Before I was married and had kids I knew exactly what "crying it out" meant. I was also 100% sure I was going to do it with my babies. My babies would be ready for nap or bed time, I would lay them down and if they didn't immediately fall asleep then they would cry until they did and eventually learn to just forgo the whole crying thing.
After having my daughter I realized two things. One, newborns are too young to cry it out. And two, it helps when they don't have any issues with falling asleep in the first place. Cosette was a very laid back baby and we had very few problems with getting her to fall asleep. When the time came to try crying it out with her it went something like this:
Day one, cried for about 30 minutes, fell asleep and had a nice full nap.
Day two, cried for about 20 minutes, fell asleep and had a nice full nap.
Day three, cried for about 15 minutes, fell asleep and had a nice full nap.
By the end of the week she was falling asleep with little to no crying at all.
Then came my dear little boy. Crying it out doesn't look like that for him. When he cries it does nothing but make him dig his heels in deeper, get himself into a bigger tizzy and make it take even longer to calm him down. He might be slightly stubborn. :-P And the rare occasion when he did fall asleep he would wake up a few minutes later and start it all over again.
Obviously crying it out in the traditional sense doesn't work with him. So how does it work? When he is clearly tired but too fussy to fall asleep or even nurse I have to let him cry for about 15 minutes then offer him the breast where he nurses for a bit and falls fast asleep. Maybe I'm not doing the text book version of crying it out with him but I am doing what he and I both need.
So, what do you do, Mamma? Do you let your baby cry it out? Do you do something else entirely? Or maybe something in between?