Why It's OK to Let Babies 'Cry It Out'


Live Science:

Why It’s OK to Let Babies 'Cry It Out’

It can be difficult to listen to a baby wail in his or her crib at nighttime, but a new study finds that leaving a little one to “cry it out” does not raise the baby’s stress level, and may actually lead him or her to get more shut-eye over time. The findings may give sleep-deprived parents more insight into which parenting strategies could work best for their babies, the researchers said.
However, they cautioned that the study was small and included mostly higher-income, well-educated families. Therefore, more research is needed to see whether the findings apply to other groups, they said.

In the study, the researchers randomly placed 43 infants, ages 6 to 16 months old, who had trouble falling and staying asleep at night, into one of three groups. In one group, parents tried “graduated extinction,” in which they didn’t respond to the babies’ cries immediately but would eventually comfort the child briefly without picking him or her up or turning on the lights. If the baby cried again, the parents would wait a little longer before they went to comfort the baby, and so on until the baby fell asleep.
In the second group, the parents tried “bedtime fading,” which meant that if the babies had trouble falling asleep the night before, parents would put them to bed later the next night. But the parents still comforted the child as they normally would at night. In the third group, which acted as the control group, parents simply received for babies, and no specific instructions.

The first two methods are controversial, largely because of the belief that letting a baby cry can be stressful for both infants and parents, and may increase their levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers said. To measure the stress levels of the babies in the study, the researchers analyzed the babies’ cortisol levels from cotton swabs of their saliva that the parents collected in the mornings and afternoons.
The study found that, within three months, the 14 babies in the graduated-extinction group (the ones who were left to cry) and the 15 babies in the bedtime-fading group (the ones who were put to bed later the following night) started falling asleep faster at night compared with the 14 babies in the control group. Moreover, those in the graduated-extinction group woke up fewer times during the night than the babies in the control group did at the three-month mark, the researchers found.

The results also showed that the afternoon cortisol levels in the babies in the two sleeping intervention groups dropped more over time than those of the babies in the control group, indicating less stress, the researchers said.
It’s possible that these methods work because the babies learn to soothe themselves, stop crying and go to sleep, the researchers said.One year after the intervention started, the mothers assessed their children, looking for any emotional or behavioral problems, and underwent a test evaluating parent-child attachment. There were no differences among the groups in terms of the children’s behavioral and emotional temperaments, the researchers said.

I never heard of cry it out but we started doing it when we realized Matt was training us. He would cry, stop for a minute (while we, ah, discussed whose turn it was), then cry louder. We realized the gap in the crying was him listening to see if anyone was coming.

Once we stopped responding to the second cry they got louder for awhile then shorter then stopped.

One thing, I have to say, 43 seems like a small sample.


The “gradual extinction” method is detailed in Ferber’s book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”. Used it with both of my kids 20 years ago and it worked beautifully; have recommended it to many others who have had the same results. Believe the book was updated recently, worth a read.



Been 40 years ago but we made the mistake of relying on a baby rearing book we had bought-it said throw a glass of cold water in their face and it would stop it. we tried it and instantly had not only a crying baby but a wet crying baby with a wet bed. After that we let her “cry it out” and it soon ceased


I wonder about making a hard and fast rule of this. In raising our children, we were sometimes confronted by crying that seemed to serve no purpose, only to finally realize that it did; that there was something wrong.


I am not a mom who likes CIO.

Babies can’t speak, the only way they have of communicating with us is through crying.

One morning I let my oldest cry it out for his nap. He cried and cried, and when I checked on him, he was all wet and cold because he leaked thru his diaper.

I felt terrible.

I didn’t do it again for my other children.

No regrets, they are nice kids, and they can sleep on their own no problems now.


I’m with you. While there is nothing wrong with a few minutes of fussing before settling down to sleep, I simply could not let a child cry interminably. Even if it didn’t raise their stress levels (and that was a very small sample in the research) it certainly raised mine.


And did they become spoiled, of course not, and I tell my kids the same now with their children, that if the baby was to become spoiled we would already know by you. :shrug:

Them poor little guys screaming it out with crocodile tears and so serious till exasperation. Hardly seems right. :mad:


my daughter-in-law follows the cry it out. I don’t. I live with them and take care of baby since she travels a lot. she lets the baby cry and cry and cry and cry. I have to restrain myself from running in there when she is home. Her response to everything is the doctor says its normal or I am supposed to let her cry. as another poster said - babies can’t talk.
I have found if I take the baby and let her play for another 10 minutes then she is wanting to be put to bed. sometimes their diaper is dirty even though you just changed it or they are teething. I just don’t believe in letting a baby cry for 20-30 minutes - screaming is more like it!


I can’t figure out why this very small study (43 families divided among three sleep method groups, and half of whom didn’t have followups in the middle for reasons that aren’t stated by researchers) has gotten so much press. Cry it out might work for some kids. I can tell you it did not work for mine, and there are plenty of other kids out there for whom it doesn’t work. shrug This study doesn’t tell us a whole lot about any given infant. It also doesn’t tell us how long the families truly let the babies cry. I mean, even now I sometimes let my toddler cry for a couple minutes at night, but it’s really more of a “fuss it out” because it lasts two minutes or less. Usually only 30 seconds after I leave the room, actually. (And it’s a mad cry – not hungry, not scared, just mad that it’s bedtime.) I did that occasionally when my toddler was an infant, but again, if it went on for more than a minute or two, I knew something was wrong and I went in there. Sometimes a baby just needs mama… and that’s OK, that’s what/who they are supposed to need.

This blog picks apart some of the data. The blogger is not in favor of cry-it-out methods, so you might argue she has a bias, but her take on the study’s raw data is well worth reading and considering.

There were no cortisol measurements at night, only during the daytime, which is odd because it doesn’t say anything about the babies’ stress level at night either before or after sleep training. Also interesting, the babies in the graduated extinction group actually had more minutes awake at the 3 month mark than they had at the start of sleep training.

Anyway, I think it’s an interesting study, but I don’t think we can make a lot of conclusions yet without a bigger study.


Look at a group of, say, five-year-old children, or ten-year-old children, or adults. Can you point out who was sleep trained and how? Unlikely.

Most people will agree that you should never let a very young baby cry it out. Beyond that, whatever a loving parent decides to do is probably going to be okay for the kid. Cry-it-out didn’t work for us; in fact, nothing worked for us except good ol’ Time, and my almost-three-year-old and 15-month-old STILL wake up once (briefly) per night. Every parent is different, and every baby is different.


I have a stake in this question, because I have a 2.5 year old daughter (a gift from.God, of course, who I love beyond my ability to describe).

We’re lucky in that she’s a good sleeper. Her first few months were tough, because she was premature and tiny and had to be fed every two hours . I would get up for the feedings, mostly as a gesture of solidarity with my wife, and so I could pick her up, get my wife a soft drink or something, and generally assist as much as I could.

But even then, the baby had to be woken up. And now, although she’ll resist bedtime, once she’s in bed, she’ll go to sleep within five minutes and stay asleep until.its time to get up.

I’ve heard so many stories from other parents that I know how fortunate we are.


In reading this and other child rearing threads i am very grateful that I raised my kids before social media was around:D



For what it’s worth, I’d view the results of such studies with skepticism, because nowadays almost all human research has an agenda, and it often isn’t a healthy one. :wink:


Yes! I resist social media. I don’t have a Facebook page, or an Instagram account. I just don’t do it. Better for me, better for my daughter.


I’m glad I was willing to keep going until I had three. Obviously kids aren’t all the same even within the same family, but now I DO have a sense of what works with our kids and with us and our family dynamic, so everybody else can do what they like that works for them and their kids and I’ll do what works for us.

(We don’t do CIO, although we attempted it on several occasions with my oldest who was a horrid sleeper unless he was smooshed right up against me in bed until he was well over a year, but now he sleeps on his own all night and even asks to go to bed right at 7:30pm :stuck_out_tongue: He just gets up at dawn, which right now is before 6am…:eek:)


Every baby is different. But half a mogadon with a nip of whisky in their milk never hurt any of mine… Joking, just joking, but this is just as sensible as advice as letting a baby cry to hysteria before checking to see if it is wet, or needs physical attention in some other way.
To abdicate your role as carer by relying on such a small study supported by the very same experts that change their mind over correct diet etc is madness.
We all know our own children and what works for one does not work for every other and this maxim works throughout their growth to adults.
Babies are hard work, but you can get quite fond of them after a while.






Occasionally I let Colton cry it out but for no more than 20 minutes maximum. It broke my heart to hear him so upset though. Thankfully I found a more effective bedtime ritual and now he goes to bed without fussing a bit.


that is so true!

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