Is “Wait It Out” Really a Method?

This is a rough draft. I am publishing it as a draft for feedback from the WIO community.

Is WIO really a method? Or is it just a term that I have coined to mean literally “wait until the child falls asleep”?

It is a method, just as much as any sleep training method. The reason that I say it’s not really a “method” is because a method is “a careful or organized plan that controls the way something is done”. I do not believe that other forms of sleep training are “methods” in this sense either because you cannot “carefully control the way a baby learns how to sleep”.

The way in which sleep training of any sort is a “method” is that it controls the responses of the adults while they try to influence the behavior of the child. Both WIO and non-WIO methods are a careful plan that controls the way something is done. They both control the adults that are choosing to use the plan.

What is different is the approach.

WIO says that sleep is developmental and that a child cycles through “better sleep” and “worse sleep” while they move from “Cannot” to “Will not” to “I Do It Myself”. There are no “regressions” in WIO. There is a cycle of “better” or “worse” sleep as a child passes through milestones, growth spurts and teething. The cycles of better and worse sleep are not progression or regression because while they INFLUENCE sleep they are not progression or regression in the child’s ability to sleep.  It is the child going through a period of increased alertness or increased physical discomfort that make it HARDER to sleep. Having more difficulty is not a regression in ability. A child with a headache is not “regressing” in their ability to read. A child who is ill is not “regressing” in their music skills. And a child who is teething is not “regressing” in their sleep.

To think of it in adult terms, you don’t “regress” in sleep when you are being kept awake by pain. Pain makes it harder to fall asleep and so you need to do more things to help you fall asleep. Adults have more options than children do, they have better coping skills and they still experience periods where sleep comes with more difficulty.

The progress that a child moves through is “CANNOT” (a very young infant cannot fall asleep independently), “WILL NOT” (Children pass through a period of resistance where they realize they have the ability to stay awake and they try to resist sleep.) and finally “I DO IT MYSELF” where the child accepts that sleep is necessary and moves into independent sleep.

Sleep training does not teach a child to sleep. The child still wakes up. The child still rides the “better” and “worse” sleep ferris wheel of developmental milestones and teething and illness. What it does is it controls the adult’s response to sleep and when the adult’s response to sleep is controlled the child stops signalling. Children that are sleep trained STILL WAKE UP. They simply don’t signal. Or if they do signal their caregiver chooses whether they will respond or not depending on what method they are using and what their understanding is of why their child is waking up again.

WIO also controls the adult’s response to the child’s sleep. However, instead of controlling the adult’s response by encouraging them to withdraw it controls the adult’s response by saying “This is normal, sleep is developmental.” and the adult supports the child’s sleep as the child moves through CANNOT, WILL NOT and I DO IT MYSELF.

There are Wait It Out babies that sleep independently at six months. There are CIO children that scream at the door at four years old until they fall asleep that way. WIO says “You cannot force a child’s timeline to independent sleep.” CIO says “You must force a child’s timeline to independent sleep”. They are both methods that happen inside the adult’s head and not inside of the child.

The Wait It Out Method is this:

1- Sleep is developmental.
2- Adults cannot control something that is developmental, they can only influence it positively or negatively.
3- Responding to your child and supporting their sleep is not a “negative” influence.
4- Positive sleep habits can be learned through consistency, routine, modeling positive sleep behavior and actively teaching your child relaxation.
5- The adult and the child are active learning partners.
6- The adult respects the child’s communication attempts and tries to understand them.

The Wait it Out Method is NOT:

1- It is not a term coined to say “I WILL NOT USE CIO” and my “method” is “I don’t use CIO”. It’s a completely different method that is based on different ideas.
2- It is not  magic cure. But neither are CIO or “tear free” methods of sleep training that try to force the “better” and “worse” periods of sleep into a linear pattern instead of a cycle.
3- It is not attachment parenting. Attachment parenting tools (babywearing, cosleeping, etc.) can be chosen by a parent if the parent feels they help with sleep. Many WIO parents use cribs, strollers, etc.
4- It is NOT the “only way” to approach sleep. If you don’t WIO you’re not doomed to years of failure. Your children won’t “do something until college” or “never stop” something. Those are fear tactics that promoters of methods use. WIO doesn’t use fear or force on parents or on children.

Any “method” also comes with a toolkit that fits the philosophies of the method. These “tools” are tools that allow the adult to cope with the method that the adult has chosen.

With CIO the toolkit may be a timer, earplugs, music, or someone to physically restrain you from responding to the baby that is crying it out.

With WIO the toolkit helps the adult cope by giving them other ways of viewing things, ways to help increase health and alertness while waiting it out, and a support network of other adults that have chosen the same method along with tools to try and improve or encourage their child’s sleep cycles and progression.

  5 comments for “Is “Wait It Out” Really a Method?

  1. Kim
    October 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I love it all. I do have one piece of feedback with reference to regressions. To me, talk of sleep regression was a valuable tool to help me understand that it was developmentally appropriate for y child to experience an extended period of worse sleep, especially at 4months, 9months, and 18months. I just saw them as another thing to be waited out, much like wonder weeks, teething, etc.

  2. jackie
    October 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I am so thankful to have found your blog. This all helps me to keep my baby girl’s needs in the front of my mind and remember to love her not train her. Thank you for your experiences and insights.

    • Ashley
      November 3, 2013 at 1:53 am

      I LOVE that!! “To love her, not train her.” Awesome!

  3. Bronwyn
    October 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    This is great! I think you’ve captured the idea that sleep development is not linear but goes in cycles. I can see what Kim means about incorporating something about regressions to make it clear to parents that these are normal (and I’m afraid I am not quite sure how to reconcile these!)

    My other suggestions is: would it be worth putting something in about this being a positive experience for the parents? Sure, no one likes being woken up in the night, but there is a real joy in knowing that you’re helping your child learn and supporting them in their journey – you’re not just passively accepting the way things are and feeling powerless to change it. (It’s in there, but I wonder if it would be useful to emphasise it a little more?)

  4. November 13, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Love it all. You’re a smart and thoughtful momma.

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