Menu

Why one child psychologist tried the cry-it-out technique—and never looked back

It turns out, sleep training can be the ticket to a happy and healthy tot (and mama!)

Why one child psychologist tried the cry-it-out
technique—and never looked back

Before I gave birth to my sweet little boy, I made so many


promises to myself about the kind of mama I would be.

Breastfeed for at least a year.

Only serve homemade,

organic, MSG-free baby foods.

Never touch a disposable diaper.

And the

attachment researcher in me promised never

to sleep train my darling baby.

Confession time?

I was only able to effectively

breastfeed for around 7 months. My kid’s favorite food is cookies. We use

disposable diapers every night for bedtime. And yes, after much soul searching,

I sleep trained my child.

When my son was born, he co-slept in a crib in the master

bedroom until he was six months old. For the first few months, we used the Miracle

Blanket as a swaddle, which remains one of my top five baby

must-haves.

At four months, we ditched

the swaddle because he started rolling over…enter the four-month sleep

regression. After a month of sleepless nights, I moved his crib to his nursery.

(I made the switch during the day while my softie of a husband was at work. I

could only handle one boy in the house being upset with me at a time.)

By seven

months, I was deliriously tired—and so was my little bundle, more importantly.

We had the comforting bedtime routine mastered, but he would wake up constantly

throughout the night even when he wasn’t hungry. I started weighing my options.

As a developmental psychologist, my first inclination was to

conduct my own in-home meta-analysis of every behavioral sleep training study

ever conducted to pragmatically weigh the costs and benefits of sleep training methods

on my child’s development.

Yes, I was a little crazy at the time (I blame the sleep deprivation).

After hours of scouring databases, I realized shockingly

few studies had addressed the outcomes of sleep interventions in infants.

One notable study that the American Academy of Pediatrics

cites when recommending sleep training methods found that sleep

training implemented at 7 months led to improvements in baby’s sleep, mama’s

sleep, and mama’s mental health as much as two years later. By age 6, these

children showed no discernible differences in their emotional or behavioral

problems, closeness to parents, or attachment security. Was this study

perfect? By no means. But after a little more research, I was finally ready to

give sleep training a chance.

Join Motherly


For a month, we tried controlled comforting, in which we would lay our son down drowsy but not asleep. If he woke up, we would give him a chance to soothe himself. If he couldn’t, we would wait 2-3 minutes and then respond to his cries. We would hug him and offer a few words of comfort (without lifting him out of his crib). Within a minute, we would leave him, and if he continued crying (he usually did), we would wait to respond for increasingly longer intervals. After a while, we admitted that going in and out of his room every 5-10 minutes seemed only to upset and confuse our tot, prolonging his crying for hours each night.

We finally hit a wall where we conceded to try the cry-it-out method for one week and see where it took us. With this method, we would lay him down drowsy but not asleep. If he woke up, we would close our eyes, cross our fingers, and find our happy place. You can imagine there was as much strife going on outside the nursery as inside.

The first night, my tot woke up and cried for 45 minutes.

The second night, 20 minutes.

The third night? He slept like a baby and woke up happier than a mother whose baby slept through the night.

How has our tot fared in his subsequent 15 months?

He sleeps,

well, like a baby most nights, not

including a few anomalies due to travel or illness. And as for this mama? I am

getting the sleep I need to provide my child with the sensitivity and

responsiveness he needs during the day to develop and maintain a secure

attachment.

If you ask me, the key to a happy + healthy child is sleep…for

everyone.

Indeed,

healthy sleep patterns in infancy can help baby’s learning and memory, mood,

and physical growth.

Upon much reflection, I know that cry-it-out was right for my child, and that all the testimony in the world from other mamas will never change that.

Claims about the adverse

effects of sleep training on infants’ development just aren’t supported by most

current research—or by my experiences. My son shed fewer tears during those

three nights (and every night since) than he did during our weeks of denouncing

this “heartless” method.

But here’s the catch. Every child is unique. What

technique works for one child may be completely ineffective in another.

The

fabulous thing about parenthood is that we get to experiment with techniques

until we find the ones that work for our children…and when we have it all

figured out, we might even think about bringing a second life into this world—a

life just as unique as the first.

Join Motherly

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News