Nap Training: The Dos and Don’ts of Cry It Out

Parents can use many sleep training methods to help their baby fall asleep at night by themselves. The Ferber method, or the cry it out (CIO) method, is just one sleep training method used by parents to help sleep train their baby. This method involves the parent putting the baby to bed and then leaving the room to let the child cry and self-soothe if they cannot fall asleep on their own. The parent enables the baby to “cry it out” while checking in on the child in timed 5–10 minute increments. The parent does not engage the child with feeding or holding to help the child develop healthy sleeping habits without depending on a parent for comfort. 

In addition to the challenge of getting the baby to sleep at night, parents cannot overlook another critical challenge: naps during the day. Sleep training your baby is essential for nighttime sleeping as well as daytime naps. Parents will find it useful to sleep train their baby using cry it out for naps and bedtime during the same training timeframe. This means that while you are sleep training your baby during naps, you should also be sleep training your baby during bedtime. Consistency in your sleep training method will determine the results of your baby being able to fall asleep by themselves. By being consistent in your efforts, your baby will learn to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer on their own.

Does Cry It Out Work for Naps?

Ferber’s cry it out method not only works for bedtime but also for nap time as well. This method of sleep training can be used for naps as long as its use is consistent, and you keep your baby on a set sleeping schedule.

If your baby naps too much during the day, he or she will wake up frequently at night or try to fight to go to sleep at bedtime. The long-term goal of sleep training is to help your child fall asleep without you, as gently as possible and with little to no crying. The self-soothing skills your baby learns while sleep training will be used for both bedtime and naptime sleep. And let’s be honest, more sleep is good for everyone. 

How Long to Let Baby Cry It Out for Naps?

To help your baby fall asleep on his own, put him in bed for naps about 15 minutes before you want him to fall asleep and then leave the room. This time frame usually gives babies enough time to become bored and tired. As you first start sleeping training your child, the moment you put them down is when they will cry the most. This crying should diminish with further sleep training. However, your baby will learn the skill of self-soothing to fall asleep. If your baby does not fall asleep in 15 minutes, consider extending the time to an hour.

Since naps don’t typically involve sleeping for an extended period, it’s best not to enter the room during this hour nap session. If your baby sees you while down for a nap, this may make him excited and less likely to go to sleep. You can check on him from a distance, making sure he does not see you at any time. 

After an hour and a half, if your baby still has not gone to sleep, retrieve him from his crib and return to the daily routine. Feed him, hold him if needed, and wait 45 minutes to try to put him down again using the steps above. Do not let him fall asleep outside of his crib. If he shows signs of tiredness, return him to his bed and allow him to self-soothe to fall asleep. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Cry It Out Method for Naps

Using the Ferber method for naps may not be suitable for every parenting style. Hearing a baby cry for an extended time is not something all parents can handle.

As with any sleep training method, there are always pros and cons to each style. One of the cons of the CIO method is listening to your baby cry and fighting the urge to help and comfort them. Some critics of the method claim that allowing your baby to cry for too long may affect your baby’s relationship with you. After you start sleep training using cry it out, you may begin to notice that your baby sometimes no longer relies on you for comfort, even when they are happy. The baby sees that you are not there to comfort them when they are fussy and crying, so they may think that you won’t be there to comfort them when they are happy.

An advantage of the cry it out method can be that it helps your baby learn to self-soothe to fall asleep faster on his own. Your baby will learn to comfort themselves without you near, which will make bedtime an easier time for both parents and baby. Another advantage of the CIO method is your baby will be able to put himself back to sleep should he wake up in the middle of the night. Just like adults, babies often wake up at night. But instead of crying for you, the skills learned from the cry it out method will enable your baby to soothe himself back to sleep, enabling more restful sleep for everyone. 

Things to Keep In Mind When Using The Ferber Method of Cry It Out

Using schedules for sleep training is key to helping your baby fall asleep on his own. Be sure to stick to the same daily bedtime, naptime, and wake-up schedule, so you don’t confuse your baby. Over time, your baby’s internal clock will begin to associate certain times with sleeping, which will help him fall asleep easier.

Also, keep in mind that it’s easier to sleep train an infant than an older toddler. Habits develop over time, and these habits are harder to break when a child is older. Sleep training your infant early will help instill proper sleep habits for later years. You can do this by always putting your baby in a bed or crib to sleep when they are drowsy. In doing this, they will associate their bed with sleep instead of your arms or your bed.

The Dos of Cry It Out for Naps

  1. Be sure to check in on your baby in 5-10 minute intervals. You want your baby to learn to help himself go to sleep, but you also want to make sure your baby is safe as well.
  2. Keep a schedule when sleep training your baby. Routine and schedules are key to your baby’s internal clock recognizing when it’s time to be asleep and when it’s time to be awake. Always put your baby in the crib or his bed to sleep, so he begins to recognize that sleeping takes place in bed and nowhere else.
  3. Important, allow yourself to cry if you need it. Listening to a baby cry for comfort can sometimes be heartbreaking and cause parents to fail. Stay the course and eventually you will have a happy baby that falls asleep on his own without your help. 

The Don’ts of Cry It Out for Naps

  1. When allowing your baby to cry it out, don’t pick them up out of bed, feed them or turn on the light. If you feel the need to reassure your baby you are near, you can softly speak to them from the doorway where they cannot see you. After comforting the baby with your voice, leave the room again and return to check on them 5-10 minutes later. 
  2. When sleep training, don’t be inconsistent. You will need to respond the same way every time your child goes down to sleep, whether for a nap or bedtime. If one night you give in to his cries and hold him while he falls asleep, you will undo the progress you have made sleep training your child. Your child will learn that if he cries and fusses enough, he will end up being comforted by you and won’t learn to self-soothe himself.

Final word

The cry it out method of sleep training by Ferber can be a useful and successful tool in helping your baby sleep by himself and give parents some much-needed rest. However, this style of sleep training requires parents to stand firm in the process of the method, and not become inconsistent in their actions and reactions to their baby during sleeping times. Only then will the cry it out method produce the results they would like to see in their baby’s sleeping patterns.

As always, it is up to the parents to decide whether cry it out is a good fit for sleep training their baby. The cry it out method could work for some parents, while others prefer a more hands-on approach to find ways to help their babies sleep. And that’s ok. All parenting styles are different. Keep trying until you find out what works best for you and your baby.

Lucie Basset
Author: Lucie Basset

A mother of two, psychologist, and deeply passionate about the challenges of parenting. She has led several businesses, all of them focused on making a positive impact on the community.