When you were pregnant, you couldn’t imagine letting your baby cry herself to sleep. Fast-forward six months and you’re ready to try everything and anything for some shut-eye. Here’s what Cara Dumaplin, baby sleep expert of Taking Cara Babies fame, has to say about cry it out (CIO).
“We want to meet babies where they are developmentally,” Cara tells us. And in a baby’s first four months, they don’t have the developmental capacity to go from crying to calming themselves down to putting themselves to sleep. Translation? You can’t—and shouldn’t—attempt to cry it out during those first four months. But that doesn’t mean you can’t teach a newborn how to fall asleep using other methods, like putting her down while still awake or with the help of a sound machine. (For the record, Cara teaches a no-cry approach newborn class that this mom swears by.)
“Now at five months and older, if sleep is a struggle then there will be crying,” says Cara. That’s because at this age, babies get used to falling asleep in a certain way (being rocked to sleep, for example), and they’re going to protest if you take that away from them. Another reason why babies cry? Because they’re trying to communicate with you and, well, their means of communication are pretty limited at this point.
But before you feel like the worst parent ever, know that there’s a difference between your baby crying because their needs aren’t being met (like if they’re hungry or cold) and crying because they’re frustrated that they don’t know how to fall asleep.