The child can learn the skill of 'sleeping alone' at a very early stage of their life that will be useful for the parents and it can contribute the overall growth of the child. There has been a lot of research on this subject for finding out the best possible methods that can let the child learn the skill of sleeping with varying degree of success. In these studies, the 'cry it out' method or the CIO stands out.
This method of training involves, developing the skills of the child to sleep by self. In this method, you have to put the baby to sleep alone and if he cries, allow him to cry for some time before he falls asleep or settle. The experts are of the opinion that it is okay for the child to cry for some time before eventually falling to sleep, however, some pediatricians and sleep training experts disagree with this method.
Hypothesis of Dr. Richard Ferber
Dr. Richard Ferber, a pediatrician and a sleep expert in his 1985 book, ‘Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem’ suggested a method for helping the infant to sleep peacefully through the night. This method is more popular by the name, “Ferberizing."
Dr. Richard Ferber does not promote the idea of leaving a child for crying alone. But as per 'Ferberization' method, he wants to train the child by leaving for some time, even if the baby cries and if not the self-soothing within a predetermined time, must be given proper attention and offer comfort. The method does not promote the child to dump in the crib.
What is the theory behind the cry it out?
This method allows the child to fall to sleep on his own rather than using the various means like rocking or nursing him to sleep. It is helpful in a lot of way like when he wakes up in the night – as a part of natural sleep cycle he will not be alarmed or cry for you instead he will be able to sleep back.
He wants parents to follow a progressive method, by adopting a systematic process by letting the baby spend time alone for some time before the parents can offer comfort. The method comprises a 'returning session' by progressively increasing the intervals to provide comfort for the child if he continues crying.
Parents have to precisely follow the practice by adopting the method, leaving the child during night alone for three minutes and progressively increase the intervals to five minutes, and after that ten minutes and continue the plan until the child fall asleep.
Experts on this subject are of the opinion that pushing him to cry is not the goal but is an inevitable part of the training. They give the classic example that a short-term pain of few tears outweighs the long-term advantages. A child going to sleep easily and happily on his own without disturbing the parents is the primary objective of this method.
How do I do it?
There is no precise age, at which you can introduce the technique successfully. However, it will be better to wait until the child is emotionally and physically fit to sleep alone throughout the night and for that, the ideal age is between 4 and 6 months.
If doubt exists about the readiness, it is always better to consult the pediatrician. If there is too much resistance, it is better to stop and start after some time.
- Step 1 - Put your baby in the crib when he is sleepy but awake.
- Step 2 - Say goodnight to your child and gently leave the room. In the case, if your child cries, allow him/her to cry for some time. If your baby continues crying unnaturally, then only you need to tender comfort. On an ordinary course of time, your child will adjust emotionally, and self-soothe.
- Step 3 - Come back to the room after two-three minute to pat him and assure him of your presence. However, do not pick him up. Put the light off and do not show emotions in your voice. Leave him again while he is awake and still crying.
- Step 4 - Increase the duration of your stay outside the room a little longer than the previous time and continue the interval of presence. Each time return to the child’s room for a minute or two to pat him and reassure him. Then, leave the room while the baby is awake or even if he is crying.
- Step 5 - Follow this routine until the child falls asleep while you are out of the room.
- Step 6 - If the child wakes up again, you have to follow the same pattern. You have to start again with minimum waiting time for that night and increase the interval to the maximum for the night. Never abandon your child. Make sure to return to the child within the maximum time and give him a pat without showing any emotion.
- Step 7 - Increase the duration between visits to the nursery each night. According to Dr.Ferber, in most cases, the child will sleep on his own by third or fourth night or by a week at the most. If your child is inconsolable and he does not adjust to the new situation and persistently cries, then it is better to stop the experiment and restart the process after few days or weeks.
What is the recommended period to leave a child alone?
- First night - Leave for 3 minutes for the first time, 5 minutes for the second time and 10 minutes of the third and continue for all subsequent waiting periods.
- Second night - Leave for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 12 minutes.
- After that - Make the intervals longer on each subsequent night.
You might find the method is hard to follow and allowing the child to cry unattended requires a lot of willpower. You need to select the waiting time according to the comfort level of the child.
Practical tips for trying a 'cry it out' method from parents and experts
- Set the stage for success - Develop a bedtime ritual for your baby and try to adhere to it. For example, a warm bath, a book reading or lullabies before bed as a regular practice every night. It will help the child to know what lies ahead.
- Develop a solid plan - Talk with your partner, exploring both the practical and the emotional aspect of the method. The wailing cry of the child might be very disturbing, especially when you had tiring hard work at the office or when you have other members or guests in the house. Emotionally both the partners need to understand and agree with the idea.
- Stick to the plan - Consistency is the key to success for this method. There are certain ‘ifs and buts’ to the method. If your child is unwell or is not physically or emotionally ready, then the program needs to put on hold for a few weeks. When the child wakes you up at 2 a.m, it might be a good idea to hold the child, but in doing, you will be spoiling the objectives of the method.
- Adopt a suitable method - If the ‘cry it out’ method is too harsh, then you can modify the program, appropriate to your family situation and try to implement it as a team effort. You can try increasing the wait every other night rather than every night. Similarly, make the waiting period enjoyable by either listening to the music or taking a break and going for a walk.
Do cry it out method works?
This method works well for some parents. After the initial emotional hardship of tears and few nights, their child sleeps peacefully through the night. However, for others, the work is not over as the tears continuing and the sleep does not come.
Why do some people are against the cry it out method?
Even though the method gives excellent results, some parents and experts differ in their views. They argue that leaving a child for crying will create an emotional scar, and will be a reason for psychological issues at a later stage of their life and negatively influence on their adulthood personality. They further argue that the situation leads to developing a negative rapport with the parents and the child eventually lose the trust quotient and reducing the sense of security.
Dr. Ferber is of the view that the method might be hard in the initial stage, but the ultimate goal of sound sleep weighs greater than the initial hiccups. The parents must be mentally prepared to meet the emotional quotient of the method, and if they do not adhere to the practice consistently, then the right kind of result is difficult to accomplish, leaving the child to suffer for no reason. Therefore, plan for the method mentally and practice is it systematically. It is only a few weeks training and definitely, you will be surprised with the amazing results!
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