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Should you let your baby cry it out?

Parents and docs weigh in

In July 2006, I became a first-time mom with the arrival of my daughter, Saige.

It was also when I learned the true definition of tired.

Eat, grow…and sleep?
At Saige's two-week appointment at the Children's Medical Group, I was quite close to bursting into frustration tears before Dr. Sieverding, our former (now retired) pediatrician, even entered the exam room. Upon his arrival, I explained my concerns about how this baby of mine just doesn't sleep. What was I doing wrong?

"You are doing fine," Dr. Sieverding reassured me. "Saige's only jobs right now are to eat and grow."

"And...sleep?" I pleaded.

He shook his head and repeated himself.

"Her job is to eat and grow."

And eat and grow she did while I turned to Google to learn as much about infant sleep training as possible. I ended up trying just about everything I read, too.

Well, almost everything.

Since becoming parents, my husband Mike and I have learned many things about one another that we likely would never have found out otherwise. For example, my husband is dead set against letting any babies of his cry it out.

READ MORE: Answers to parents sleep questions

"If Saige is crying, that means she needs us," Mike explained to me back then. "Crying is the only way she knows how to communicate right now, and I won't ignore her," he insisted. "Ever."

And he never did.

I would have tried some version of cry it out sleep training if my husband wasn't so adamantly against it. Yet in the end, all turned out well, as Saige eventually did learn to sleep through the night without once having to cry it out.

What is the CIO method?
The cry-it-out (CIO) method of sleep training is one of the most contentious parenting topics today.

Hudson Valley sleep specialist Dr. Priya Prashad recommends getting babies used to the idea of sleeping at night before parents begin to sleep train. This can be done by keeping the house quiet and dark at night, and brighter with a more typical noise level during the day. Prashad also stresses the importance of establishing a bedtime routine along with putting babies into their cribs drowsy yet awake to help them learn to fall asleep by themselves.

The CIO method involves letting a baby cry until either they fall back to sleep, or incorporating a practice known as Ferberizing, where a parent returns at increasing time intervals during nightly wake-ups to offer comfort to the crying baby without picking them up.

Dr. Prashad asserts, "The CIO method is not emotionally damaging and there are no studies showing any long-term detrimental effects."

Babies cry for a reason
However, many Hudson Valley mothers disagree. Kristine Hyland of Poughkeepsie claims she cannot listen to a baby cry. "I'll respond to every cry because crying is communication not manipulation," says Hyland.

Heather Dini of Fishkill agrees. "Babies cry for a reason," says Dini. "They were snuggled up inside you for nine months hearing your heartbeat, each breath, and the sound of your voice. They felt safe. Then they come into this scary world and are put in a crib by themselves. That saddens me. Babies feel most safe in a parent's arms."

READ MORE: 5 ways to bond better with your baby

On the Children's Medical Group (CMG) website, they, like Dini,discuss the importance of keeping babies younger than four months old warm and cozy by swaddling them and keeping their room on the warm side. CMG, like Dr. Prashad, also recommends putting babies into their cribs drowsy, yet awake, and assures parents that "crying for 15 to 20 minutes is not unusual."

However, CMG also cautions parents that "children under four months need to be soothed.
Respond to your baby. You will not spoil her."

In contrast, Dr. Prashad claims that sleep training can begin when a child is just two to three months old. Dr. Prashad says, "At 8 to 12 weeks, a baby physiologically can sleep through the night."

The secret is consistency
Victoria Valencia of Wallkill raised three children without any sleep training but things changed with the arrival of her fourth. "He was a horrendous sleeper from birth," explains Valencia. "My husband and I couldn't take the sleepless nights anymore. We incorporated CIO sleep training around one year, and in a short time, it worked. Today, at age two, he is a happy, bright toddler who knows we love him and would never, ever abandon him."

Carolyn Fulton of New Paltz started CIO sleep training when her firstborn daughter was five months. Fulton describes the experience and says, "It was ten days of hellish nap times and bedtimes and then it became amazing."

With her second daughter, Fulton was more proactive. She established a strict nap and bedtime routine early on, and always placed her daughter in the crib awake so she would learn to fall asleep by herself.

Fulton credits this consistent routine as the reason why, with her youngest, sleep training was barely needed. "I've found the real secret to be consistency," says Fulton.

With Saige, after my husband and I established a consistent night routine of bath, book, bottle, and then bed, her sleep quality and duration improved tremendously.

READ MORE: How long to let your baby cry

It will all be fine
Whether or not a parent chooses to employ the cry-it-out method of sleep training, these decisions are often made with both love and the purest of intentions for a child.

Hopewell Junction mom of two Nikole Seipp says it best. "In the end, if we are concerned about our kids' well-being, then no matter what method we use, it will all be just fine."

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two and elementary educator. In the wee hours of the evening she moonlights as a wannabe novelist, and classic rock mommy review blogger. To read more, visit her website at DoublesMom77.com.