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What is the Ferber Method? – Is it Simple or Daunting

With there being so many ways to sleep train your baby out their today, which one do you try? Please allow me a few baby sleepingmoments of your time to shed some light on the Ferber Method.

So, what is the Ferber Method? In short, the Ferber Method is a self-soothing, baby fall asleep independently, sleep training technique. Likewise, it has also been referred to as Ferberization or the “graduated extinction”.

Who is Ferber anyway?

Introduced in 1985, Dr. Richard Ferber wrote the bestselling book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (he later updated it in 2006 and in 2013). Dr. Ferber is a physician and the director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, at Children’s Hospital Boston.

He has been researching sleep and sleep disorders in children for over 30 years.

Cry it Out

In order to discuss the Ferber Method, I feel I must start with CIO (Cry it Out) approach. Allow me to explain.

According to Wikipedia, the “Cry It Out” (CIO) approach can be traced back to the book “The Care and Feeding of Children” written by Emmett Holt in 1894.

CIO is any sleep-training method that allows a baby to cry for a specified period before the parent will offer comfort.

In addition, you will find there are several approaches to CIO. For example, the “extinction method” by Marc Weissbluth’s is considered a more extreme method of CIO.

Daunting Approach

As crying is associated with physiological stress in a baby, there are several pediatricians that do not recommend techniques like CIO.

Therefore, their approach seems to be based on possible long term psychological and physical problems.parents with baby

However, studies that have looked at long-term consequences in children older than 7 months have concluded that there were no beneficial effects.

As I was studying this sleep training technique, I found several other thoughts on why you would not want to use this approach.

That is to say, it has been studied that when a child wakes at night, it is considered biologically normal behavior. The method of CIO has shown that stress levels have remained in the child’s system after they stop crying.

This could indicate that they are still stressed and needing reassurance.

So, where does that leave this sleep training approach? As I have stated in the past, when it comes to babies and sleep training you will find many differing opinions which can be extremely confusing.

However, I will continue to explain the Ferber Method and allow you as the parent to decide how and when you will sleep train your child.

Ferber Myths

Certainly, there are several myths floating around about the Ferber Method. It wouldn’t be fair not to discuss them first prior to explaining the question of what is the Ferber Method.baby crying

Myth

With the Ferber Method, you allow your child to cry until he vomits.

The fact is, it may be true that your child will vomit if he cries for a long time. It is not as common as you would expect. If your child does vomit take it in stride as part of the sleep training. Just clean up the mess and move on

Myth

Let your child cry until he cries himself to sleep.

With the method of gradual extinction, it is advised that you attend to your child if he craves attention. However, increase the wait between soothing each time.

Myth

Flexibility is not allowed.

Truth is, as every child is different. Therefore, different styles of sleep training affect each child differently.

To clarify, you are encouraged to use your own intuition on what your child requires.

Utilize the Ferber charts and adjust as you feel necessary to ensure your baby is more at ease with the training.

Myth

Implementation of the Ferber Method is easy.

Certainly, any type of sleep training that you choose to use will not be easy. It will take some time for your baby to adjust to any method you try.

It could take a few weeks or longer to be successful in any sleep training method. Therefore, Ferberizing is no different in that aspect.

Ferberization

So, what is the Ferber Method? As already stated above, it is a self-soothing, baby fall asleep independently, sleep training technique. But, I would like to elaborate a litter deeper.

To clarify, it would seem that Ferberization or the “graduated extinction” is misunderstood by many pediatricians. I say this because of the differing opinions on the subject.

Ferber designed his method to help babies sleep independently by learning to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. It is not considered ignoring your child as other “Cry It Out” methods suggest.

The main difference in the Ferber method is checking on your child in gradually increasing time intervals. As with any sleep training, it is important to set a bedtime routine.

Therefore, put your child in bed before he falls asleep, just as he gets drowsy. Leave the room. If your child begins to cry, wait for a couple of minutes bChild sleepingefore returning briefly to comfort him.

That is to say, comforting is not picking him up, turning the light on, or feeding him. As hard as this seems, comfort your baby by patting him on the back or talking in a soothing voice.

This should only take a minute or two, then leave the room. Each time you return should be a longer interval. For example, wait 3 minutes at first before returning, then 5 minutes, and so on.

Repeat this process even if your child wakes up in the middle of the night.

Ferber Method Chart

What is the Ferber Method chart? The following is a detailed chart of the Ferber Method. It was first published in Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber.

Day 1

First check-in: 3 minutes

Second check-in: 5 minutes

Third check-in: 10 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 10 minutes

Day 2

First check-in: 5 minutes

Second check-in: 10 minutes

Third check-in: 12 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 12 minutes

Day 3

First check-in: 10 minutes

Second check-in: 12 minutes

Third check-in: 15 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 15 minutes

Day 4

First check-in: 12 minutes

Second check-in: 15 minutes

Third check-in: 17 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 17 minutes

Day 5

First check-in: 15 minutes

Second check-in: 17 minutes

Third check-in: 20 minutes

Subsequent check-in after 20 minutes

Day 6

First check-in: 17 minutes

Second check-in: 20 minutes

Third check-in: 25 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 25 minutes

Day 7

First check-in: 20 minutes

Second check-in: 25 minutes

Third check-in: 30 minutes

Subsequent check-ins: 30 minutes

When to Start

Again, another highly debated topic. When to start? It is recommended that you start sleep training between 4 and 6 months old. However, you can sleep train up to about 2 years old according to most studies.

The older your child gets the harder the training becomes. Kind of the same thought as “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

As difficult as it sounds, allowing your baby to cry will not leave emotional scars according to the studies that have been conducted.

Tips for Success

In conclusion, the Ferber method should only take a few days or a week at most. That is to say, if it drags out make sure your spouse is on the same page. Don’t allow yourself to be stressed out or feel guilty about sleep training.

Certainly, I recommend reading Dr. Ferber’s book prior to starting this method. However, her are some tips to help with your Ferber sleep training

  • Establish a bedtime routine around 6 – 8 weeks. This routine should include reading books, bathing, and other soothing activities. As a result, this routine helps your baby learn what to expect each night.
  • You try to avoid any sleep training during any big changes in your child’s life. For example, teething or getting a new nanny.
  • If your baby still has nighttime feedings, follow the Ferber method chart for getting them back to sleep afterward.
  • Place your infant in the crib while they’re still awake, but drowsy. If you put babies to bed when they’re already sleeping, they won’t recognize their surroundings upon waking, making it harder to self-soothe.
  • Make sure to implement the Ferber method for naps, too. Most naps should happen in the crib, which helps create a consistent sleep routine.
  • Ask your doctor about any concerns you may have.

If you have any feedback about your experience with The Ferber Method or any questions about what is the Ferber Method, please leave your comments below!

Chuck

6 Comments

  1. Well, I and my wife have been having some serious issues with sleeping this days and it’s all because our baby has decided to stay awake so we have to stay awake as well but now you’re giving me a way to be able to deal with the issue and I really like it too. Thank you so much for this. I’ll try to read that book you mentioned.

    • Good luck with your sleep issues. I do hope the Ferber Method works. I am struggling with my 3-year-old grandson. He has decided to co-sleep with me. I get very little sleep these days.  

  2. Babies are so amazing and can bring so much joy int the home but parents need to be able to take a break because as great as it is to have a baby it can leave even us the parents tired and a little stress also. thanks so much for sharing a well-detailed post that is very helpful.

    • Thank you for your comment. My goal is to try and eliminate some of the stress related to infant sleep.

  3. Hello, 

    I am already 58 years old, but I can still very well remember the nights of my first daughter. My wife was able to sleep well, but I had to get out of bed every time she started crying again. It was enough to move her cradle for a moment, but either I had to get out of bed after half an hour or I had to rock her longer. We tried everything to get her to sleep, extra food, walking around with her, even a car ride, various syrups, tutters, etc …

    Eventually we ended up with a child specialist who talked about the birth … The fact is that my daughter was born via an emergency caesarean section because the placenta had come loose. She was as green as the Hulk because she had been in that precarious situation for a while. The staff at first thought the attached machines were defective. This keeps her worried and anxious. And indeed: when we used an electric meat cleaver or a jet fighter passing by or thunder and lightning, she had a hysterical cry. Later on she always took care of her 2 years younger sister and she attracted her to her when, for example. a truck passed.

    So much for my story, but there was something that worried me when I read your article on CIO and more specifically where it talks about vomiting … Isn’t that dangerous? Can’t the baby choke? If this had to happen and the parents assume that the baby has fallen asleep … I can’t think about it!

    In any case, a good site for desperate younger parents!

    With kind regards,

    Peter.

    • I agree. It would seem that CIO would be dangerous. It is not something that I would want to do. Thank you for sharing your story. 

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