Ferber Sleep Training Method for Babies: How Does It Works?

Ferber Method – Getting Your Baby to Sleep

As parents, one of the hardest things to do in the early stages of parenthood is to put your child to sleep. Newborns are ridiculously fussy in most cases, and getting them to sleep can be a difficult task. While you may have tried everything from patting them to singing lullabies, none of those methods would seem to work consistently.

Video : Ferber Sleep Training Method – What Is It & Is It Right For Your Baby

Ferberizing is a method which was developed by paediatrician Richard Ferber, which helps parents make their child go to sleep quickly. The method has received polarizing reactions from other experts and parents alike – some find that it works exceedingly well, while others claim that it is psychologically harmful to the baby. In this article, let us take a deeper look at what Ferberizing is, and other details about this practice.

What Is the Ferber Sleep Method?

Developed by Richard Ferber, it depends upon the parent letting the child go to sleep by himself from an early age. The method encourages parents to let the baby soothe and calm himself, in order to go to sleep. It depends on the child being ready both emotionally and physically and can be taught to the child when he is older than six months of age.

In the Ferber method, parents are instructed to put the baby down in his crib after a loving routine every night. However, the baby has to be awake when he is placed in his crib. This is the most crucial part of this method and forms the crux of his idea that the child will learn to go to sleep by himself.

How Does It Actually Work?

Here’s how the Ferber method is actually executed:

  • The important thing to note is that the baby should not already be asleep when you put him down in his crib. You need to leave the room with the baby still awake. If he seems to cry for your attention, you can always check up on him, but again, leave the room when he is still awake.
  • The next step is to gradually increase the time between each time you check up on him each night.
  • This means that the baby gets more time to soothe himself when he fusses and learns to sleep off all by himself soon.
  • You do not need to have a specified number of minutes between each check, and can just go with your intuition.

Mother checking on sleeping baby

What Is the Right Age to Start With the Ferber Method for Your Baby?

If you plan to start using the Ferber method, the age of your baby must be older than 6 months at the least. Doctors recommend that you do not start sleep training until the baby is at least half a year old so that their eating schedules are not affected. However, you should definitely start training before he becomes a year old, as a lot of routines or patterns become ‘set’ into his life by the time he becomes a year old.

How to Use This Method to Get Your Baby to Sleep

You have to follow a few Ferber method steps so that the baby goes to sleep by himself within a few days.

  • The first step is to develop a bedtime routine for your child, to be done before he is put to bed. This can be anything from reading a bedtime story to singing a lullaby – just make sure your child is involved in the actions you do.
  • Then, you have to put your child to sleep in his crib or sleeping space while he is drowsy, but still awake. Ensure that the environment is suitable for sleeping, which means that it should be silent and dark.
  • You have to leave the room while the child is still awake. If the baby cries for your attention, you are welcome to check up on him. Go over to him and comfort him, using pats and comfortable sounds. Then, leave the room when he is awake.
  • Initially, check up on the baby in intervals of three, five and then ten minutes if he does not seem to stop crying. Gradually, you have to increase the time between the checks with each passing day. This process is called ‘gradual extinction’, and the time between checks should get to twenty minutes with time.
  • This means that the baby is able to go to sleep on his own, without much of your help.

How Flexible Is Ferberization?

The methods are extremely flexible, and you can vary the intervals between the times you check up on your child so as to fit your needs and circumstances. If you feel that your child needs more time to adapt to this gradual extinction, you can always reduce or not increase the time between the check-ups until he gets a hang of it.

Limitations of Ferber Sleep Training Methods

There are a few limitations to this sleep training method, as given below.

1. Younger infants

Sleep training methods cannot be used for children who are younger than six months of age, as on most days they need to feed in the middle of the night.

2. Can be traumatizing

If the baby has a fear of being left alone or have a conditioned vomiting response, it would be better for you to not try sleep training using gradual extinction. If the baby has any fears or bad memories associated with the place he sleeps in, trying gradual extinction as advised in the Ferber method can result in your child vomiting or being overcome by fear.

3. It does not teach your child to sleep by himself

Richard Ferber himself has acknowledged that Ferberization does not include teaching the child to go to sleep all by himself – rather, the children are simply encouraged to figure out how to go to sleep all by themselves. This means that your child may simply refuse to go to sleep or cry extensively until he gets your attention.

Baby refusing to go to sleep

Is Ferber Training Method Same as Cry-It-Out Method?

Ferber method is not the same as cry-it-out methods, although both are sometimes confused in the place of each other.

  • Cry-it-out methods advise the parents to let the baby cry himself to sleep, and deny the child from getting the attention of his parents.
  • In contrast, the Ferber Method involves the parents giving their attention to the child each night, albeit at longer intervals.

Myths and Facts About Richard Ferber Method

Over the years, there have been a lot of misconceptions about Ferberizing your baby. Some of these are:

1. Myth

Ferberizing advises the parents to let their children cry themselves to sleep.

Fact: In fact, parents are advised to cater to their child if he craves their attention. However, gradual extinction means that the parents wait a tad longer each time to soothe their child.

2. Myth

In Ferberizing, the baby has to cry until she vomits.

Fact: While it may be true that the child may vomit if he cries for a long time, it does not occur as frequently as implied. Even if he does vomit, the parents are expected to take it in their stride and as a part of the sleep training- just clean up the mess before you leave the room!

3. Myth

Ferber methods are easy to teach and implement.

Fact: While the baby is expected to acclimatize in a couple of weeks, it may take longer and may turn out to be a more arduous process in some cases.

4. Myth

The Ferber method is not flexible.

Fact: Parents are encouraged to use their intuition rather than a fixed chart to know when to soothe their child and adjust their timings in order to make the baby feel more at ease with the training.

Ferber sleep training methods are extremely misunderstood, but it can work wonders when it is practised correctly. However, you should not try it when the baby is too young, and not try it at all if you think that your baby has irrational fear problems with being left alone.

Also Read: Methods to Make Baby Sleep at Night

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