Training Methods: Extinction (CIO)

There is no "one right way" to sleep train every baby and toddler out there. Some children are more stimulated by parental presence during sleep training; other children are more calmed by parental presence during sleep training. Some parents are more reassured the more involved they are in the training; other parents find it easier to be as removed from the training as possible. This blog mini-series is designed to show you some of the options available for sleep training so that you can decide what will work best for you and your child.

*Formal sleep training methods are generally suggested for children who are at least four months old (adjusted).


This training method is about giving your child the opportunity to fall asleep completely on his own, with no parental presence or interference. 

Look no further for the quickest method to get the sleep results you seek. With Extinction, you allow your child the opportunity to fall asleep completely on his own.

This Method is Good for:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training

  • Parents who can endure some crying

  • Parents who own a video monitor

  • Parents who want the quickest results

This Method is NOT Good for:

  • Children who have a fear of separation

  • Children who have co-slept (in the same bed or same room) for a long time

  • Parents who are unwilling to endure some crying

How it Works

This method is really the simplest, though not necessarily the easiest. At sleeping times, you’ll lay your child down awake, and then leave the room so he can practice falling completely asleep on his own. For naps you'll leave him for Crib 60 or Crib 90, but at bedtime you'll leave him until he makes it completely to sleep, even if that means a couple hours of crying. It is essential that he make it to sleep on his own without any help from you. If he cries for a long period of time and then Mom comes in to rescue him and nurse/rock/walk him to sleep, he'll be no closer to learning to fall asleep on his own, so he has cried all that time for nothing. Therefore it is extremely important to let him fall asleep on his own at naptime, bedtime, and any unnecessary nightwakings.

This method does not include any checks, which is why I prefer parents to have a video monitor when using this method. That way you can see that your child is not in any harm, or you can go help him if he is! However, this method can still be used if you do not have a video monitor, if you feel comfortable with it.

Adults find change and new situations to be uncomfortable and difficult, but we can use our words to express our discomfort and resistance to the change. Babies don't have words; they only have crying, so they cry to communicate their feelings. If babies could speak, they'd be saying, "This is hard! I like it better when Mom or Dad helps me sleep! This is a big change, and I don't know how to handle it!" These are valid complaints, but that doesn't mean that we need to give in to them. Learning to sleep is an essential skill, so if you want your child to develop that skill, he must be given the chance to do so. Children can adapt to new situations just as adults do; it just takes practice. Remember that the more practice he gets, the better he’ll become at the skills of falling asleep on his own and staying asleep.

If you need reassurance that your child will not be emotionally damaged by crying during sleep training, check out this blog post, in which I researched the research on CIO.

Don't let another parent (or sleep consultant!) pressure you into doing any training method that doesn't feel right for you. No method is better or worse than another -- it's just a matter of which is the best fit for your needs and your child's needs. If you time things appropriately for your child and you remain consistent, you can see excellent results with any training method. If you need help selecting or implementing a method, don't hesitate to reach out to me.