Finding Sleep: Wait it Out vs. Cry it Out

There is not a parent who doesn’t struggle with sleep. As a newborn, your baby needs both nourishment and comfort throughout the night. As she ages into the toddler years, there are still times of waking because of monsters in the room, inability to fall asleep by herself, or simply to use the bathroom. Many parents revert to forms of sleep training in order teach their baby to sleep while others wait it out. Find out what these techniques are and how one may work better for your family.


Cry it Out

Cry it Out, more commonly known as CIO, is also referred to as sleep training. In its simplest definition, it means that you let your baby cry herself to sleep. The crying may continue for a few minutes or, in its most extreme form, for a few hours.  It is important to note, the goal in CIO is never to make your baby cry. It is to get your baby to sleep. Crying, however, is often a consequence.

Though there are many different names and methods under the CIO label, the general idea is:

  • Putting your baby in her crib or bed
  • Saying good night and leaving the room
  • Returning after the baby cries and patting her back
  • Using quiet shushing noises to soothe her
  • Leaving the room
  • Repeating as needed

The differences in the other tactics may include no talking at all, not going back in for a certain amount of time, or sitting in a chair in the room rather than leaving. Names of sleep training methods that incorporate CIO include:

Full Cry it Out: This method is an extreme and means the parents let their child cry with no comfort until she falls asleep. The parent may or may not be in the room.

Modified Cry it Out: This includes using something such as the Ferber method where parents come in at certain intervals to soothe the baby when she cries. Each interval gets longer. This method is often called Gentle Crying it Out.

Both of these methods focus on teaching the baby to self-soothe when they realize that their crying will not receive any positive attention. It is important to note that no professional recommends sleep training before four months of age because prior to that the baby still has nutritional and comfort needs that must be met. Some children may not even be ready to start then and you should discuss it with your pediatrician.


Criticism of CIO

There is no question that any form of CIO is controversial. Most parents who do use it, subscribe to the modified version since it is gentler.  There are times and families who find this technique is the best for their situation. If, for example, your baby’s needs are met and there are no health issues, some parents need to let their child cry it out. It isn’t only the baby’s exhaustion, but the parents’ basic needs that are being met here as well. If the parent is sleep deprived, it can affect the care of the child. Many are against any form of CIO, though, for reasons such as:

Causing long term stress damage and anxiety when your child’s needs go unmet
Causing greater dependency issues later in life
Learning to give up rather than self-soothe

These effects occur because the baby is too young to know how to properly self-regulate. It leaves her feeling insecure, which unfortunately can affect the long term.

Wait it Out

On the other side of CIO, is the method called Wait it Out (WIO). Those who follow this do not believe it is a method, but rather the parents are simply meeting their baby’s needs. In the strictest sense, there is no crying in the WIO method.

Waiting it Out generally means

  • Comforting your baby as soon as she cries, if not before
  • Holding your baby as she cries rather than letting her sit alone

WIO takes many forms, but is considered interactive since you are empathizing with your baby rather than holding authority over her. It does not mean that your child never cries, it simply means that you are with her as she cries. Sometimes this may be sitting there and letting her know you are ready when she is.

Criticism of WIO

WIO does share its own criticisms similar to CIO.  Some of these include

  • Believing your baby will not learn self-soothing skills
  • Causing others in the family to experience constant and extreme sleep deprivation
  • Believing following a child-led method puts the baby in control rather than the adult

In reality, with WIO you are constantly evolving to meet new needs as your baby develops. It allows your baby to feel secure because they know that if they communicate, even by crying, she will be answered.

Studies on CIO/WIO

There are a lot of articles out there on sleep training. In fact, if you follow social media, you may find a new one posted almost daily. There is one important factor to remember when looking at the statistics and studies on CIO, though: almost no study is actual reliable. These are extremely difficult tactics to study professionally because there is no guarantee that a parent is following it precisely. Even one small change can alter the results. Due to this, the results are actually not reliable.

The information that is reliable includes the fact that 84% of babies will become unreliable in their sleep habits. That means whether you CIO or WIO, you likely are going to have a baby whose needs change. And, they change often. It may be due to

  • Teething
  • Illness
  • Learning new skills
  • Change of sleeping schedule (i.e. vacation)

Each time one of these occur, you may need to change or restart your method all over again.

Sleep Qualities That Work

Believe it or not, there are a few things that both CIO and WIO can have in common. The general methods oppose each other, but successful sleep is almost always found with routine. An example that can be used with either method is coming up with an evening schedule that works for all family members. It may be something such as:

  • Dinner at 6PM
  • Playtime until 7PM
  • Bath at 7PM
  • Quiet Play with dim lights until 7:45PM
  • Lay in bed at 8:00PM

From this point, your schedule will change. CIOers may leave the room while the WIOer may cuddle their little one to sleep. Babies and toddlers both flourish with a routine and schedule, though, as it helps to set their body into motion to go to sleep. After a week, you’ll notice the amount of time needed to fall asleep should shorten.

Whether you choose to CIO or WIO, you’ll find people who tell you to do the opposite. You’ll find people who do the same, but were afraid to talk about it. Neither method means that you love your child any less. It is important to take your temperament and your baby’s temperament to create a plan that works for your family. You and your baby will sleep and this difficult time is not going to last forever. That is a gurantee.