multiple nights or even weeks. If you're asking yourself how long do I have to cry it out before baby catches on, you're not alone. And, like most parenting-related subjects, there isn't a straight forward answer — it's different for every baby.
According to Baby Center, finding the right sleep training method for your baby's personality is key to its effectiveness. Some babies sleep well on their own, others adapt quickly, and others need more gentle, subtle approaches to sleep training. The article goes on to say that children who are more easy going, adaptable, or flexible often do best with modified cry it out or CIO, methods, because they're quick learners and generally don't require the same kind of comfort that more sensitive children do.
Although, according to the Baby Sleep Site, the main goal of sleep training is to create new habits or healthy associations. And working with your baby's already established personality, instead of against it, will ensure that you're not training for months with no results. Because that's a literal nightmare that no parent or baby wants. The best age to start will vary, but it's crucial to ensure that your baby isn't younger than five or six months before you sleep train.
If you decide to go with a CIO method (and there are many, each with different amounts of tears,) Precious Little Sleep noted that it generally only takes a few nights to see results. When other more gentle approaches can sometimes take weeks, one of the biggest draws of controlled crying or modified CIO is that it will work more quickly.
However, consistency is key. According to the Baby Sleep Site, when practiced consistently, "the right sleep training method can work wonders for baby's nighttime sleep problems." In other words, once you pick a method you believe will work well, stick with it. The worst thing for your baby is to try out a dozen different methods on them — they'll end up confused and more tired than they were in the beginning. That's why choosing the right method is so important.
If you think a CIO approach may be for you and your baby, commit and go for it. It likely won't take as long as you think.