Letting a Newborn Cry to Sleep

image001According to pediatrician and author Richard Ferber, allowing a baby to cry to sleep can help her learn that it is not rewarding to cry hard. His book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, advocates letting a newborn cry for short periods before parents offer comfort. This tactic used for sleep training does not mean letting the baby cry indefinitely as some parents might think, but only for a short, specified period until he learns to fall asleep on his own. Read on to learn more so that you have a better understanding of whether or not the “cry-it-out” method suits your baby.

Is Letting a Newborn Cry to Sleep OK?

Child experts agree that newborn babies are too young to train to sleep on their own. Although many pediatricians and other experts have their own opinions on how to sleep-train a baby, everyone agrees that this process should start when the baby is a little older. Sleep-training is a process where the parent or care giver either allows a baby to cry it out or a parent to sit it out until the baby is asleep. The baby is being trained in these methods to put herself to sleep and to sleep longer at night. However, babies who are below three months old are not able to stop crying or soothe themselves to sleep unless their needs are met. These include the need for feeding and frequent change of diapers, which occur more often compared to older babies. In conclusion, the age of your baby is a huge factor in determining whether or not you should let her/him cry to sleep.

When Can You Let a Newborn Cry to Sleep?

Starting Signs

Between the ages of four to seven months, babies may show starting signs that they are ready for sleep-training. Parents who want to use the cry-it-out method of sleep training can teach their babies to soothe themselves to sleep at this age as long as they exhibit some signs that they are sleepy, such as yawning, eye rubbing, slowing of movements, or staring. They must show some pattern or schedule of sleeping and waking during daytime and night time. Unlike newborn infants, babies of this age can also roll over, lift their heads and move themselves to find their own comfort without being stuck in a certain position. Generally, wait until your baby's 4-6 months old. 

Do These Methods Work?

The cry-it-out method of sleep training may work for some families after a few tries and the baby can sleep by themselves throughout the night. However, not all babies are the same, and in some families, this method does not work. Furthermore, while this sleep-training technique may work for your first baby, it may not be effective for your next baby. Therefore, just because this method is effective for some, it does not mean that it works for everyone, and it does not mean that you are not doing anything right. It may be a sign that you need to use another method of sleep-training.

Warning: There's a Limit

Sleep-training an older baby using the cry-it-out method does not mean allowing the child to cry indefinitely. In the first weeks of trying this method parents must set a limit on how long a baby is allowed to cry. Sleep-training includes guidelines on laying hands on the infant, standing by their crib, changing diapers and picking up the baby. Parents must not allow the baby to cry and stay in the crib on their own longer than 5-15 minutes.

Child experts warn parents that newborns cry for a reason. They urge parents, therefore to respond to a newborn's cry to help them feel secure, which will be helpful when they are ready for sleep-training. Experts from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia also warn that if a baby cries for extended periods, parents may need to bring her to a doctor immediately.

If You Do Let Your Newborn Cry to Sleep, What to Do and Expect?

What to Do

Here's how to start the process of sleep-training using the cry-it-out method. When the baby is sleepy but still awake, gently place her in the crib, while patting her and telling her it's time to sleep. Quietly leave the room while she is still awake. You can expect her to start crying, but tough as it may seem, allow her to do this for about five minutes. Now go back to her side without picking her up and continue patting her and saying good night. It may be a good idea to let Dad do this to allow the baby to dissociate sleeping with feeding.

Repeat the process every time your baby cries and extend the time she is left on her own by about 5 minutes every time, until she learns to fall asleep on her own. Try stretching the times the baby is left alone by a few minutes on the second night, and on the following nights.

Don’t Respond Immediately to Their Crying

It is quite natural for babies to whimper once in a while in their sleep. Babies sometimes make noises while sleeping, especially during the light stages of sleep. Sometimes they do cry, but do not rush to her side immediately. They may just be whimpering regularly to comfort themselves. If you rush to her side, you may wake her up just before she falls asleep. So just listen and wait until she is really crying longer than allowed before you go to her. Otherwise, let her go to sleep by herself as planned.

How Long It Takes

Many parents who follow this approach observe that their baby's crying spells diminish gradually after three nights. By the seventh night the baby may be fussing or crying in short bursts but will soon be sleeping on her own in no time.