How Much Crying is Involved in Sleep Training?


Sep 6, 2022

When you are working to sleep train your baby you might be wondering when is all the crying too much? Is there such a thing as too much crying with sleep training? How much crying is involved with sleep training anyways?

Inevitably, when it comes to making changes with your child, guess what happens?

Your child protests!

Why? Because nobody likes change and change can be hard!

In this episode of the Little Z’s Podcast, I’m sharing my insight on crying, how much protest you can expect on Night 1 of the sleep training, and valuable research regarding crying and the sleep training process.

Sleep Training Methods

When it comes to change, the EASIEST way for your child to show you they don’t like the change they are experiencing is to cry!

Your child is going to cry when you sleep train them.

That’s as simple as it gets.

Let’s imagine a line and on one end you’ve got the No-Cry Sleep solution, and on the far side, you’ve got the Cry It Out method.

These are the two extremes in the sleep training world.

The No-Cry Sleep solution teaches how you can gently train your baby to sleep through the night without tears.

This method can take six to nine months to work, and if that’s the route you want to go for – do it!

The Cry It Out method (also known as CIO). The true CIO method is also known as the extinction method.

This method teaches that you put your child in their crib, walk out of the room, say “See you in 12 hours,” and close the door.

When this method is used, it can take one or two nights to see progress.

My problem with CIO is that it’s not a PLAN.

The CIO method is not a step by step process or plan to help your baby sleep well.

It’s a statement with no understanding of sleep behind it.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard many pediatricians suggest this method to their families.

In fact, as one client told me – her Pediatrician suggested that she “just put headphones on” so she would not hear the child cry. (That made my blood boil!!!)

The thing is, no-cry solutions & CIO methods do work for many families!

These families do end up with kids who sleep 11-12 hours each night and have great naps.

If that is you, awesome!

But chances are, you are here because you are very nervous and feeling apprehensive about how much crying is involved with sleep training.

What Does Crying & Sleep Training Mean

I want to walk you through what crying and sleep training really means.

First of all, if you buy any of my courses, I am NOT going to tell you to close the door and say “See you in 12 hours!”

I am NOT the CIO method and I’m not about to make you place your child in their room for 12 hours without any intervention.

I just don’t think that’s a real plan. (See my methods here)

HOWEVER! I’m also not here to guarantee you that there will be no crying.

In fact, if anyone has guaranteed you that your child is NOT going to cry when they make a change, I would be very skeptical.

Why? Because the easiest and most natural thing in the world for your baby, toddler, or preschooler to do when they are faced with a change that they don’t enjoy is to cry!

When it comes to the No-Cry Solution and the CIO method, I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle.

While we definitely want your baby to learn quickly how to sleep (who has six-nine months to dedicate to this process?!) it does mean there’s going to be crying involved.

On Night 1 of my  Sleep Training Programs, I can confidently say that on average it will take 45-65 minutes for your baby to fall asleep.

That doesn’t always mean that they are crying the whole time, but sometimes they do.

In our different programs I walk you through whether to use the Stay In The Room or Leave & Check strategy, depending on your child’s age and development.

Of course there are always going to be outliers!

Some children get in the crib, whine for a few minutes, roll over, and fall asleep within five minutes for the first time ever.

I’ve also had toddlers who have only ever slept with Mom or Dad fall asleep in their own crib/bed in 15 minutes AND sleep all night…on night one!

Then, there are children who can take up to two and a half hours to choose to fall asleep.

Night one is the hardest and I will never sugar coat that.

Making change on night one is difficult.

But you have to see measurable success BY NIGHT THREE.


Within three nights of implementing a chosen method you have to be seeing hope, success, light at the end of the tunnel, progress!

If you’ve been sleep training for weeks or months, and you have not seen progress or success, then that is not the right method for you.

Not only is that unfair to you, it’s unfair to your baby!

Sleep is complex.

My job as a Pediatric Sleep Consultant is to help you navigate the complexity of sleep training!

While my Sleep Training programs WORK and guide you through explicit action steps, there are still elements of the process that require accountability and coaching.

What to expect with Babies

Within the first three nights of sleep training a baby you should notice:

  • A predictable bedtime routine and nightly reductions in how long it takes to fall asleep (EX: Night 1= 60 minutes / Night 2= 45 minutes / Night 3= 15 min)

  • Baby is eating efficiently and alert during their bedtime routine feed

  • Night wakings are decreasing.

What to expect with Toddlers

Within the first week when sleep training a toddler you should notice:

  • A predictable bedtime routine and nightly reductions in how long it takes to fall asleep.

  • They’re not fighting bedtime
  • Night wakings are decreasing

What to expect with Preschoolers 

Within 2-4 weeks of sleep training a preschooler you should notice:

  • A predictable bedtime routine that is both structured and fun!
  • They’ve dropped the nap and are not fighting you at bedtime

  • Night wakings are decreasing/diminished

Impacts of crying

So often I hear parents say..

  • “I’ve heard that your child should never cry out because they will have abandonment issues or trust issues…”

  • “I’ve heard children are not ready to self-soothe until they are three years old.”

  • “Am I damaging my child when they cry?”

    Let me be the one to say that there is NO research to back these statements up. 

Your child is in a loving home.

You care about their sleep and health.

They are in a protected environment.

Be comforted in the fact that crying is a part of the process, but it’s not a permanent factor.

My favorite study on crying is from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This study talks about how after a 5-year study of children who had been sleep trained, there were no negative effects from their sleep training.

But guess what?

There ARE negative effects if you don’t teach your child how to sleep well!

Broken sleep is the worst.

Broken sleep causes so many issues to your health, to your marriage, to the way you feel day in and day out.

You’re more susceptible to getting sick, you’re absolutely at your wits end when it comes to dealing with things the next day and that’s extremely difficult.

I want you to know that, YES, we can make sleep a thing, sleep is possible.

Sleep is the foundation of your health and the lifelong gift of independent sleep FAR outweighs that one or two nights of difficulty for you and your child.

Anytime we make a change, it’s hard.

Whether that change is going to the gym for the first time or making a career change, or sleep training your child.

Sleep training is hard because change is hard, but it should never be impossible. 

So perhaps you feel like you have a fork in the road:

  • Will you make a change that means a better quality of life in a matter of days?

  • Will you continue on with more crying in the long run because of nightly inconsistencies?


The following articles are here to support our process, and explain how sleep training is the most beneficial skill that you can teach your baby:

Helping Babies Learn to Cope with Stress & Sleep Well

AAP 5 Year Follow Up of Benefits & Harm to Sleep Training

Sleep Linked to Better Cognitive Development


  1. Laura says:

    Thank you. Love the way you frame this conversation. As a former nanny, I’ve sadly seen way too many babies and kids not get adequate sleep and it’s really not good for them. They are unhappy, uncoordinated, distracted, and overly sensitive. In some cases it’s heartbreaking. Makes me happy to see someone like you who is helping families provide sound sleep for their kids.

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