There are a lot of juxtaposing opinions on sleep training and what's right, wrong, or unnecessary — especially when it comes to using "cry it out." While technology is great and has its advantages, such as convenience, there's an overabundance of information that can leave fatigued parents overwhelmed and uncomfortably unsure. In my humble opinion, when trying to learn how to cry it out (CIO) it's important to consult experts instead of online forums, and even other parents, if only so you're not left in the dark when you're desperate for some shut eye.
The Baby Center describes cry it out as "letting a baby cry for a specified period of time before offering comfort." The Baby Center goes on to advise parents to wait until their baby is between the ages of 4-6 months (at least) before starting to cry it out, which is when they're most likely to sleep through the night and on their own. It's a big step going from the comfort of parental dependence to self-soothing, which is why in addition to age and emotional and physical readiness, The Baby Center suggests developing and sticking to a regular bedtime routine before utilizing the cry it out sleep training method. In other words, consistency and patience will be the ultimate set-up for sleep training success.
If you've checked all the boxes and are ready to try CIO, the Baby Sleep Site recommends creating a plan of attack so you and your partner know what will happen if, and when, your baby cries in the middle of the night. Recruiting a support system is the next step in your pre-CIO arsenal, because the process may be exhaustive if these things aren't in place beforehand.
Some experts agree to do cry it out it in phases, while others believe it best if parents work towards a pre-conceived, slightly more drastic route (i.e. Ferberizing in the vein of Dr. Richard Ferber and his cry it out sleep training techniques). Dr. Michael Gradisar, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Clinical Child Psychology and Director and Clinical Psychologist at the Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders University, published a study in Pediatrics reassuring worried parents that cry it out doesn't stress babies out any more than the gradual extinction method.
Still, nervous parents wondering how to cry it out successfully and with less discomfort may choose to follow the steps provided via the Baby Center, mostly because they're gradual and meant to be long-lasting yet gentle.
When your baby is drowsy, but still awake, put them in their crib.
If your baby cries after telling them goodnight, stick to the predetermined length of time from your plan before going in their room.
Return to your baby to reassure for a brief period of time, but refrain from picking him or her up. Keep the lights off and your voice gentle.
If crying continues repeat this process, shortening the time you're in the room every interval, until your baby is asleep when you're gone.
It's suggested that parents looking to sleep train follow the same process if their baby wakes through the night, though if it's not working after a few nights it may be best to try again at a different time or — because success can also be defined by temperament — reassess if this approach is best for your particular baby at all. After all, when you're a parent the only way to know if something is going to work is to give it an honest shot.