When Cry It Out stops working

A little while ago I wrote about how we decided to try the Ferber, also known as the interval Cry It Out, method. We were desperate, and nothing else was working. We saw huge changes and great results after only a few days of implementing the new method, and we were all sleeping and so much happier. I can’t say that my engorged volleyball size boobs were happy in the morning, but I sure was.

Just when we had settled into sleep-filled bliss, Baby T started backsliding. We couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t appear to be sick or teething, yet he started waking up more often at night. Frustrated and confused, we took to researching—I swear I think I’ve ready every thing on infant sleep possible…

Of the hundreds of posts out there, one thing I found was something called “extinction bursts.” Fancy name for a bummer of an event, it basically means that your baby has your game figured out and is now fighting you harder. Babies are way smarter than we are, and they can figure all kinds of things out. Primarily, how much crying does it take for you to come and get them.

I’m definitely not saying to neglect a baby’s needs, far from it. However, T’s behavior seemed to fit this extinction burst description to the letter, so we just had to ride it out and keep on the same plan of not picking him up. I read that it might last a week or two, but to stay with the plan and behaviors already enacted and things would get better. Eventually things improved. We wiped the sweat from our brows, prepared to go back to a lot more sleeping.

Did I mention that babies have our number?

How wrong I was…

4-14-17 When Cry It Out stops working cover

I don’t know if our journey is common or not, but what happened next brought some of the most challenging days of parenting we’ve had yet. T went through a particularly vicious cycle of illness, teething, illness, teething, illness. I’m pretty sure he teethed through the whole thing, but needless the say the last few months have been extraordinarily tough on everyone.

Because T was either ill or in pain, one of us went to him when he would wake up crying at night. This didn’t take long to become the new pattern of need for him. We were back to where we had started before any kind of sleep training—some nights even worse! When your longest stretch is 60 minutes at a time and your shortest is 15, you know you’ve got it rough. I don’t believe in making an ill or teething baby cry, so we have just been trying to survive for the last few months.

T is feeling better, and we haven’t seen any new teeth [yet]. So what’s next?

I’ve been doing even more reading and research, talking to moms who have been there, and considering hiring a sleep consultant (yes they do exist). We’re trying to make a plan. We’ve discussed doing another round of cry it out, this time adapted a little bit since T is older and even more stubborn than before. We’ve discussed co-sleeping, since he has always been a clingy baby. We’re just plain stumped about what to do next. I’ve gotten every piece of advice, including some moms that say that there’s nothing really to do but just wait it out—sleep improves with age. This is the most difficult suggestion to swallow.

Whatever we do next, I will keep you posted. Maybe I’ll even figure out the magic formula to make babies sleep! Ha! Don’t hold your breath. I’m glad I didn’t. I’d be long blue by now!

9 thoughts on “When Cry It Out stops working

  1. How old is T now? Research “sleep regression” – it helped us tremendously! The 8-10 month regression was the worst for us (it lasted about a month- every night he would scream the instant the light went off, but like magic one day it stopped), but we just got through another one at 18 months which similarly stopped instantaneously.


  2. Hey Ainsley! I totally feel you on this post and all your posts about sleep. It is NOT easy and it’s so frustrating when you hear about babies younger than yours sleeping through the night. I was blessed with a poor napper and sleeper! We pretty much tried everything as well, there is SO much info out there and had to process and figure out which one fits your baby. The poor things become our little experiment. We have tried cry it out and no cry sleep solution and nothing works. I’ve resorted trying my best to get her to nap and sleep with a combo of co-sleeping to keep me sane and in the crib to try to not make her dependent on me. The only thing that helps is telling myself “this too shall pass.” I’ve had to say that to myself a lot in the 5 months since my daughter’s birth! Everyday is different and even trying to get her on a routine has been so hard. Good luck, hope things settle down!


  3. It’s been 9 months without a full night’s sleep in our house. I just can’t handle the CIO method in any way shape or form, but my daughter started weaning herself off the breast, so I’m hoping that with the lack of comfort nursing, maybe she’ll be able to start sleeping a bit better.


  4. Pingback: How to (re)do Cry It Out | Surviving and thriving in the (sur)reality of motherhood.

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