Written by Dr. Srikanta J T
Sleep – the one thing most new parents crave for! Are you a new mum or a dad who has been struggling to get some much-needed shut-eye ever since that little miracle arrived? Then there are several sleep training methods to help your little one sleep independently and, yes – throughout the night. Have you tried the Ferber method of sleep training?
A number of sleep training programs are available. One of them is the Ferber method. In these training sessions, parents are instructed to leave their children alone in strictly-timed intervals, despite their protests and cries. Wondering what we are talking about? Read on to know more. Our article could just be what you have been waiting for!
The Ferber method is a sleep training method that aims to help your baby sleep better. This method aims to teach your little one to sleep on their own and through the night, without any intervention or help from others, including you.
Your baby can go to sleep on its own? Don’t worry; you did read that sentence right. Yes, this Ferber method, which has been in practice for a few years, does help babies go to sleep on their own even if they wake up in the middle of the night.
For all those parents who have been suffering sleepless nights, we are sure you can’t wait to try this Ferber method that can help you get a full night’s sleep. However, if you wonder when to start the Ferber method, you need to wait until your baby is at least 6 months to start any sleep training, including the Ferber method.
The reason behind this is that babies are capable of self-soothing only around this age and will need some assistance until then. This does not mean you need to start sleep training your baby the day they hit the six-month mark. So, when to start the Ferber method?
You can start when you are mentally ready and feel your baby is also ready. When babies are around six months old, they drop their frequent naps, which can come down to just two naps a day. This way, they get to sleep longer at night. Their wake-up time also increases as they get older.
They drop their naps as they get physically active and get better control. They are more interested in exploring their new abilities and their environment. This will also tire them out – another reason why a full night’s sleep is essential.
So what exactly do you do in the Ferber method?
This method is different from the cry it out approach as here, you show your baby that you are around and hear them. Your baby knows you will come to them if they call or cry for you. This reassures them and does not traumatize them like the cry it out method, where they just cry and finally calm down on their own.
Here are a few guidelines you will have to follow when you start the Ferber method of sleep training your baby:
This method by Dr. Ferber requires both parents to be on the same page regarding sleep training. This cannot be done by just one parent while the other parent goes on with their way of putting the baby to bed.
Once you start the Ferber method, you need to be consistent. Changes in the pattern will confuse them.
The Ferber method may not work for everyone in the same way. While some babies learn to self-soothe within a week’s time, some babies might take longer. You need to be patient and give your baby some time to adapt to self-soothing.
Though the Ferber method age to start sleep training is around six months, you can begin this a little later too. However, it may not work if you start too late as your baby will already be set in a particular pattern.
According to the Ferber method, afternoon naps will also have to be in the same place as the nights. If you put your baby in the cribs at night, ensure the naps are in the cribs too.
This way, they associate sleep with one place and do not have too many options. Multiple options might even make them choose one place over the other to sleep in.
Source: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber MD
This chart by Dr. Ferber tells you how long to wait before you respond to your child’s cries, for a whole week.
The next question from any sleep-deprived parent is- how long till Ferber sleep training starts working and my young one starts sleeping through the night? The answer is – it depends.
Though this method has been in practice for years and has a very high success rate, it all depends on you and your baby. Sometimes, if the baby is just not ready, you may have to consider ditching the entire plan and restarting the sleep training after a few days.
Similarly, if you are not consistent in your approach and give in to those cries, you will have to start all over again.
If you are going to “take a break” from sleep training because your infant fell sick or you are traveling, you may have to start from the beginning. Such factors can delay the results of the Ferber method.
This is a highly debatable topic as opinions vary from parent to parent. Though many parents see both the cry it out and Ferber sleep methods as very similar, they are indeed different. The Ferber method is less strict and allows you to check on your baby from time to time and slowly eases them into the sleep training practice.
Yes, your baby will cry. It will pinch you on the inside to let them cry and do nothing about it. But this will help both of you in the long run. Your baby will learn to self-soothe, and you will get to sleep a whole night without having to wake up several times to soothe your baby.
If you feel this is too cruel and cannot just let your baby cry, then there is no pressure on you to follow this Ferber method. Remember, this is just a sleep training method that aims to help parents who are ready to try it and won’t help get their babies to sleep through the night.
Taking a break after a week or two might be more beneficial if you don’t see much progress or your baby is still crying a lot. Perhaps you can try Ferber again a little later on or switch to a different sleep training method.
Following the Ferber plan closely is the key to the Ferber method’s success. In most cases, it fails because the parent is not actually following Ferber’s method or is inconsistent with it.
Tips to improve your chances of success using the Ferber method include:
Within a few days or a week, your child’s sleep should dramatically improve.
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