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.
As crying is associated with physiological stress in a baby, there are several pediatricians that do not recommend techniques like CIO.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First check-in: 3 minutes
Second check-in: 5 minutes
Third check-in: 10 minutes
Subsequent check-ins: 10 minutes
First check-in: 5 minutes
Second check-in: 10 minutes
Third check-in: 12 minutes
Subsequent check-ins: 12 minutes
First check-in: 10 minutes
Second check-in: 12 minutes
Third check-in: 15 minutes
Subsequent check-ins: 15 minutes
First check-in: 12 minutes
Second check-in: 15 minutes
Third check-in: 17 minutes
Subsequent check-ins: 17 minutes
First check-in: 15 minutes
Second check-in: 17 minutes
Third check-in: 20 minutes
Subsequent check-in after 20 minutes
First check-in: 17 minutes
Second check-in: 20 minutes
Third check-in: 25 minutes
Subsequent check-ins: 25 minutes
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!