One of the most tricky things about parenting a baby is sleep, or lack thereof. Many parents feel the need to introduce a strict sleep schedule and prefer their infants to sleep through the night as soon as possible. It is no surprise that infant sleep training methods are pretty popular and that there are many, many books on the subject on the market. So, what is "cry it out"? And what isn't it?
What is "cry it out"?
Cry it out is often shortened to CIO, particularly when you frequent online parenting forums! CIO commonly refers to any sleep training method where the baby is placed in a crib, bassinet, or something similar, and then left to fall asleep on his own through crying. This can be for long or short periods of time. Probably the most famous sleep training method, which falls in the CIO category, is Dr Richard Ferber's method from his book Solve your child's sleep problems. Ferber doesn't actually advocate leaving babies to cry for as long as it takes them to get to sleep, instead recommending much shorter periods. Some parents do this, and other methods do advocate it.
What CIO is not
Cry it out is a controversial issue, and definitely one of the hot infant parenting issues especially among so-called attachment parents. Hence this paragraph. If your baby is crying in your arms before getting to sleep, while you are trying to comfort her, it's not considered CIO. Babies who are left to go to sleep in their crib by themselves and don't cry but are content are not left to cry it out. Lots of babies cry, probably all of them. Opposing sleep training does not equal opposing crying, or saying that no baby should be left to go to sleep on their own, if they actually seem to like it that way.
Why do it, and what are the alternatives?
Cry it out is such a common method that new parents may actually think it is the only way to get a baby to sleep. I did it after my first was born, because it is what everyone advised and it makes sense when your newborn just won't sleep and you can't go on anymore. It didn't last long though, because I did not enjoy listening to my baby crying for help and comfort. Babies can actually fall asleep while you nurse, rock, or sing to them. If they are in your arms when they fall asleep, you can either leave them there or gently move them to their crib.
Opponents of CIO believe that the baby who goes through sleep training stops crying for his parents because he learns that he has nobody to rely on. Others feel that short times of crying are fine, and that some babies actually need to get rid of some energy by crying. Some parents simply don't have the ability to let their baby nap on their lap all the time, and think CIO is the only way out. Sleep training is a personal decision, but it definitely requires some thought!