Why do people do this?

They do it because they think they have to make a child to go to sleep on their own or that it’s important to have strict routines and there’s no room for the child’s wants or needs. Sometimes it’s simply because they don’t want to care for their child any more for the day. It’s “me” time in the evenings. Sometimes it’s because they actually believe that their young child is being “difficult” in not submitting just to irritate them. A lesson needs to be taught about who’s in charge. Sometimes it’s done to the child because the parent thinks the child wants to be put to sleep this way. They actually believe the child prefers to “fuss” before sleep.

After distressful nights of falling asleep from exhaustion crying out for their parent for nourishment and/or help and comfort they may well just give up. Doing this to a child has consequences to the relationship between parent and child, not to mention the trust, sleep and food issues that child can have throughout the rest of their lives.

Making a child cio is telling them that their bodies are wrong and they aren’t hungry or hurting like they feel. It’s saying that even if they are needing comfort, they aren’t going to get it. It says that they aren’t worth loving and caring for unconditionally.

CIO is about resentment, annoyance, control, confusion, abandonment, and mistrust.

Shouldn’t we want our child to learn that sleep is fundamentally natural and something we do that reenergises our bodies. It should feel good. It isn’t something to be forced or used as punishment.

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17 Responses to Cry It Out

  1. Debbie says:

    I couldn’t agree more Annie. I have family members that “Ferberized” their kids and couldn’t believe I wasn’t doing it as well. They can’t believe that Isaac (who was 3 in July) is still co-sleeping and still nursing…that we plan to unschool him.

    It’s such a different mindset. It’s a lifestyle, isn’t it? For me, it’s the only way I know. I couldn’t imagine letting him CIO – not being there when he needed me. Oh, my heart aches at the thought.

    I remember my mum saying very early on that I had to let him have time to cry so that he would learn early that he couldn’t manipulate me. WHAT? It blew my mind that people think this way.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and honest post. You are so inspiring to me. xo

    Many blessings.

  2. MamaShift says:

    I have never done it (my four year-old still sleeps with me) but I’m absolutely sure that many parents simply don’t know any better or truly think it’s the right thing to do. Parenting is tough.

  3. Bobbie says:

    It’s the judgement in your post that is so annoying to parents like me who are trying to the best for my child. I suppose you would also want to judge me for being physically unable to breast feed my baby. Ugh!

  4. Jo says:

    I agree too. I can’t even listen to other people’s kids crying, let alone my own. I don’t co-sleep any more, but I’m up with my 9 month-old the second he needs me (well, maybe not the second, as it takes a minute to groggily stumble to his bedroom!)

    I’ve been meaning to thank you for being so grounded. It’s made me try to re-evaluate the way we do things as parents, and we’re trying to adjust for the better. It is difficult, as I have said before, not to just slide into the way our parents did things…

  5. paxye says:

    I agree with you completely….

    It is all about control and is completely parent centred. All needs need to be met, not just the ones that are convenient for the parent. But more than that it is also physically and emotionally damaging.

    Here is an amazing article by Dr. Gabor Maté that I quoted a while back and really explains the damage later on..


  6. Sarah says:

    Thanks Annie. I wish I could express my opinions about these issues so honestly.

    My little man didn’t really want to go to bed tonight. I nursed and nursed but he just wanted to get up and see Esme! (so sweet…). I knew he was tired. I just explained gently that the day was over and Es was in bed, asked him to listen how quiet it was, many times. And after quite a few minutes of this I said “shall we go to sleep now?” and he just said “yeh”…and crawled back to his spot ;)

    Esme was a very different child and *really* resisted sleep for a long time, still does…
    I’ve had a few moments where I’ve really wanted them to “just go to sleep”, to have that time for me, to end the day, to not have the hassle of a protracted bedtime.. But there’s never been a time where I’ve wished I had done the CIO thing. Even on the crappest nights when it is pure hard work and I am totally exhausted, seeing them sleeping like angels (in the end) is worth every second of effort.

    I didn’t feel any judgement in your post but maybe that’s because I agree with you!….

  7. Caralyn says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Some nights, my six month old does not sleep well and it can be *really* hard. However, I know that my temporary break means nothing compared to his development, his sense of safety and trust, and his needs. My job as his parent is to make sure he *always* knows that I will be there for him, no matter how I am feeling or how tired I am at the time.

    And to Bobbie: yes, I do judge parents for letting their children CIO because, to me, CIO is abuse. Just like hitting a child or calling a child names is abuse, so is letting a child CIO.

    If an adult were incapable of getting out of bed and was calling to their carer because they were hungry or frightened or needed to use the bathroom, ANYONE would say that carer was being abusive if they ignored the cries of that differently-abled person to “teach him who’s in charge”. Why is it so different to let a child CIO?

  8. J.T. says:

    I think every parent has to do what is best for their family whether that be to CIO or co-sleep.

    For us – we were pushed towards co-sleeping due to the fact that none of us were getting any sleep. We have a little sleep fighter on our hands, not to mention colic for the first 4 months of her life. At around 6 months, our Dr. gave the go ahead to CIO, but I didn’t have the heart to let her scream longer than 10-15 minutes.

    I would have to disagree with CIO being a form of abuse though. Children learn very early on the ability to manipulate; crying, in some circumstances, a way of manipulation to get what they want not always necessarily what they need. I think if a parent is providing an overall safe, loving, and nurturing environment for the child but chooses to CIO, calling it abuse is a bit harsh. I firmly believe that my little one manipulated me :) bc as soon as she lay next to me in bed she slept the entire night through. But I was happy to let her win in that instance.

    It was never our goal to co-sleep but it has worked for us as we are all now sleeping soundly after purchasing a king size bed! My husband and I both love having her next to us at the end of the day.

    With that said…What I am coming to learn as a 1st time parent is that there are many ways to raise a child, everyone has opinions, everyone has judgments. But in the end love, guidance, patience, understanding, exploration, protection, and faith are what help us thrive in our home.

  9. andrea says:

    I didn’t really have an opinion on this before I had a child, but I soon learned to trust my mothering instincts and I was never tempted to let my daughter “cry it out.” Nursing to sleep and co-sleeping for part of the night works for our family. In terms of understanding why parents decide to let their chidren cio, I’m sure that sometimes it is about wanting “me” time, but I know that some parents sincerely believe that they are teaching their child valuable sleep skills. This rationale may be misguided and unfortunate, but it comes from a place of good intent for some of my mommy friends.
    Thanks for continually sharing your own thoughts on mothering – I really enjoy your blog!

  10. Annie says:

    I’m a little surprised by the response I’ve had about this posting! Wow!

    I’m not publishing the less productive “You’re so judgemental” comments for obvious reasons. You don’t have to agree with my thoughts on this or any subject but it’s worth sharing in a better way. This is, after all a personal blog where I share my interests, thoughts, struggles, frustrations etc.

    I’m sure we’ve all heard this before but tone isn’t something that comes across well over the internet. I’m not angry or ranting or accusing or making personal attacks. I’m sharing thoughts I wrote out on paper days ago. To be honest, I was a bit sad writing them. I strongly believe that it’s important to meet our children’s needs regardless of the hour. I also strongly believe in compassionate and natural parenting.

    I just want to share a post I’ve written a while back that I think pertinent now: https://annie.paxye.com/?p=367

    Debbie- I think you are so right. Striving to parent in the most peaceful and compassionate way possible is a lifestyle- one that doesn’t stop when it’s dark out.

    Parenting is tough, Mamashift! You’re right. I think some parents just don’t know any better. It’s too bad.

    Jo- We had a good time this trip. We aren’t meant to do this alone and it’s nice to be around friends that can support each other when we need it. I don’t particularly remember doing this for you but I’m glad I could. I need it sometimes myself!

    Great article, Paxye! ♥

    Sarah- YES. What we resist, will persist. Right? You are SO right that it’s worth it, even in the short term but definitely in the long to be there for our children even when it’s not the easiest.

    Caralyn- “However, I know that my temporary break means nothing compared to his development, his sense of safety and trust, and his needs. My job as his parent is to make sure he *always* knows that I will be there for him, no matter how I am feeling or how tired I am at the time.”

    I totally agree. I also love that comparison looking at an adult incapacitated and how they would expect to be treated by a loved caregiver.

    JT- So sad that your doctor would suggest CIO. Sadly many doctors out there would. Doctors are trained to (prescribe drugs. Ha.) treat injury and illness. Raising children, like many other topics people ask about, isn’t something most doctors are an authority on.

  11. Krista says:

    Just a reminder to all that judging someone for being judgmental is in itself…. a judgment.

    It helps everyone when something is approached from a feelings and needs consciousness.

    Sadly, this consciousness is only just beginning to grow in our culture and isn’t embraced by many…. yet.

    So… mis-communications happen, judgments spin out of control on both sides, people disconnect instead of connecting… it’s all very tragic.

    Adults need compassion and care as do children. I do believe we are all doing our best at all times, I really do. I don’t assume mal-intent on the part of parents who participate in cio, although I feel disturbed knowing that many children are left to cry it out, I do have compassion for the needs the parent is trying to meet. No one is the “bad” guy here.

    I’d love to see this awareness that you are trying to bring to people about raising children compassionately really touch people in a connecting way…

    If you’re open to my input…. I wonder if including some of the authentic needs the parents are trying to meet by letting their child cio might meet their need for empathy and understanding, and they would feel open and receptive to reading and considering the more compassionate alternative you write about (eg. co-sleeping).

    I wonder too, why people do this? From a needs perspective…. Are they needing relief? Are they tired and needing a break? Some down time? I don’t believe “control” is a need, but perhaps some structure and predictability in their lives? Perhaps they are doing it because they truly believe they are meeting their need for their child’s well-being (eg. getting the rest they need). Needing peace? Ease? Sure, the strategy of cio probably isn’t going to meet these needs, but sometimes parents really don’t know any other way. Are they are needing support, guidance, information….?

    I find it refreshing, connecting and in line with my values to approach other people’s behavior in this way. I wish I did it more often!

  12. Krista says:

    ps, some empathy for you, Annie…. I am guessing you feel so much care and concern for all children in the world, that you have so much love for humanity and really value children being given all the love and compassion that they need to grow up to feel happy, balanced and whole….. and that you see this cio method as not meeting those needs but doing the opposite. It really comes through in this post as well as past conversations with you how much you value a peaceful parent-child connection, you yearn for people to parent in ways that you believe foster that connection…. that the world would be a much more peaceful place to live in… is that the gist of it? You’re not meaning to attack or judge but simply express how passionate you are about this, and finding it tricky conveying that in text on a computer screen? Hope that’s close, anyway! Take care.

  13. J.T. says:

    Question on Co-Sleeping: Since most of us that have commented on this post are co-sleeping parents and have probably gone through transitioning…I’m seeking some insight and expertise!

    At what point do you transition from co-sleeping into say a “toddler” type bed? Any advice, suggestions, feedback for making this happen would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the dialogue and discussion with your post! Tai

  14. forex robot says:

    Great post this will really help me.

  15. Annie says:

    Krista- I responded to you privately but I’ll share part of what I wrote to you.

    “It is my belief that most conversations about cio lead to compassion for parents in a way that doesn’t offer relief or change for the child. Like people can say that cio is sad and damaging for a child but, oh the poor parents do it because they are (fill in with one of the many many reasons parents can choose to do this to a child).

    Cio is now known to damage children’s brains, as well as give them other issues. It hurts them in more invisible ways than the effects of spanking or even behaviour modifying mind games. To me it’s this simple- cio is not the right thing to do. I wish parents who choose to do this to their child were more informed and/or found other ways to meet their own needs/get support.

    I appreciate your empathy. What you said resonated with me but it seems there is more to it. I wasn’t writing this particular post because I hoped to school anyone in more peaceful parenting but because I was working through my own thoughts. At the time (and even still now I guess) I was feeling really confused and upset about how parents could make this choice. All the reasons I put in my post are real reasons that I have personally been told as why various friends (!) have chosen to do cio. Again, I’m confused and upset. I’m sad for my friends- parent and child.

    JT- I’m not sure I’d be much help because I’m daughter went into a twin bed when she was about 4.5-5? Her twin bed was and is again, now that we’ve moved, in our bedroom. Leif was still small (and I still big!) and I was feeling a bit cramped in the bed with everyone. Having the bed in the same room made it easier for her. She still occasionally sleeps with the rest of us in the kind sized bed. I might snap a shot of our bedroom sometime…

  16. ruralmamma says:

    Right On Ms. Annie! I posted a link to this page of yours on my blog. Hope thats OK dokee. I just could not have said it any better and wanted other Mammas to be tuned into you.

  17. Annie says:

    Thanks so much, Ruralmamma!

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