The Controversial Weissbluth Cry It Out Method, Finally Explained

baby doing weissbluth cry it out sleep training method

When you were pregnant, you had visions of lulling your baby to sleep with a goodnight story, some cuddling and soft music playing in the background. Sure, your friends warned you that it was going to be a nightmare and that letting your kid cry it out was the only way to get some sleep...but that was them—you were going to do things differently. 

And yet, here you are at 4 a.m. for the sixth night in a row, clocking in at close to zero sleep. You’re basically willing to try anything at this point—including one of the most controversial sleep training techniques out there. Here’s what you need to know about the Weissbluth method. 

What is it? Created in the 1980s by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, the author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the Weissbluth method uses the process of extinction (i.e., minimal parental interference) to teach an infant how to self-soothe and get rid of any negative sleep associations (like only being able to fall sleep in mom’s arms). Translation? Parents leave their baby in the bassinet or crib to cry it out, without going back in to comfort them unless they need changing, feeding or have some type of emergency.  

How is it different from the Ferber method? Ferberizing is another cry it out (CIO) sleep training method. But while Weissbluth encourages no (or very few) interventions, Ferber advises regular, timed check-ins dubbed “progressive waiting.” Every night, you increase the amount of time between these check-ins until eventually, you’re not doing them at all—a process known as “gradual extinction.” 

OK, so how do I do it? The Weissbluth method is meant to instill healthy sleeping habits in your infant when she’s ready, which is usually around six months old (but definitely check with your pediatrician beforehand). To try it, put your baby down for the night as early as possible, keeping an eye on her sleep cues (eye rubbing, crankiness, etc.). Next comes the hard part—leave the room and don’t re-enter…even if she’s crying. (Unless it’s time for a night feed or there’s something seriously wrong.) According to the method, your baby will eventually cry herself to sleep (and so will you, probably). Consistency is key here and proponents claim that if you stick with it, the Weissbluth method is meant to work after just four days. 

OMG, I can’t do this. Honestly, this method isn’t for every baby—or every parent. If you find yourself going in to check every five minutes (hey, we get it), then maybe it’s time to try another sleep training method. You do you.   


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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...