How many nights does cry it out take?

The “cry it out” sleep training method, also known as controlled crying or Ferberizing, refers to allowing a baby to cry for a set period of time before comforting them in an effort to help them learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. Many parents wonder how long the crying will last and how many nights they can expect the process to take before seeing results.

What is the cry it out method?

The cry it out method involves putting your baby down awake in their crib at bedtime and allowing them to cry or fuss for a predetermined amount of time before going in to briefly comfort them. The intervals between comforting get longer as the nights go on. The goal is for your baby to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

There are a few variations of cry it out:

  • Graduated extinction: You wait a bit longer before responding to crying each night. For example, waiting 5 minutes the first night, then 10 minutes the second, then 15.
  • Interval extinction: You let baby cry for set intervals – say 5 or 10 minutes – responding briefly in between intervals to reassure baby. The timing remains the same each night.
  • Full extinction: You do not go back into the room until the morning, no matter how long baby cries. This is the most controversial version.

The most common approach is the graduated extinction model made popular by pediatrician Dr. Richard Ferber, author of “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.” This allows for gradually increasing crying intervals.

How many nights does graduated extinction take?

For most babies, the graduated cry it out method takes between 3-5 nights before significant improvement is seen. Here is a typical timeline:

Night 1

The first night is usually the toughest in terms of amount of crying. Babies may cry intensely for an extended period while learning to soothe themselves to sleep initially. Crying might last on and off for 30-60 minutes or longer.

Go in to comfort baby briefly at set intervals – for example, every 5 minutes. Keep comforting brief and avoid picking baby up or nursing/bottle feeding. Something like a gentle pat or shush is ideal. The goal is not to distract or stimulate baby, just reassure them.

Night 2

Crying may intensify again this night before it starts getting better. Try increasing the interval between comfortings to every 7-10 minutes. Expect crying for possibly a bit longer than the first night.

Nights 3-5

For most babies, crying starts decreasing significantly on these nights as baby adjusts and learns to self settle at bedtime. Intervals can be increased to 10-15 minutes between comforting. Crying may last only 5-30 minutes total.

By night 5

Most babies are falling asleep with minimal crying by night 5, sometimes sooner. If crying extends past 30 minutes for more than 1-2 nights, you may need to modify the program.

What affects how long cry it out takes?

Every baby is different in terms of how long the cry it out process takes. Here are some factors that can impact the duration:

Baby’s age

Younger babies under 6 months may take longer to respond to sleep training. Developmentally they have a harder time self-soothing and calming themselves. Waiting until 6 months or older often leads to quicker success.


Being extremely consistent with the timed intervals and keeping comforting brief is key. Not sticking to the plan or inadvertently reinforcing crying can draw the process out.

Nap training

Only doing cry it out at bedtime and not naps can prolong the process. Training at naps and bedtime often leads to faster improvement.


Starting too early when baby is overly tired or too late when baby is overtired can impact how well cry it out goes. Best timing is key. Watch for age appropriate wake windows.

Outside factors

Illness, travel, disruption in household routine, developmental leaps, and teething can all stall cry it out progress for a few days. Improvement may resume once these pass.


Babies with intense, persistent temperaments may have more difficulty with sleep training and require more time and effort. Easygoing babies often adapt more quickly.

Tips to shorten how long cry it out takes

Here are some tips that can help shorten the duration of the cry it out process:

  • Start at 4-6 months when sleep patterns are more established.
  • Commit fully to not going back in before the set time interval, no matter how intense the crying.
  • Be extremely consistent with timing every night.
  • Do naps and nighttime for fastest improvement.
  • Set the baby down awake but drowsy so they learn to fall asleep independently.
  • Have a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime routine ending in the crib awake.
  • Follow age appropriate wake times during the day.
  • Limit stimulation and avoid feeding to sleep before putting down.
  • Try during a period of stability when baby is healthy.
  • Hang in there! Stay confident in your plan.

What if it takes longer than 5 nights?

While most babies respond within 3-5 nights, some take a little longer to get the hang of sleep training. If your baby is still crying intensely for long periods after the first 5-7 nights, here are some options:

  • Adjust the time intervals. You can increase or decrease the time between comforting, whatever seems to help baby the most.
  • Troubleshoot outside factors like nap schedule, bedtime routine and wake times.
  • Consider stopping for a few days, maintaining a consistent sleep routine, then trying cry it out again.
  • Try a modified approach like camping out or pick up/put down to see if it helps baby adapt.
  • Discuss with baby’s pediatrician if you have concerns about the amount of crying.
  • Accept that your baby may need a custom plan or more time adjusting. Stick with it!

With time, perseverance and consistency, nearly all babies can successfully sleep train with the cry it out method. But for some persistent babies, it may take a week or longer. Stay consistent, respond to baby’s cues, and get support when needed.

Should you stop cry it out if it goes past a week?

There is no hard rule on when you absolutely must stop cry it out after a certain number of nights. Some pediatricians recommend giving it at least a week before considering it a failed effort.

Every baby is different, so you have to gauge your individual baby’s response. Signs it may be time to reassess include:

  • Crying exceeds 60+ minutes multiple nights in a row
  • Crying intensifies or lasts longer instead of improving
  • Baby becomes extremely distraught or unconsolable
  • Sleep is worsening or baby is overtired from fighting bedtime
  • You experience intense parental anxiety about letting baby cry

If you are past the 1 week mark and still seeing these intense behaviors or feelings, it may be time to pause. Switch to a gentler method like pick up/put down for a while before trying cry it out again. Or abandon cry it out for now and try again later.

There are no definitive rules on how long is too long for cry it out. Take it day by day and gauge your individual baby’s needs. Some babies truly adapt better with a more gradual approach.

Will cry it out eventually work for all babies?

While cry it out can work wonderfully for many babies, it is not universally effective for all babies. Some babies have more sensitive temperaments or special needs that make this method more challenging for them.

For a small percentage of babies, cry it out is simply not the right approach, at least not initially. If you’ve tried cry it out consistently for two weeks or longer without seeing sustained improvement, it may be one of the rare cases where it is not working for your baby.

Alternative sleep training methods like:

  • Pick up/put down
  • Camping out
  • Gradual retreat
  • Bedtime fading
  • Modified Ferber

May be more effective for some persistent babies before trying cry it out again later. Or you may decide as parents that cry it out is not appropriate for your family. Talk with your pediatrician if you need guidance.

While cry it out can work very quickly for many babies, for others it takes more time and effort to see results. Stay flexible and responsive to your baby’s cues throughout the process. With patience and consistency, most babies can learn to sleep train without tears, even if cry it out does not work for them initially.

What results can you expect from cry it out?

When successful, sleep training with cry it out can:

  • Teach baby to fall asleep independently at bedtime and for naps
  • Reduce night wakings and need for night feeds
  • Eliminate negative sleep associations like rocking, nursing to sleep
  • Extend night time sleep periods/self-soothing
  • Allow parents and baby to get better quality, longer sleep

But, every baby responds differently. Some additional possibilities include:

  • Falling asleep faster but still waking frequently at first
  • Longer periods of sleep but still some crying at bedtime
  • Napping well but still struggling at bedtime

The process may click into place quickly for some babies while others see gradual ongoing improvement over weeks. Try to be flexible in your expectations. Consistency is key.

Tips for dealing with crying during cry it out

Listening to your baby cry during cry it out can be very difficult on parents. Here are some tips to cope:

  • Take shifts with your partner if possible so one can leave if needed
  • Play white noise, music or put in earplugs to muffle the sound
  • Watch tv or listen to a podcast as a distraction
  • Remind yourself this is teaching an important life skill
  • Know that consistency now prevents future sleep struggles
  • Enlist support from friends, family or professionals if needed
  • Stay calm, confident and consistent in the plan

Does cry it out cause long term harm?

There is no evidence that sleep training with the cry it out method causes any long term emotional or psychological harm when done responsibly. Studies have found no differences in attachment or development in children sleep trained as babies.

However, letting babies cry for extended, uncontrolled periods can be problematic. That’s why the controlled crying approach with gradually increasing intervals is recommended over letting baby “cry it out” indefinitely. Periodically offering reassurance helps prevent extreme distress.

Of course, every family is different. Only parents can decide what feels right for their baby based on their own child’s needs and temperament. Work with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about cry it out or your baby’s response.


For most babies, sleep training with the graduated extinction cry it out method takes 3-5 nights before significant improvement is seen. Some babies respond right away, while others may take a week or longer to fully adapt. Have realistic expectations, be flexible and consistent, respond to your individual baby’s needs, and get support when needed. With time and perseverance, cry it out can effectively teach babies as young as 4-6 months old to soothe themselves to sleep independently. Just be patient – your baby will soon be sleeping soundly and so will you.

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