Crying Down

Crying down is a form of sleep training used to help babies learn to fall asleep on their own without sleep props. This method is best used with babies that have a mild sleep association problem, are overtired or are overstimulated. Gina Ford suggests crying down for babies from birth to six months.

The concept of crying down is pretty simple. "Provided a baby has been well fed and is ready to sleep...he should be allowed to settle himself." (The Complete Sleep Guide, p. 40). What this means is that when baby is ready to sleep (see sleep cues) you do your
pre-sleep routine and then you put baby down to sleep awake to allow him to fall asleep without a sleep prop. Next you let him be, even if that means you let him cry.

Obviously no one likes to hear their baby cry. It's far from pleasant. Gina Ford says that "it is my belief that, in the long-term, allowing your baby to develop the wrong sleep associations and therefore denying him the sound night's sleep he needs in order to develop both mentally and physically is a worse option than hearing him cry for a short while." (The Complete Sleep Guide, p. 41). Also, although baby will cry more at first with this method, overall he should cry much less at sleep times, especially if this method is started when he is a newborn.

Dr Symon says that if you need to go in to reassure your child (and yourself) during this method you should go in no more than every 10 minutes and make your reassurances last no more than 1-2 minutes. Reassurances ideally should include something like a soothing touch or voice rather than picking up.

Additional Info
  • Usually the crying before sleep lasts around 10-30 minutes and diminishes over time if you are consistent with this approach. It usually lasts 5-10 minutes in a baby under 6 weeks old.
  • It takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks for babies to learn to settle themselves to sleep without crying.
  • The more overtired a baby is the longer and harder he will cry. Work on getting appropriate waketime lengths. Putting your child to sleep with perfect timing will prevent much if not all crying.
  • If you start this method from birth before there are any sleeps props like feeding or rocking to sleep in place your child will respond much better.
  • Remember to make sure baby is not hungry when doing this method. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding and putting your child to sleep for the night since some moms have less milk at this time.
  • This method is called crying down because when a baby cries to settle to sleep his cries usually go down in intensity over time.
  • Personally, I don't feel comfortable letting a newborn cry to sleep for more than a few/several minutes (plus, newborns get overtired and overstimulated very easily). So if I were doing this method and I got to that 'given time' then I would help baby go to sleep and try this method again at the next sleep time.


  1. Very interesting information, thank you very much.
    It's interesting that I don't find very much information on how to put newborn to sleep (probably because they sleep all the time???). But mine doesn't. I just don't have baby that sleeps all the time. She's 3 weeks old this Thursday.
    With her I did PDF from birth, sleep on her own bed, eat-activity-put down to sleep schedule.I watch out carefully for sleep readiness for put her down (swaddled) 35-40 mins after being up anyhow. She just stays wide awake for the next 320-30 mins or so, then cried on and off for hours until the next feed.

    CIO didn't work. I wish she'd cry down but she just cried until the next feed. Checking won't work either, pacifier can stop the crying for a min or two but won't help her to sleep.

    I don't think she has reflux or colic, as she's so content during feed and an hour after that.

    Do you have any idea how can she stay awake so long and what method would be appropriate for her?

    Thank you very much

  2. Sorry I am not getting back to this until now. Your comment got put into the spam folder for some reason and I only just saw it now.

    Neither of my babies slept easily as newborns either. I feel your pain ;)

    At this age, I would try a certain period of time (personally, I wouldn't do more than 15-30 minutes, maybe even less for some babies) to help her go to sleep and then after that time, help her go to sleep in any way possible. When babies this age get overtired it is often impossible for them to go to sleep. Just try again at the next sleep period. When she is past the newborn stage you can do a slightly more aggressive approach.

    As for why she is staying awake so long, I think it is due to begin overtired and/or overstimulated. She can't shut herself off when she gets overtired and overstimulated (even some babies have a hard time shutting themselves off and going to sleep when this isn't even the case). My first was like this. If he had one bad sleep period he had a horrible time sleeping for the rest of the day. Some kids are just like that.

  3. Hi Rachel,
    I am not sure what is the difference between crying down and cry it out method

    1. LuChu,
      It's just what Gina Ford calls cio with kids under 6 months. CIO can be done in different ways so it can have different names (cold turkey, extinction, controlled crying, limited crying etc). It's not suppose to last long like it might in an older children when you do a 360 on sleeping and teach them to sleep on their own.