If your baby is still not sleeping through the night after age 6 months, should you let her cry it out? Well, not for very long. Your baby should cry for no more than 5 minutes before consoling her. Studies have shown that responding more quickly to your baby’s crying with holding and nurturing tends to be more psychologically beneficial than letting your baby ‘cry it out’ (CIO). This is not to say a baby should never cry. Babies cry when they are upset, hungry, grumpy, sleepy, in pain and bored. Prolonged crying happens for various reasons and should not happen frequently. If babies cry for an extended time with no attempt at nurturing them, it can be psychologically and emotionally harmful.
People from a variety of cultures around the world have strong opinions about when to console a crying baby. I had the pleasure of conversation with a lovely mother, Clare Monson, who resides in rural Portugal. Clare states, “I do not believe it is necessary, and I do not believe it is good for the developing brain. I don’t believe it’s possible for a baby to ‘manipulate’; they cry for a reason, our job is to be there for them.”
Some pediatricians and parents believe in the CIO system, and their babies fare well. Maybe you are among them. But consider the following points if you are thinking about turning to the CIO method.
Purpose of CIO. Understand your purpose in letting your baby cry it out. Is it your desire for her to get to sleep and have a good night’s sleep? Are you exhausted? These may be valid reasons to let your child cry for short periods of time.
Age is important. The CIO method should not be used for babies younger than nine months of age because they’re learning to trust and are still bonding, they need to be held and nurtured when they are distressed.
Do spot checks after five minutes. If she fusses a bit, that’s okay. But if she cries persistently for more than five minutes, check on her. You can soothe her while she remains in the crib and then leave. This can be time consuming, but it reassures her that you are around and she hasn’t been left alone.
If your baby’s sleep problems are severe and she doesn’t respond to these techniques, check with your doctor to rule out a possible medical problem. For example, some babies who are teething may have trouble sleeping during the height of their tooth’s eruption. If your doctor determines this is the case, you may be instructed to give her ibuprofen or acetaminophen liquid at night to alleviate pain.
No sleep training advice is perfect. A good night’s sleep takes practice. For more information see, “Getting Your Baby to Sleep Peacefully – All Night!”