How Long Do I Let My Baby Cry?

Let’s just get straight to the sticky questions I get asked by families all over the world!

I’d say these parents feel 50% embarrassed to ask and also 50% nervous to ask. Why? Because they realize they need to understand what we’re going to do together and what my sleep philosophy is. They know change has to be made…but they are nervous.

So I wanted to spend some time and share the answers to the crying questions I get asked many times a week.

The most common question I get from parents via email or Instagram is:

“Becca, are you going to tell me to do cry it out?”

Let’s set the record straight. Cry-It-Out literally means it’s the Extinction Method. You’re going to close the door at 7PM and don’t attend to your child until 7AM in the morning.

Would I ever come into your family and tell you to do that? No! Because I don’t think that’s actually effective. It’s not a plan. People say they do CIO all the time, but what that really means is that they rocked their baby to sleep at bedtime, then at 2 AM let baby “Cry it out” in hopes they’ll figure it out by themselves.

I had a recent client share with me that her pediatrician recommended they do cry it out. When mom said she was uncomfortable with that the pediatrician recommended that that dad take the kid for the weekend and mom go out of town and dad could get the job done. Honestly, that really rubbed me the wrong way because in no way does that give mom or dad a plan to follow to see success.

While cry it out, like the true extinction version, does work for some families it doesn’t work for everybody.

You might be reading this and have tried CIO before. You might have laid baby down and said, “Okay, we’re doing it. We’re letting them cry it out.” But what you might have done was let them cry for about maybe 45-50 minutes, and then you went in and nursed them to sleep.

Well, that’s not cry it out. That’s conditioning your baby to cry for a certain period of time, and then you’re going to help them do something.

There’s two ways to look at this. One, you’ve literally been doing cry it out, like extinction method completely, and that worked for you… or you’ve been trying what you thought was cry it out and you’re not getting the results you want. .

So, am I going to come in and tell you to do cry it out? No, I’m not.

But, on the other side of this, I also do not represent a no cry sleep solution. I just don’t believe that that’s something that can be effective. I am here to help your baby and your child learn how to sleep and get the fastest connection to sleep with the least amount of crying.

So, is your baby going to protest? Oh yeah. They are definitely going to protest. Because who likes change? Ya’ll it doesn’t matter if it is the 5 month old I’m working with or the 5 year old, they don’t like change, and they both express their dislike of change with crying or perhaps whining in an older preschooler age.

We can expect your child to be upset, but what I always share with parents is that you would be doing this incorrectly if it got to be night, after night, after night, of endless crying. So maybe that’s the situation that you’re in. Maybe you find yourself in this position of night, after night, after night, of crying and protesting and you just don’t know what’s going on. Well, I feel like it’s obviously my job to let you know that if you’ve been experiencing night, after night, after night, of cry it out, then that is not something that clearly works for your baby or your family.

So of course, once we clear the air about what cry it out really is and what I represent and the way that we would work together, of course the next questions is:

“Okay, Becca, but like how long? How long should my baby be crying?”

Ya’ll, I’m asked this about newborns and about 12 month olds. Everybody wants to know. What’s the magic number? So, if you’ve got your pens ready, here it is: There is no magic number.

Seriously! I’m not trying to trick you. There is no magic number of how long your baby is going to cry, or should cry, or how long is too long.

There is no magic number because it’s all about having a purpose and a plan.

Let’s back track this and just look at age groups:

  • Newborns: I would never ask a newborn to cry for a prolonged period of time! They have so many needs and literally cannot do anything for themselves, including sleep!

  • Babies 4mo+: When parents work through my Sleep E-Coaching for babies, you have a plan. And on average it can take 45-60 minutes for a baby to fall asleep on Night 1 at bedtime. This doesn’t always mean 45-60 minutes of straight crying! Often there is a lot of settling for baby, and trying to connect themselves to sleep.

  • Toddlers: Protest can be strong at this age as their habits have become quite engrained! It’s all about giving them confidence that they are good at sleep! Crying will certainly happen because they want the old way. Making new habits isn’t easy! Night 1 for a toddler can take 60-75 minutes for a child to fall asleep. Again, not always crying that whole time. Often just connecting what’s happening to sleep.

Having a solid plan of what to do, how to respond, how to help baby handle the change, and what to do in the middle of the night….THAT is the key to stopping the crying!

“Okay Becca, that’s great, but I cannot handle crying.”

Ya’ll, If I had a dollar for every single time a parent told me this! I would have hundreds of them because honestly nobody likes to hear their kids cry. Right? We want what’s best for them and we don’t ever intentionally want our kids to be upset!

My toddler thinks that she would be the happiest kid ever if she could watch shows and movies all day long. Now would that make her happy? Yes, probably. Would that be a wise decision to do every single day? No.

So, guess what? We have a lot of tantrums when we tell her she can’t watch tv during the day. We’ve got to have a time limit, we can’t just do this all day long. It’s the same thing with sleep.

We’ve got to have a plan and a purpose, but we’ve also got to understand that it’s not going to be welcomed for your baby. And it’s not going to be comfortable for you.

This is why I’m passionate about making change the right way- and seeing results FAST. But often it seems weird to get help for something as “simple” as sleep, right?

My dream is that one day sleep consulting becomes just as known and regular as a lactation consultant or a doula or a midwife. I really feel like that movement of having doulas and midwives and lactation consultants, that’s getting very normal, but yet, there’s still this stigma for some reason that you shouldn’t, or you don’t have to ask anyone for help with your baby’s sleep, but the fact is, that is the foundation of your health and your baby’s health.

So, if we can just honestly look at the fact that we can have a plan, whether that’s with me or whether you DIY it through Sleep E-Coaching™, if you have a plan and you have a purpose to what you’re doing and you stay committed, then you need to be seeing the light within a few nights time. I am so passionate about speaking truth into that because I want this to be something that yields the best results for your baby and for your family.

I firmly believe that when you have a baby who is well rested, they are happier, they are healthy, and they are eager to explore the world around them.

Cheers to sleep coming oh so soon!

Sweet Dreams,
Becca