I Thought I Knew: CIO

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the acronym CIO? The answer most likely defines a priority in your life right now. For example, in my former, business professional life, CIO meant nothing other than Chief Information Officer. It was actually also the name of a competitive magazine back when I worked in the magazine industry. In my new life, CIO means something that requires all capital letters in my opinion: CRY IT OUT.

If you’re not familiar with CRY IT OUT and bring up the topic to a parent, you will quickly realize that talking about CIO is a little like bringing up politics or religion in casual conversation. The conversation doesn’t stay casual for long and people have very strong opinions about it. There are basically two schools of thought:
1) CIO is a gift that you provide your child. By letting the child cry herself to sleep, you are teaching/sleep training the child how to soothe herself to sleep so she doesn’t have to rely on you to put herself to sleep or get back to sleep after waking.
2) Crying is the only way that a baby can communicate. By ignoring cries during CIO, you are essentially making the baby feel like she is not being heard. You might also be inadvertently ignoring cries that have to do with sickness, teething, or growth spurts, so you do what you can to soothe the baby back to sleep.

Almost everyone I know has successfully used CIO with their children. I’ve heard many positive stories of how babies’ sleep transformed in a period of time of anywhere from one night to one week’s time. Still, I cannot do it. It breaks my heart to hear my baby cry. I’m not saying it didn’t break the hearts of my friends and family members who used this method. Maybe they are stronger people than I; either way, it is an impossibility for me. I’ve read books that cover both sides of the spectrum. For example, The Sleepeasy Solution received excellent reviews for providing a staggered CIO approach, and The No Cry Sleep Solution is gentle, openminded, and nonjudgmental in approach. Yet it’s not the books I’ve read and research I’ve done that convinces me not to do CIO; it’s just a gut instinct that I can’t ignore. I think it’s either right for you, or it’s not, and you just have to do what works for you.

I know that when you see people walking down the street, it is impossible to tell which adults cried it out when they were babies and which ones were nursed or rocked back to sleep. No one walks around with scarlet CIO’s blazing on their chests, but if you are the parent of a baby right now, you know that this issue seems like one of the biggest dilemmas to analyze and consider in your every day life.

I think a wise relative explained it well to me recently: Choosing to do CIO or not isn’t going to hurt the baby. It’s just a matter of choosing what is most comfortable for you as a parent. CIO either hurts the parent or saves the parent’s sanity.

I personally don’t mind getting up to nurse Jac two times a night for five minutes each time. I believe that I don’t need to make my baby independent now, because by being extremely attentive to him in babyhood, I think I am helping him feel confident and heard, which will foster independence later in life. That’s just my opinion for what works best for my baby though. If there is one thing I’ve learned from being a mama, it’s that all the research and books and opinions in the world will not help you be a better parent (and this is coming from someone who thrives on information); it’s all about following your instincts, listening to your gut, and doing what feels right to you.

I would love to hear stories of your baby sleep experiences in the comments section, so please post below!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous January 9, 2011 at 1:36 am

CIO certainly is a hot button issue. It seems like there are just as many experts out there claiming that it's the right thing to do and fosters independence as there are experts out there saying that it's cruel and will make your child feel like he/she has been abandon. As parents we are faced with one million emotionally charged decisions a day. We research and refer to the experts, we talk to our friends, and we listen to our gut. In the end we love our children more than life itself and we do what we think is right. We do what we believe is best for their overall well being. And we pray and we hope that we're making the right decisions. But we have to believe that no matter what decision we make, they will know that we love them and that every decision we made for them was made out of love.

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2 Mama Charise January 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Thanks so much for your comment! Well said and so so true!

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3 Doula! Liz Baer January 23, 2011 at 2:58 am

All four of our children slept in our bed until they were 2-3 years old, despite my husband's initial reluctance to have them in with us. Thanks to nursing and having them in bed next to me, I was able to be well-rested, even when they were babies.

My only experience with CIO was trying it one night when my oldest was a baby. I still regret it. He cried for hours, even though I kept going in to "reassure" him like the book had advised. We never did that to an infant again.

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4 Bibi March 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Great post.

I was lucky with both of my boys. They did not cry a lot and for long. I did however practice CIO , but I did pay attention to their needs. As I said they never cried a lot and they never were a fussy babies (non sleepers, but not fussy) so when they kept crying I knew 90% of time they needed something other then being picked up and held.
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