Have you wondered what Ferber Method sleep training is? Is it the same as cry it out and is it right for your baby? If you are ready to sleep train (or are just considering it) and are wondering about the Ferber Method, keep reading!
Sleep training tends to be a loaded term and can mean different things to different people.
As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I teach families how to get their children to sleep using an optimized sleep environment, daily routines and appropriate baby sleep schedules, various sleep training methods, and consistency.
One of the most commonly known sleep training methods is the Ferber Method.
Let’s dive into what the Ferber Method for sleep training is and if it’s the right sleep training technique for your baby.
What Is Ferber Method Sleep Training?
The Ferber Method is one of the most well-known sleep training methods. It is named after Dr. Richard Ferber, a pediatrician who wrote a book in the 1980’s called Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.
With a title like that, it is no surprise his book was a success! In the book, he outlined a method of sleep training that became known as the Ferber Method. You may have heard it called other names: graduated extinction, controlled crying, or check and console.
Dr. Ferber himself called it progressive waiting, though that name has fallen out of use for the most part.
All describe the same technique and are one of many sleep training methods.
The Ferber Method often gets confused with cry it out, or extinction. However, they are not the same.
Cry it out involves leaving your baby to cry until they fall asleep, with no check-ins or parental comfort. The Ferber Method involves parental checks and comfort at frequent but increasing intervals.
How Does the Ferber Method Work?
On the night you start using the Ferber Method, you shift your baby’s schedule (temporarily) so that you finish your bedtime routine at the time they usually fall asleep, even if it is significantly later than their normal bedtime.
Why? Dr. Ferber found this shortened the time it took babies to fall asleep while learning to fall asleep on their own.
You finish your baby’s bedtime routine and put your baby into bed wide awake. This is key; putting baby down drowsy but awake will prolong the sleep training process.
Then, leave the room and set your timer.
When your timer goes off, go into your child’s room and briefly soothe your child. Some parents soothe verbally and others soothe verbally and with touch. But the Ferber Method does not involve soothing by picking up your child.
Soothe for 1-2 minutes and then leave. Set your timer again and repeat the process when it goes off.
The intervals will gradually get longer x3 intervals, and then will remain the same until your child falls to sleep.
That is the Ferber Method in a nutshell!
The Ferber Method Details
Each night, the length of time you wait before going in to soothe your baby will slightly increase as well.
If your child wakes up during the night and it is not time for a feed, continue with the Ferber Method.
Night 1: Soothe at 3 minutes, 5 minutes & 10 minutes. Stay at 10 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 2: Soothe at 5 minutes, 10 minutes & 12 minutes. Stay at 12 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 3: Soothe at 10 minutes, 12 minutes & 15 minutes. Stay at 15 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 4: Soothe at 12 minutes, 15 minutes & 17 minutes. Stay at 17 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 5: Soothe at 15 minutes, 17 minutes & 20 minutes. Stay at 20 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 6: Soothe at 17 minutes, 20 minutes & 25 minutes. Stay at 25 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Night 7: Soothe at 20 minutes, 25 minutes & 30 minutes. Stay at 30 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
Those are the intervals that Dr. Ferber lists in his book, but you can of course shorten them if you desire.
I personally think changing the timing every night is too much for tired parents. I teach a modified version (that is more straightforward) of the Ferber Method as one of the options in the Baby D.R.E.A.M. System,
What Age is Appropriate for Ferber Method?
You may be wondering when to start sleep training? You can start using the Ferber Method at 5-6 months of age (corrected age if your baby was a preemie), and can use it into early toddlerhood.
After about 18 months of age, there are other methods of sleep training that tend to be a better fit for that age group, like the chair method or the kissing game.
Does the Ferber Method Really Work?
Yes, when used properly, it does for most babies!
I say most, because not all sleep training methods work for all babies (or are good fits for all parents). That is why I teach multiple methods in the Baby D.R.E.A.M. System.
Be mindful when you start using this or any sleep training method. For example, don’t start while your baby is ill or during a busy period where you will not be able to stick to your baby’s usual sleep schedule.
Don’t start at naptime. With any sleep training method, you want to start at bedtime.
Also, one of the keys to sleep training success with any method is having a solid bedtime routine and an optimal sleep schedule.
Without those foundational pieces in place, sleep training will be more difficult and less likely to be effective.
One important thing to know about the Ferber Method and sleep training in general: sleep often gets worse before it gets better.
Somewhere between Nights 2–5, there will often be what is called an “extinction burst” where it feels like all progress has stalled and things are worse than ever.
Usually, after this tough night, there is noticeable improvement and independent sleep gets so much easier!
There you have it, all the details on the Ferber Method. It is not the only sleep training method, but is a great fit for many families.
Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System
If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.
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