How to Try the Cry-it-out Method

Picture this: You’ve finally drifted off to dreamland and are in the middle of your favorite dream about winning an unlimited supply of seasonal flavored lattes when you hear it your baby’s midnight wake-up call.

Like a lot parents, you might be torn about what to do next. Many pediatricians recommend letting infants gradually “cry it out” so they can learn how to fall back asleep on their own. And, according to The New York Times, such methods do not lead to “any concerning levels of stress” in infants. Then again, the idea of letting your little one wail into the night might sound like your worst nightmare come to life.

We turned to Dr. Gary Mirkin, pediatrician and CEO of Allied Physicians Group, for advice. While many parents feel nervous about the cry-it-out technique, he does recommend a gentle, relatively easy way to put it into action based on the Ferber method.

“A lot of times,” he says, “it’s just about getting parents to relax a bit and let the baby figure out for themselves what to do.”

If you’re interested in trying crying it out, Dr. Mirkin suggests the following 3-night plan after infants have reached between 11 and 13 pounds:  

Night One

“If your baby’s crying, time it for two minutes,” Dr. Mirkin says. He notes that stirring, laughing and babbling don’t count as crying. “If, after two minutes, the baby is still crying, go in and talk to them softly. It’s okay to pat your baby on the tummy, but don’t pick them up or turn on the lights. You just want the baby to realize that you’re there. Then, turn around and leave. Odds are the baby will start to cry as soon as you turn around. But that’s okay. Time their crying again and, this time, let them cry for five minutes before going to see them. Then 10 minutes. Then every 15 minutes until the baby eventually falls asleep.”

Night Two

On the second night, stick to the plan, but increase the wait times. “Do the same thing, except time the baby’s crying for five minutes before you go see them,” says Dr. Mirkin. “Then wait 10 minutes. And then every 15 minutes.”

Night Three

“Most of the time, this method works in two nights,” Dr. Mirkin says. “Once in awhile, you might have to do a third night. In that case, start with 10 minutes and then every 15 minutes. Generally it works really well.”

Have you tried the cry-it-out method or another sleep training technique? Let us know how it worked for your family on Facebook or Twitter.

Diana A.

Diana A.

Diana is an editor and writer based in New York City, and she frequently writes about health, parenting and everything babies. She’s been a fan of sleep since the early 1980s.