Cry it out: the real reason for avoiding it when helping your baby sleep

Never to cry it out baby with arm to the side

Cry it out as a baby sleep method isn’t great for your baby. It can negatively affect parent-baby bonding, destroy trust, hamper healthy sleep development and cause brain damage due to toxic stress.

To top it off, for many families, results from any form of crying it out are short-term only.

Lots of parents find they need to do new CIO-cycles again and again whenever a sleep regression comes up. And many report that it seems to get less and less effective (more and more crying). And the question remains what a baby will have learned from it.

The thing is, each of those are good reasons to avoid crying it out and I hold them close to my heart. But they’re not THE reason: if you feel that CIO is right for you and your baby, I’m not here to try and change your mind.

Because that’s where we find the real reason not to do cry it out. It’s all about how it makes YOU feel.

What feels right, is right (but not only because it feels right!)

If you don’t want to have your baby crying all alone.

If the thought of your baby being upset, alone, and feeling you’ll never come makes you feel horrible.

If it breaks your heart even when you’re exhausted and everyone is telling you to try crying it out.

If it’s just not your parenting style.

What you feel is right, and that alone is reason enough, and THE reason not to have your baby cry it out.

Baby girl giving mommy a kiss

But it’s about more than the way it feels. The fact that it feels right means that it aligns with your instincts. And I know, you may not trust your motherly instinct too much right now but you really should. It’s rarely wrong, even if you feel unsure about it.

And then there’s also the unmistakable power of being truly convinced of something.

Because no parenting approach ever works if you’re not 100% behind it. And when you allow yourself to do exactly what feels right, what your instincts tell you: that’s when the magic happens.

Because you want your baby to learn to sleep well. Not just for one nap or night, but for a lifetime of healthy sleep. And it’s possible, very doable even, with effective, no-tears sleep techniques and within a holistic approach.

So please know that you never ever have to let your baby cry if you don’t want to. And that he or she will still learn to sleep well: better even, and that the trust and respect between you will stay high as ever.

If that’s you and how you want to help your baby sleep: you’ve come to the perfect place! 🤗

Sleeping well without tears is at the heart of all the work I share here on One example is how I tackle hourly wakings: it starts with solving the causes for the waking. With that, the no-tears sleep techniques become even more powerful.

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about cry it out, or CIO, methods? Have you ever felt pressured into trying it even though you did not feel 100% convinced?

Write a comment with your thoughts below!

With so much love,
x Heidi

P.S. If you’d like more info about the toxic stress I mentioned in the intro, you might find these resources by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University helpful: Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development (Youtube video) and Pediatricians Take On Toxic Stress.

Heidi Holvoet, PhD is the award-winning author, baby sleep consultant and founder of With warm, kind, never-judging and truly no-tears advice (no hidden CIO, ever!), Heidi helps families worldwide achieve more and healthier sleep, and sleep skills to last a life-time. Sign up to receive Heidi's FREE Audio Training: 3 No-Tears Strategies to Help Your Baby Sleep Better


  1. Greet Roose | | Reply

    This approach was really the best for us. I’m certainly in favour of it. When our daughter was a lovely baby girl she slept very lightly, just a little noise and she was crying, day or night. The minute she started my husband or me took her in our arms to comfort her. But the older she got, the better she slept. Now we really have to shake her a bit until she wakes up. Even a vacuum cleaner doesn’t wake her now!

    • Heidi Holvoet | | Reply

      That sounds really good Greet, thanks for sharing that!!! x

  2. Gwenllian | | Reply

    My parents let me cry when I was a baby – apparently I cried every hour, every night until I was 4. I don’t judge them for it because that’s what people did, just like they were told to put babies on their stomachs to sleep yet now we know it’s safer on their backs. However, I feel that I have always been a terrible sleeper – I remember waking often as a child, teenager and in adulthood. Maybe that’s my lot in life!

    Having said all this, I feel that I’m
    CONSTANTLY being judged by lots of people for not allowing my baby to cry endlessly to sleep. So difficult as a first time mum, always questioning my choices and being sooooo tired/vulnerable, but you are absolutely right; THE reason I cannot do CIO is it doesn’t feel right to me. Sometimes, I feel like I’m coming to the end of what I think I can give and it would be nice if people allowed me to vent without the obvious retort that I should try CIO!! Yes, it would be easier if she could already link all her cycles and sleep for longer stretches without breastfeeding, but it will come with time and patience!

    • Heidi Holvoet | | Reply

      Gwenllian thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts. Your reply brought tears to my eyes actually because yes that JUDGING you have to put up with bc of your choices is so hard and so unfair and it’s something I feel very very strongly about. Might it help to send those people who give you trouble, over here and have them read the article? Hmm maybe not, might not really help of course, and above all, it shouldn’t be necessary for you to explain yourself. As a mom, you have to look after your baby the way feels right to you and you should get nothing but support, no ‘well-meant’ try-something-different‘s …

      Always here to discuss with you and please know that in any case here you can vent all you want! 🤗 And we’ll keep working together to help you and your sweet baby girl get more and more sleep!! x

  3. Polly | | Reply

    I had this conversation with a friend recently. She couldn’t understand why I won’t do sleep training when I’m so exhausted. I often get the sense that people think I am some kind of masochist for bedsharing and breastfeeding on wake ups. But I can only parent in the way that feels right to me. I want my children close to me at night. I want them to feel safe and I don’t want them crying in the dark. I never wanted to sleep alone as a child and I was terrified of the dark. I want to help my children sleep better, but I will only use methods that sit well with me – no amount of eye rolling will change that. Thanks for your support Heidi.

    • Heidi Holvoet | | Reply

      I SO hear you Polly and so glad that you’re strong and hopefully feeling supported in doing what feels right! Go you!!! 😊🤗

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