Cry it out, the method of sleep training that aggressively promotes sleep autonomy in babies, works. Whether you choose to follow the cry-it-out method of famed pediatrician Richard Ferber—checking on your baby at timed intervals during crying—or of Dr. Marc Weissbluth—no check-ins after you put the child down and crying to extinction—you will see results if you stay strong and stick to the recommended plan of your chosen method.
Research proves the efficacy of sleep training. A review of 16 controlled trials and 12 within-subject studies published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology concluded that behavioral interventions, including cry it out, are effective at reducing night waking frequency and duration, and the length of time it takes to fall asleep. The review cautions that limited conclusions can be made about the durability of these treatments due to insufficient long-term evidence.
The double-edged sword: Cry it out can be a traumatizing, gut-wrenching, backfiring revolver ... for parents.
Depending on your baby's age and temperament, your little angel can morph into a hollering hellcat who could stubbornly scream for hours the first few nights of cry it out. Generally, the tantrums ease and last for less time as the days and nights crawl on, but there will be hell to pay for suddenly changing the method of putting your little one down to sleep. Some babies can cry so hard that they vomit. Listening to your baby wail alone in his or her crib is like living a horror film. You might even imagine that your baby is screaming "momma" or "dada."
Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame who opposes cry-it-out methods, points out that cry it out can backfire for the parents because learning to tune out their baby when in distress can make them less sensitive caregivers.
The Depressing Truth About Sleep
However, reasons abound for wanting to speed up sleep independence in babies, from parents who need a somewhat reliable sleep schedule because they work full-time to households with multiple children with different needs. Several studies have documented the correlation between infant sleep problems and depression in mothers. A survey of more than 700 new mothers published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found a strong association between infants who co-sleep, need to be nursed to sleep, take a long time to fall asleep, wake often and take short naps with depressed mothers.