Raise your hand if all you want in life is to put your baby down in their crib, walk away, and have them happily drift off into a Gossip Girl marathon-long nap. You’ve heard of CIO for naps, and it seems like a suspiciously good solution, but you’ve got questions.
Maybe you’re wondering, does Cry It Out (CIO) for naps REALLY work? Like long-term work? Or you want to know if it’s worth it and just how much “cry it out” there really will be? Or at what age you can use CIO for naps. OR where on earth the instruction manual is to get
results immediate results. Well, look no further, I have all of these answers and more!
Before I go any further, please know that CIO is not your only option for getting your baby to fall asleep independently for naps and to take nice, long, solid naps. I have FOUR sleep training methods in my Sleep Training Essentials course, and all of these methods teach you how to length naps. So if CIO isn’t your jam or if you’re quite honestly not sure what your jam is, I recommend continuing on with this post to see if it “speaks to you” and checking out my course for more details, and all your sleep training options.
First off, there are two sets of skills your baby requires to take a restorative nap. One is falling asleep independently and the other is connecting sleep cycles so they can lengthen their nap. You can use CIO to teach both of these skills, and I will explain it all in this post. I will also go over:
What exactly is CIO, anyway?
Unfortunately, CIO has a bad rep because it means different things to different people. So I want to start off by saying that when I refer to CIO, I am NOT referring to leaving your baby to cry, all alone, for an unacceptable period of time.
What’s any unacceptable period of time, you ask? Any period of time that YOU deem unacceptable. Or are simply not comfortable with. Yes, you read that right. Sound the alarms. I am suggesting that YOU are the expert on YOUR baby. Crazy, right?!?!
The thing is, I firmly believe that when parents are armed with education and knowledge, then they have the confidence and feel empowered to make decisions that work best for their family.
So that’s what you will find in this post (and in all of my courses, and guides, and in my Instagram account, and basically in my blood); non-judgmental support, grounded in science, that ultimately leaves the decisions to you, while I’m by your side, hand outstretched, ready to give you as much or as little support as you want.
When to use CIO for naps?
Once your baby is 4 months old, you can use CIO as a method of sleep training. I recommend starting sooner rather than later for the following reasons:
- The 4-month sleep regression can be brutal and sleep training is the perfect way through it.
- Teaching your baby the skills of independent sleep BEFORE teething and developmental milestones such as sitting, standing, walking, etc. come into play will make it a whole lot easier.
- Once your baby is sleep trained, it makes it much easier to discern what a cry out in the night means or why they suddenly start protesting at bedtime.
Now, if your baby is already on the older side, not to worry! It is NEVER too late to teach good sleep habits! Just know that the older they are, the more protesting you should be prepared for.
Finally, it’s best to sleep train your baby for naps while you are sleep training them at night. This goes for sleep initiation. Nap lengthening, however, comes after your baby has the skill of sleep initiation. More on this later.
Have you started sleep training yet? If not, check out this Instagram reel on my 3 sleep training tips!
Should you use CIO for naps?
I’m sure your main question is, should I do CIO for naps, and will it work? The short answer is you can definitely do cry it out for naps, but you certainly don’t have to. And whether or not it works, depends on a lot of factors. Now, here’s the long answer.
How to make sure CIO for naps works:
As you learn in my Sleep Training Essentials course, teaching your baby to fall asleep independently for their nap, and lengthen it into a nap that lasts longer than one measly little episode of Selling Sunsets, is more about scheduling and less about the act of letting your baby CIO.
Whether or not your baby is overtired, plays a huge role in how quickly they fall asleep for their nap and how happily they put themselves to sleep. So make sure you are following your baby’s optimal wake windows.
If you are not sure how to do that, my troubleshooting guide “Scheduling and Preventing Overtiredness” has everything you need to know and you can find it in my 4-24 Month Guide Pack or you can schedule a consultation and we will walk you through it!
How to do CIO for naps with minimal crying it out:
The other important piece is whether or not you are using CIO to teach your baby to fall asleep independently for naps, or if they can fall asleep independently but now you are teaching them to lengthen their naps.
If you are wanting to teach your baby to fall asleep independently for naps, you can do it at the same time that you are teaching your baby these skills to fall asleep at nighttime.
Once your baby can independently put themselves to sleep at nighttime, then you can move to applying whatever sleep training method you are using to lengthen naps. This is something I go into great detail in, in my Sleep Training Essentials course.
I teach you FOUR different sleep training methods and then teach you how to tailor whatever method you choose to fit you and your baby. Modified CIO is my preferred method and it works great for naps! It gives you lots of room to accommodate YOUR baby’s needs while not spending a ton of time trying to get baby down for their nap.
How long to CIO for naps?
Before I answer how long you should let your baby CIO for naps, let’s circle back to the KEY to successful sleep training: preventing overtiredness!
If you are putting your baby down for a nap and they are overtired, then you are going to have a starving, rabid lion on your hands. Read: they are going to protest a lot harder and for a lot longer.
If you are looking for the least amount of crying while also teaching your baby how to independently nap as soon as possible, then I recommend my Modified CIO in my Sleep Training Essentials course. I teach you, step-by-step, exactly how to implement this method to teach YOUR baby to independently fall asleep for naps.
Essentially, though, you would not need to let your baby cry for more than 45 min total (divided into your timers) to fall asleep for their nap.
If you are looking to lengthen naps, then you want to make sure your baby is already sleep trained for nighttime sleep. Meaning, they can put themselves to sleep independently at bedtime. Once they can do this, you can work on lengthening those naps so they are longer than an hour.
CIO for Naps: Tips and Tricks
There are several things you want to keep in mind when using CIO for naps, so it is successful and effective. Here are my top tips:
- Wait to lengthen naps until your baby can put themselves to sleep independently at bedtime AND for naps.
- When you are teaching your baby to lengthen naps, it can be confusing to know how to calculate wake windows. Here is my recommendation:
- If your baby wakes from a short nap and they fuss or protest for 30 minutes but don’t end up falling back asleep, count half (15) of those minutes towards the next wake window.
- When you are doing CIO for naps and your baby straight-up refuses to nap, try not to panic! Stay calm, grounded and know that it’s ok- this sometimes happens. Have an hour wake window and then try again. If they still refuse the nap, try again in another hour. If it STILL doesn’t work, then pull out all the stops and do whatever you can to get that baby to sleep! Enjoy a nice glass of wine that night, and try again the next day.
There are a few reasons why babies will take painfully short naps where you’ve barely had time to do the dishes let alone
work out, I mean prep dinner drink your coffee and read your book. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Recap on CIO for Naps
Whether you are using CIO to teach your baby to fall asleep independently for their nap, or to extend their naps, I’ve got you covered! I have FOUR sleep training methods in my Sleep Training Essentials course, and three of them are a form of CIO. The most important part is preventing overtiredness and tailoring your CIO method of choice to YOUR baby; both of which I teach you all about in my course.
When done correctly, CIO for naps can be a quick and efficient way to teach your baby the skills needed to fall asleep independently and have nice long restorative naps. If you have any questions, we are always happy to help! Check out our individual consultation options here!