Cry It Out Sleep Training in Action

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Read all about how the process of cry it out went for this three month old baby and how she went to peacefully falling asleep independently.

3 month old baby

I recently went through Cry It Out (CIO) with McKenna and learned a few new things this time around. She was nearly three months old, so much older than my older two children were when they started CIO. Brayden started CIO at about 9 weeks. Kaitlyn started CIO at 5 days. McKenna was 12 weeks old.

The reason she had never done CIO is because she never needed it. She didn’t cry at all before naps until then even though I put her down awake for every nap since 3 days old.

The first several times she cried before naps, I went to her. I assumed something was wrong since she hadn’t cried in nearly three months before a nap. I found it odd. But I couldn’t find anything wrong with her. She didn’t cry before every nap. It was usually the third nap. Over a few days, it started creeping into other naps.

Since I was used to her going to sleep rather quickly, I worried she would become overly tired and throw off her entire day, so I moved her to the swing. One day, she started crying before her first nap. This was when I knew I needed to start CIO. I knew I had her waketime perfect for her first interval and her crying was protest crying. At nearly three months, she was getting more and more social. I figured she was not pleased with her social hour ending. I don’t think McKenna hates naps like Brayden did (does), but I also don’t think she has the love of them that Kaitlyn did (does). She is pretty neutral, so if something more appealing is going on, she will choose that instead.

Despite the fact that I have done this before, I found a book particularly worthwhile as I faced this situation. The book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Many of you blog readers love this book and wanted me to review it, so I had ordered it from Amazon, not knowing what it contained. It came a few days before I started CIO. This book is very helpful for doing CIO–but more on that in future reviews of the book.

One Monday morning, I mustered up my resolve and was ready to face CIO. I was not excited. It isn’t fun. I had done the four S’s from The Baby Whisperer from birth, though we only ever needed to use the first three. I told my husband this was not fair; I had been careful and diligent and did not want to start CIO now. He told me if anyone could, it was me. So I faced the music.

Cry it out sleep training pinnable image

Well, she must have sensed my resolve. She didn’t cry for long. It was only a few minutes. Perhaps I should have allowed her to cry a bit in the first place? By her third nap, she wasn’t crying at all anymore. She did take a long time to fall asleep, though. I sat and watched her in the video monitor. I was tempted to run up and put her in the swing so she would be able to get a good nap in. I told myself no. For whatever reason, she was needing to re-learn how to fall asleep on her own. I needed to leave her be and let her fall asleep. She wasn’t even crying! I needed to be patient and allow the learning process to happen.

Prior to this week, she had been taking about 20-30 minutes to fall asleep (not crying, just taking that long). Hogg says this is normal, but it really just didn’t feel right to me. After this CIO process, she was going to sleep within a few minutes. Here are a few things that just clicked with the week:

  • Waketime Length: I finally figured out her optimal waketime length for all but one interval (that is the last one). She goes to sleep fine for it, but takes a short nap. This might be totally normal, though, since she is old enough to be having a short fourth nap.
  • Stimulation: In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth states to expose your child to lots of stimulation so he will be tired enough for nap time. I realized I was still trying to protect McKenna from stimulation like I had when she was a newborn. I needed to start exposing her to more stimulating activities now that she was older. This seemed to help a lot.
  • Darkening: Also in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth says to darken the room for naps. Hogg (the Baby Whisperer) also says to do this. Now, I did/do this with Brayden and Kaitlyn, but their rooms have white blinds. It darkens the room, but it doesn’t make the room dark. With McKenna, we went with dark brown blinds. They really make the room dark. I didn’t want her to require a dark room to sleep. However, I decided to give it a shot. I decided that she sleeps at home most of the time and if she needs a darker room to sleep, she needs a darker room! There is no logical reason to fight it like I was. This also rippled into keeping her room much, much cooler so it isn’t so hot in the afternoon.
  • Eye Contact: Before I would leave the room, I would look McKenna in the eye and tell her to go to sleep. That seemed to help.

In the end, I think it was really good for McKenna to have had the four S’s from the beginning. It was an easy, gentle way to help her sleep (though keep in mind that we never had to get to the fourth S). As she got older, she didn’t like being held before the nap so I stopped it. Eventually, she started crying before naps. Since she already had skill at going to sleep on her own, the crying was not prolonged once we started CIO.

One week after starting this CIO process, there were still some naps that McKenna will cry before randomly. It usually lasted only 1-2 minutes tops (it often stopped as soon as I shut her door). But the process was much faster and much more painless than it was with Brayden and Kaitlyn overall. Two weeks after starting the CIO process, she goes down to sleep without a peep and falls asleep quickly. She goes to sleep well on her own and greets me with a smile when her nap is over. I am happy to have this process over with 🙂

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