There is quite a bit of controversy with this method of sleep training. I’ve read on parenting forums people describe it as ‘cruel’ and ‘damaging’ but I have also read many parents describe it as ‘the best thing they ever did’ and I can absolutely be added to the latter list!
I researched lots of sleep training methods even while I was still pregnant and they all pointed to starting any form of training at around the 6 month mark which of course coincides with the recommended age for babies to be in their own rooms safely and reducing the SIDS risk. Up until this age Mila had mostly been a good sleeper but took a little while to settle at night and often ended up in bed with us, she was at this point sleeping in a rocking crib by our bed and even though we would sneak quietly into our bed when it came to our own bedtime, we would sometimes wake her, this made us realise it was definitely time we both had our own space and she finally got to make use of her beautiful nursery.
The ‘Cry it Out’ method, also known as ‘Controlled Crying’ or ‘The Ferber Method’ was an option of sleep training that came up quite a lot when I was doing my research and it totally made sense to me. The idea that a baby can learn to self soothe knowing that although they are alone we are there if they really needed us. It isn’t just to settle them to sleep when first put to bed but also for when they wake throughout the night so they know how to get themselves back to sleep and feel happy and content without a parent soothing them back to sleep.
All you needed to make sure before hand was that they were fed, dry and in good health – I would absolutely never recommend doing this method if your baby is poorly as of course this is when they might need you to soothe them. I also personally feel more comfortable having my girls in my room when they aren’t very well.
The day Mila turned 6 months came and I of course felt sad, I was looking forward to having my room back and a little more space as the crib would be gone and not having to worry about waking her with our movements, but waking in the night and hearing those oh so cute sleepy baby breaths was definitely something I would miss, seeing her little nose in the dim light, waking to her little face near me…all of it of course I would miss but I knew it would be good for us all.
How it works…
So when your baby is all ready for bed you put them down in their cot and walk out, if they cry you leave them for 5 minutes, it feels like a long time…but sticking to these times is really important. If after 5 minutes they are still crying walk into their room, soothe them without talking or getting them out of their cot (I simply laid her back down usually from sitting up gave her the snuggle blanket she loved and popped her dummy back in) and walk back out.
If they cry again, leave them again but this time for 10 minutes and repeat the same steps, then 15 minutes then 20 minutes and if after 20 minutes they are still crying, carry on these steps but stick to 20 minutes and never longer than that.
Continue the next few days if necessary from 5 minutes each night.
We put her in her pyjamas, gave her that last bottle of warm milk and took her up to bed together, we gave her a goodnight kiss, laid her in her cot in her sleep bag, popped in the dummy, turned the light out and walked out. 3 minutes later she screamed. I’m not going to lie, that first night was hell!!! I nearly gave in 100 times and cried quite a bit.
I should add here that it is really important that both parents are in agreement with this technique of training as it’s so easy to just give in but if you have each other’s support not to you will stick to it.
5 mins, 10 mins, 15 mins, 20 mins…20 mins, 20 mins, 20 mins, 20 mins, 20 mins….you’re getting the idea and it went on and on and we pretty much watched the sun come up.
We spent the next day in a bit of a cloud of bickering sleepiness and dreaded the night to come but promised each other to stick to it and when that night came and we put her to bed and she screamed, my heart sunk knowing what we were in for.
5 mins, 10 mins, 15 mins…nothing…??? My husband went up the stairs to check on her and she was fast asleep, he came down looking pretty smug and we had a moment of ‘wow!’ An hour later she was screaming again and it started again, 5 mins, 10 mins…nothing…back to sleep! She slept for a good 5 hours and woke in the early hours she was soothed by me after 5 mins and then slept through until 6:45! We felt pretty amazing!
The following night we put her to bed and she didn’t make a peep, she woke once during the night but didn’t even get to 5 mins before she had self soothed herself back to Dream Land and woke again the next day at 6:30! It took two nights and that was it, she woke happily in the mornings and walking into her room after hearing her talking to herself all content and happy and seeing her little face light up when she saw us made it all worth it.
This method might not work or be for everybody and could take longer (the longest I’ve read is two weeks) or even a shorter period of time for your baby to get used to it but it worked for us! We have been told by our Health Visitor that this method is perfectly okay and given the go ahead from her too.
Mila has been put to bed at 7pm every night and has slept through since 6 months old and is now nearly 3 years old, apart from when she is poorly/jet lagged etc gets herself back to sleep if she does wake in the night, we always get told how amazing she is to babysit for as putting her to bed is a breeze and once she’s down she stays down.
I absolutely recommended the ‘Cry it Out’ method and its a method which is totally flexible, you can pick the times between crying that suit you and your baby/family but these time frames sat well with us. I will put a link here to a website which you might find helpful to read also!