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  • Writer's pictureMegan Robert



This past week, a nanny had reached out asking for my advice regarding a situation she had experienced with the topic of Cry-It-Out (CIO). She is working for a family with an infant boy who struggles with naps and a mother who has stated that she never wishes to use CIO.

One day as the nanny could see how tired the baby was, she placed him down for his nap and gave him a little bit of time to see how he would respond. With a few minutes of crying and after about ten minutes in the crib, he fell asleep.

Believing that this was a success, the nanny texted the mother to share. Much to the nanny's surprise, the mother was not happy to hear this and responded with a reminder that she does not want to ever use CIO.

This left the nanny confused as she believed she had followed the mother's wishes and was only sharing a win about nap time.

Do you think that this scenario was or was not an example of CIO?

For some people, the answer is yes. It was. For others, the answer is no. It was not.

Why the divide?

Well, this is a classic example of semantics which brings us to the second myth within my blog post series The 10 Myths of Sleep Training. Myth #2 is the misconception that sleep training means CIO.

However, this really depends on your view of the term itself.

CIO started out as a term coined for the sleep training method that involves putting a baby down at a time for sleep and providing space to work on the skill of falling asleep and connecting sleep cycles independently with no parental involvement unless waking at a time for a true feeding or time to wake. Another name for it? Unmodified extinction.

However, somewhere along the way, CIO became a term defined as any crying that might occur during a behavioral sleep intervention. Unfortunately, I've seen it used in this way to instill fear and shame to those who are either considering sleep training or going through the process.

I fully support parents making the best decisions for their children and families. If someone does not wish to sleep train, I would never push it on them. However, what is best for one family does not make it best for another. Hence, I do not support the idea of scaring or shaming parents who are considering sleep training if it is right for them.

I know there are many parents out there who fear sleep training but wouldn't if they knew the truth. I say this because I have worked with many parents who made the mental shift and have experienced the benefits for everyone involved.

But with the loosely used version of CIO, many parents are left believing that it is the only option for sleep training and that it will harm their child (more on that in a later myth). Hence, they go on suffering much longer than necessary due to semantics.

The fact is that you actually have a variety of options to choose from when deciding on the sleep training method you would like to implement. Each method falls somewhere on the spectrum of parental involvement ranging from no involvement to high involvement.

No involvement includes zero parental involvement during a set time. CIO is the only method in this category. Little to medium involvement is the occasional presence of the parent prior to the onset of sleep. It includes but is not limited to Ferber, Timed Checks, and Sleep Wave. High involvement includes the presence of a parent during the onset of sleep. It includes but is not limited to methods such as Camping Out, Sleep Lady Shuffle, and Pick Up Put Down.

Believe it or not but I have only mentioned a handful of options here!

Choosing which level of involvement you will include will depend on a few factors. I would suggest reflecting on the following questions when making your decision.

1. Which level of involvement will be best for your child’s personality and age?

For example, I worked with a client of a 2.5 year old boy sleeping in a full size bed. They started with the Camping Out method but then decided to move to the Reverse Sleep Wave because sitting in the room proved to be too distracting.

2. With which level of involvement are you most comfortable using?

It is possible to be comfortable with sleep training but not with the idea of certain methods. For example, if you are not comfortable with CIO, you don’t have to use it! You have so many options.

3. Which method fits into your current situation?

Perhaps the Camping Out method would be the best option for you...if you didn’t have other children to look after or weren’t working from home! With this, Timed Checks might be the best choice at an interval you are comfortable using.

4. With which method are you most likely able to follow through to the end?

Let’s say you choose Camping Out and have no current situation that would prevent you from being able to do this. However, if you think you might end up picking up or engaging with your child when this is not part of the pattern you have been providing? Choose something else. No matter which method, the idea is that your child picks up on a pattern while allowing them to strengthen the skill of falling asleep and connecting sleep cycles independently.

5. Have you tried sleep training in the past? If so, did you see it through? If not, why?

If you have tried sleep training in the past, consider what got in the way of success.

It could be that you didn't stick with the plan. If this is true, figure out why and how you can make adjustments to prevent a repeat.

It could be that the option you originally used was too involved for your child. If you choose a more involved method, pay attention to how your presence affects your baby.

It could be that you were missing other elements necessary for sleep. Sleep training involves much more than just choosing a method. I highly encourage you to create a sleep plan that covers all elements necessary for a strong sleep foundation.

Again though, choose a method that you can follow through with long enough for your child to pick up on a pattern in order to adjust to the change occurring.

When you are choosing a method, try to have a positive yet realistic mindset. Although you have a variety of methods from which to pick, you can’t control whether or not your baby is going to cry. Your infant is human and this is change. When you have the combination of change and an overtired child? It is unrealistic for us to expect zero tears.

Even if you use a high involved method, this will not guarantee zero tears. Some infants do really well while others NEED you to give them more space. I have had several clients who start with the more involved methods and come to recognize that their presence is hindering progress.

No matter the method you choose, remember that it can be very easy to let emotions drive you when you are exhausted and your baby is upset. Try to remain logical about how and why you respond. Keep your end goal in mind. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that tunnel? It is often much shorter than envisioned.

Unsure about which method you would like to use? Or just want some guidance along the way? I'm here for you. Schedule a time for us to chat about your situation and how I can best serve you.


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