Is four months (almost five) too early to CIO?

Angela - posted on 05/29/2013 ( 21 moms have responded )

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My son and i have developed a sleep association problem. I am breast feeding and he has gotten used to falling asleep on my breast which wasn't a problem until he started waking every 90 min unable to get back to sleep with out it. Im pretty sure he's not hungry because he usually falls right back to sleep on my breast. I've tried to seperate feeding and sleeping but he sometimes will refuse to eat and most of the time still falls asleep eating. I have considered switching to bottles as I am desperate for sleep. My husband offers no help other than screaming "just let him cry". Is he too young to cry it out?

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Angela - posted on 06/02/2013

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You say that now but wait until she is 5 mos and you haven't slept longer than an hour and a half straight. When you're walking around like a zombie from lack of sleep then you might have enough experience to share your opinion. And just so you know I do realize how blessed I am to have him and I am taking care of him. In the past two nights he and I are sleeping much better and we are both happier for it.

Shaday - posted on 06/02/2013

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You should never leave your child to cry it out, I think its cruel, too often peiple complain about their babies, but the truth of the matter is that child didn't ask to come into this world... You brought that baby here so you should be responsible for the baby, I am a mother of a two month old and I would never leave her to cry. Babies only have crying as a way of comunicating so leting them CIO teaches them that no one is listening. Please take care of your baby, you really don't realize how blessed you are you have him\her

Angela - posted on 06/02/2013

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Why are you posting this now after the fact? It appears you are trying to make me feel bad. Where were you four days ago when I first asked the question? I am well aware that the baby needs to eat in the middle of the night however when he's waking thirty minutes after going down and falling right back to sleep on my breast I have to assume he is not hungry and simply wants to sleep in my arms. I did NOT leave him to cry. He was comforted throughout. Just out of curiosity what would you have recommended? For me to nurse him every 30-90 minutes throughout the night?

Tracy - posted on 06/02/2013

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There are two different kinds of people those who believe in CIO and those who don't. That includes doctors, scientists, behaviorists, theorists, and most importantly mothers. You can find theories, research, medical studies, opinions, and personal stories that will support both sides. In the end we all have to do what we feel is right for our children.

Aleks - posted on 06/02/2013

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Oh and in short answer to your question "Is four months (almost five) too early to CIO?
YES! Even proponents of Controlled Crying do not recommend using such strategy on babies younger than 6mths (many even say 9mths-12mths).

But from just reading the below comments, looks like you went ahead anyway. So why exactly did you ask the question? It appears you were looking for confirmation of your view point to actually do CIO?

Doing a 5-6hr sleep stretch is actually called "sleeping through". Babies sleep patterns differ from adult ones, and waking every 90mins means that he wakes up once his sleep cycles is complete.
Many times babies will change their sleeping patterns (as you seemed to have outlined in your OP). THIS IS NORMAL BABY BEHAVIOUR. This is what babies do, they will frequently change their sleeping patterns and behaviours. Sleeping for a whole night for a few weeks (or even months) only to revert back to waking for a few more weeks again. With or without sleep training using methods such as controlled crying/comforting or CIO they will once again then go back and sleep at longer stretches.
There are numerous reasons why babies do this. And especially so for those that are breast fed. Typically a breast fed baby still need to be fed in middle of the night. They need this nutrition. They will be more likely to start waking up more frequently because of growth spurts and hence greater need for increased and frequent breastfeeds. Teething is another reason babies will wake up more frequently at night and demand feeds (especially breast fed babies - breastmilk and sucking soothes the sore gums/jaws and calms the baby down, breastmilk actually has pain relieving properties ). These are just but a few reasons why babies change their sleeping patterns and start to wake up more frequently. Forcing them to stop this, unnaturally by using methods such as CIO, will not solve your problem long term. It may in fact cause your child (and hence, yourself) more problems in the long-term. And you will find that once a new phase of development starts happening with your baby, you will be once again facing the prospect of re-doing the process of sleep training, again causing more stress and distress.

Aleks - posted on 06/01/2013

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This is a copy and paste from below link:
http://www.pinkymckay.com/sleep/sleep-ar...

The con of controlled crying

Written by Super User. Posted in Sleep


Although many baby sleep trainers claim there is no evidence of harm from practices such as controlled crying, it is worth noting that there is a vast difference between 'no evidence of harm' and 'evidence of no harm'.

A policy statement on controlled crying issued by the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) advises, 'Controlled crying is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health, and may have unintended negative consequences.' According to AAIMHI, 'There have been no studies, such as sleep laboratory studies, to our knowledge, that assess the physiological stress levels of infants who undergo controlled crying, or its emotional or psychological impact on the developing child.'

Despite the popularity of controlled crying, it is not an evidence-based practice. In a talk at the International Association of Infant Mental Health 9th World Congress held in Melbourne in 2004, Professor James McKenna, director of the Mother–Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and acclaimed SIDS expert, described controlled crying as 'social ideology masquerading as science'.What this means is that despite a plethora of opinions on how long you should leave your baby to cry in order to train her to sleep, nobody has studied exactly how long it is safe to leave a baby to cry, if at all.

Babies can indeed be 'brand new and blue' with an actual diagnosis of clinical depression. Often the predisposing conditions for depression in infants are beyond our control, such as trauma due to early hospitalisation and medical treatments. However, if we consider the baby's perspective, it is easy to understand how extremely rigid regimes can also be associated with infant depression and why it isn't worth risking, especially if your child has already experienced early separation. You too would withdraw and become sad if the people you loved avoided eye contact, as some sleep training techniques advise, and repeatedly ignored your cries.

Leaving a baby to cry evokes physiological responses that increase stress hormones. Crying infants experience an increase in heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. These reactions are likely to result in overheating and, along with vomiting due to extreme distress, could pose a potential risk of SIDS in vulnerable infants. There may also be longer-term emotional effects. Babies need our help to learn how to regulate their emotions, meaning that when we respond to and soothe their cries, we help them understand that when they are upset, they can calm down. On the other hand, when infants are left alone to cry it out, they fail to develop the understanding that they can regulate their own emotions. There is also compelling evidence that increased levels of stress hormones may cause permanent changes in the stress responses of the infant's developing brain. These changes then affect memory, attention, and emotion, and can trigger an elevated response to stress throughout life, including a predisposition to later anxiety and depressive disorders. English psychotherapist, Sue Gerhardt, author of Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain, explains that when a baby is upset, the hypothalamus produces cortisol. In normal amounts cortisol is fine, but if a baby is exposed for too long or too often to stressful situations (such as being left to cry) its brain becomes flooded with cortisol and it will then either over- or under-produce cortisol whenever the child is exposed to stress. Too much cortisol is linked to depression and fearfulness; too little to emotional detachment and aggression.

Stress levels in infancy may have implications for learning, too. While it seems fairly obvious that a calm baby will be available for learning, studies have shown that children with the lowest scores on mental and motor ability tests were those with the highest cortisol levels in their blood. There is also research showing that children with anxiety disorders have a higher level of sleep difficulties as infants. Although these studies weren't about controlled crying and I am making no direct connection, my point is that perhaps some of the babies who are presenting with sleep difficulties are infants who need extra help to regulate their emotions or are more sensitive to stress, so it is possible that these little people would be more at risk if they were exposed to controlled crying.

One of the arguments for using controlled crying is that it 'works', but perhaps the definition of success needs to be examined more closely. In the small number of studies undertaken, while most babies will indeed stop waking when they are left to cry, 'success' varies from an extra hour's sleep each night to little difference between babies who underwent sleep training and those who didn't, eight weeks later. Some studies found that up to one-third of the babies who underwent controlled crying 'failed sleep school'. A recent Australian baby magazine survey revealed that lthough 57 per cent of mothers who responded to the survey had tried controlled crying, 27 per cent reported no success, 27 per cent found it worked for one or two nights, and only 8 per cent found that controlled crying worked for longer than a week. To me, this suggests that even if harsher regimes work initially, babies are likely to start waking again as they reach new developmental stages or conversely, they may become more settled and sleep (without any intervention) as they reach appropriate developmental levels.

Controlled crying and other similar regimes may indeed work to produce a self-soothing, solitary sleeping infant. However, the trade-off could be an anxious, clingy or hyper-vigilant child or even worse, a child whose trust is broken. Unfortunately, we can't measure attributes such as trust and empathy which are the basic skills for forming all relationships. We can't, for instance, give a child a trust quotient like we can give him an intelligence quotient. One of the saddest emails I have received was from a mother who did controlled crying with her one-year-old toddler.


"After a week of controlled crying he slept, but he stopped talking (he was saying single words). For the past year, he has refused all physical contact from me. If he hurts himself, he goes to his older brother (a preschooler) for comfort. I feel devastated that I have betrayed my child."

It is the very principle that makes controlled crying 'work' that is of greatest concern: when controlled crying 'succeeds' in teaching a baby to fall asleep alone, it is due to a process that neurobiologist Bruce Perry calls the 'defeat response'. Normally, when humans feel threatened, our bodies flood with stress hormones and we go into 'fight' or 'flight'. However, babies can't fight and they can't flee, so they communicate their distress by crying. When infant cries are ignored, this trauma elicits a 'freeze' or 'defeat' response. Babies eventually abandon their crying as the nervous system shuts down the emotional pain and the striving to reach out.

One explanation for the success of 'crying it out' is that when an infant's defeat response is triggered often enough, the child will become habituated to this. That is, each time the child is left to cry, he 'switches' more quickly to this response. This is why babies may cry for say, an hour the first night, twenty minutes the following night and fall asleep almost immediately on the third night (if you are 'lucky'). They are 'switching off' (and sleeping) more quickly, not learning a legitimate skill.

Whether sleep 'success' is due to behavioural principles (that is, a lack of 'rewards' when baby wakes) or whether the baby is overwhelmed by a stress reaction, the saddest risk of all is that as he tries to communicate in the only way available to him, the baby who is left to cry in order to teach him to sleep will learn a much crueler lesson – that he cannot make a difference, so what is the point of reaching out. This is learned helplessness.

Tracy - posted on 06/01/2013

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Isn't it crazy how fast it happens! It only took 3 nights with my first. My second was different because he kind of had to cry out of necessity early on.

Angela - posted on 06/01/2013

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I know :) yay! I might add that there was no crying involved last night! Other than the fussing when he woke. But no crying going down. YAY!!!

Angela - posted on 06/01/2013

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Last night went very well. I went in for the dream feed which he basically slept through. I guess that's why they call it the dream feed lol. Put him back down and he slept until 4! I changed and fed him and he went back to sleep until 6:30 when dh got up for work. I brought him to my bed and we slept another hour. I'm feeling so much better now that I'm getting some more sleep!:)

Angela - posted on 05/31/2013

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Of course I didn't let him just lay there and cry! He was comforted every 3, 5, and finally 10 min. My dh and I took turns going in. He definitely responded better to my husband who was the last one to go in before he fell asleep.

Dove - posted on 05/31/2013

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He cried for an hour? Or he was being comforted through out that hour? He's not self soothing.... he's giving up.

Dove - posted on 05/31/2013

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He's normal and please do not just leave him to cry. Co-sleeping isn't for everyone, but can save your sleep.

Angela - posted on 05/31/2013

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Thanks so much! And I agree about the dream feed. Last night he woke at 11 and again at 1:30. And unfortunately again at 3. I had to let him CIO and eventually he went back to sleep on his own around 4:30. So tonight I will go in like you said at 10:15 and hopefully he will be able to sleep longer. But at any rate he is sleeping much better already. Thanks again for the advice and support

Tracy - posted on 05/30/2013

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Yay!!!! That is so awesome!!!! Don't you feel like a new person!?!

One thing to remember, I would make it a point to feed him at 10:30 every night, or move the 2:30 feeding back a little at a time until its before you go to sleep. That way you don't have to wake up at all an you still keep that extra feeding for your supply.


Seriously though, yay!!!! I am so happy for you!!

Angela - posted on 05/30/2013

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Ok so last night we started CIO and I'm not sure it could have gone any better! We followed our usual bedtime routine and he was asleep by 7:30. He woke up at 8 tho so my dh went in shhhhed him a little told him goodnight and left. He of course started to cry and continued to do so at times even screaming. Thank god for dh who let me go outside while he watched the clock! Baby was asleep within an hour and slept until 2:30!! Yay. After feeding him I put him back down with no problems and he slept until 7:30!!!! Which means I slept until 7:30!!!! I feel like a new woman. So far tonight has gone even better. He has been asleep with zero tears since 7:30. Fingers crossed that tonight is the night he starts sleeping like a baby :)

Tracy - posted on 05/29/2013

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So at night is the only time he is falling asleep while nursing? If so, that's great, you are already one step ahead. So if you feed him and put him down at 7:30ish you still want to feed him at 10:30. This is the dream feed, it's more for your supply then it is for him. I don't bother waking him up with this feeding. It is helpful if you can get in there before he wakes up. The key is to have control of the feedings, you are feeding him because its time not because he is crying. So if he wakes up every night at 10:30 to eat, go in at 10:15 and feed him and change his diaper if its wet. I change the diaper before the feeding generally. Then pick a time, say 3:30 to begin and don't feed him until then. That's when you will start timing it. If it helps you can feed him after 3 hours and them expand it another 30min every couple days. Really he should be sleeping through till morning, but you don't want to change too much too soon. Even if they don't actually need those feedings for nutrition they are still used to eating then and will need time to replace those lost feedings by eating more during the day. I would slowly try to drop the middle of the night feeding but don't worry too much about that one now I just got my second to drop his 4am feeding at 7 months, so it's not the end of the world.

I would read the Ferber method book, it was really helpful with my first. My second had to CIO naturally during the day pretty early on out of necessity since my other one is young so it's been a while since I've read it. As with any books take it all with a grain of salt. I read it, learn from it, and then do what I want to. You have to do what makes sense to you. Not necessarily what's easy, CIO sucks, but the end result is so much better for everyone involved especially the kids. Kids need sleep to be happy to! :)

I hope that answered everything. Please let me know if you have any more questions. You can also find me on my blog www.theuncoordinatedmommy.com there are about a million ways to reach me on there. I would love to hear how it goes!

Angela - posted on 05/29/2013

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Ahhh all that sleep sounds like heaven to me right now. Thanks for responding. If you don't mind I'd like to ask you a few more questions. We actually have a good bedtime routine and he goes down pretty easily. It's after the first wake when we run into problems. What do I do if he wakes say in two or three hours after going down for the night? I've been nursing him because it seems to be the only way to calm him but like I said he just falls back to sleep and then wakes every ninety min after wanting the same thing. Do I let him CIO at this point? And what about needing to eat at some point in the night ? How do I keep him from falling asleep on me in order to get him back down awake?

Tracy - posted on 05/29/2013

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I started about that time with both kids. I just used smaller intervals. Like 3 min/7 min/10 min. I still feed my 8 month old right before bed, but I make sure he's awake before I put him in the crib.
When we started CIO I would put him down groggy and then if he woke up I would wait a couple of minutes and then go in and reassure him, but wouldn't pick him up. That's important. It is really hard the first couple of nights, but it's good that your husband will support you. He probably won't scream as much once you are on board. :) Mine always said things like, "are you sure he's ok??" which was SO not helpful! Once you get through the initial period you don't have to watch the clock and it's ok if you go in and pick him up if you think he's sick or teething etc. Once you and they know the rules well, you can bend them :)

Also, definitely use a clock to time at first. 30 seconds of your baby screaming can feel like 5 minutes.

It's crazy hard, but both my boys are amazing sleepers now. My 2 1/2 year old takes a 3 hour afternoon nap and sleeps from 8:00 at night till 8:00 in the morning. My 8 month old now takes a 2 1/2 hour morning nap and a 3 hour afternoon nap and sleeps from 7:30pm to 7:30am. Routine is crucial and try to do the same thing every time. I made up songs for each boy and I sing the same songs in the same order every time I put them to sleep.

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