The Ferber Method is a well-known baby sleep training technique established by Dr. Richard Ferber. The technique involves allowing your baby to cry for progressively long intervals until she learns how to soothe herself to sleep on her own.
Time Required: As long as it takes
In the days and weeks before you implement the Ferber Method, establish predictable and consistent bedtime routines. Ferber maintains that one of the best ways to avoid sleep struggles is to establish positive sleep associations as a newborn. Bedtime routines help to signal to your baby that he is soon expected to fall asleep. These routines can lay the groundwork for independent sleeping. While methods that involve crying it out are not appropriate for newborns and young babies, you can establish solid sleep routines during these early months.
Since there really is no exact age when the Ferber Method is appropriate for all babies to use, talk to your doctor to see if your baby is old enough. It may be around the five month mark that your doctor gives you the green light to try.
Begin by going through the bedtime routine that you have already established. Place your baby in her crib awake. Turn out the lights (nightlight if needed), say goodnight and leave the room. Do this even if your baby begins to cry.
After a predetermined time, if your baby is still crying, go back into the room only for a minute or two. Leave the lights off, keep your voice calm and quiet. Pat your baby's back in a reassuring way, but do not pick her up. Leave the room promptly.
This time stay out of the room for a slightly longer period of time before returning to reassure your baby just as you did before. Again, keep the lights off, your voice down, and do not pick up your baby. Continue this process of progressively waiting for longer periods of time before returning to your baby's room. Continue progressive waiting until your baby falls asleep on her own.
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, start back over in the process starting with the lowest wait time from the beginning of the night.
On the second night, wait a little longer than you did the previous before you enter your baby's room. Continue to progressively wait for longer intervals until your baby has fallen asleep on her own.
Evaluate how the method is working for you. Dr. Ferber states that by the third or fourth night, most babies are falling asleep on their own. Resistant babies may take a week. Ferber also encourages parents to adapt the method and times to suit their family's needs.
Dr. Ferber suggests these time lengths for progressive waiting in Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems:
- On the first night wait for 3 minutes before entering the room. Increase the next wait time to 5 minutes, and finally 10 minutes for the third and any additional visits needed.
- On the second night wait for 5, 10, then 12 minutes.
- Additional nights: continue to slightly lengthen each period of time.
Be sure that all those who are involved in taking care of the baby understand how to use the method. Consistency is important to achieving success.
If things aren't going well, you can always opt to try the Ferber Method in a few weeks time or try a different night-time parenting approach.
What You Need:
- A baby
- A crib
- A quiet room for baby to sleep in