The Ferber Method

The Ferber method, developed by Richard Ferber, is a way for babies to soothe themselves to sleep by way of the parent allowing them to cry until they fall asleep. Ferber published the renowned book, Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems, in which the method was first outlined in 1985. The Ferber method is seen as controversial by those who dislike the idea of leaving their child to cry until they fall asleep. However, it is the aim of this article to give a realistic picture of the Ferber method and to establish fact from fiction.

What is the Ferber method?

The Ferber method teaches your baby to soothe themselves to sleep, from the age of 5 to 6 months old. Parents are encouraged to wait until their baby is emotionally ready to sleep alone to create a warm and loving bedtime routine. The Ferber method is a series of processes which need to be followed in order for your baby to successfully sleep on their own. The processes are discussed in detail below:

Establish a loving bedtime routine

Ferber emphasises the importance of establishing a loving bedtime routine. This may include a warm bath, bedtime story and lots of cuddles and kisses. This will help the baby to recognise it is time to go to sleep.

Placing your baby to sleep while they are still awake

Ferber encourages parents to place their baby in the crib while they are still awake; this step is a crucial part of the Ferber method. Dr. Ferber believes that putting your baby down while awake encourages them to learn to fall asleep without parental involvement.

Sleep in a separate room from your baby

Ferber advocates separating the parental room from your baby’s, to enable the parent to leave the room after comforting the baby. When you appear your baby will feel reassured you are there.

Letting your baby cry it out

Ferber advises for the first day of beginning the method that you allow your baby to cry for 5 minutes, after which you return and comfort your baby by tapping his/her back or talking softly. As each day goes by you allow your baby to cry longer; for example, on the second day you may leave your baby for 10 minutes before returning to comfort them. Following three days of the Ferber method there is the possibility that your baby may fall asleep on their own, but there are cases in which it can take up to a week.

Pros and Cons of the Ferber Method

Supporters of the Ferber method believe the process of enabling a child to sleep on their own teaches them to be independent at an early age, and studies have found it to be successful in keeping babies asleep throughout the night. However, many parents find it heartbreaking to hear their child cry at night and it can be unsettling. The Ferber method requires perseverance and patience, and also requires parents to be of strong will. However, this necessary level of strictness is quite controversial as some parents feel it is too harsh.

Contrary to belief the Ferber method is not as harsh as it sounds. For one, it initially tells you to establish a loving bedtime routine which most paediatricians and sleep experts would also advise. Ferber uses a chart of progressive waiting times such as letting your baby cry for 5 minutes and then returning and comforting them to ensure they are not crying for hours without assistance. However, one of the main concerns of the Ferber method is that it might take away the lack of security and intimacy your baby feels with you. Still, Ferber encourages you to soothe your baby and does not approve letting your baby cry for long periods of time.

Ferber’s method was primarily designed to avoid unnecessary crying in babies and to provide comfort. If you are there to soothe your baby they will feel reassured and soon able to fall asleep independently.

Is the Ferber method right for my baby?

The Ferber method may work for some parents but may be inappropriate for others. It comes down to what you are comfortable with and what you consider the best way to get your to sleep.

Guide to Sleeping for Mother and Baby:

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