Putting your baby to sleep can be a nightmare. Heck, you’re probably sleep-deprived because of all the cries your baby makes each night! According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 76 percent of parents have frequent sleep problems, especially if you have an infant.
So to get some shut eye, many parents turn to the Ferber method (also known as “Ferberizing”) – a form of sleep training that teaches babies to soothe themselves to sleep.
The “cry it out” method of sleep training was first introduced by Pediatrician Richard Ferber – founder and former director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston. In his best-selling 1985 book, titled “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”, Ferber says parents can teach their babies to soothe themselves to sleep when they’re physically and emotionally ready, which is usually between 3 and 5 months of age.
So how does the Ferber sleep training work?
First, it’s important to create a warm and loving bedtime routine. Then, put your baby in bed awake and leave him (even if he cries) for gradually longer periods of time. As Ferber explains, putting a child to bed awake is crucial to teaching him to go to sleep on his own. After that, you should check in at regular but increasingly longer intervals if baby cries. The Baby Center says parents are instructed to pat and comfort their baby after each predetermined period of time but not to pick up their baby. This routine is called “progressive waiting”.
The Bump notes that the Ferber sleep training recommends checking on baby after three minutes, then five minutes and then 10 minutes on the first day. On the second day, check in after five minutes, 10 minutes and 12 minutes. That goes up to 10 minutes on day three and increases from there, up to 20 minutes for the first check-in on day seven. “Usually after about five to seven days, the interval of time spent crying is much shorter, and your child will be putting himself to sleep and sleeping for much longer periods of time at night,” says Whitney Schutzbank, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.
But the whole training won’t be easy at first, says Pop Sugar Moms’ Rebecca Gruber. “The first stretch of crying was painful. I couldn’t believe I was letting my baby cry so much. Five minutes later, after soothing him, it appeared that all was well, until two minutes after closing his door, the same thing happened. The next stretch was 10 minutes, and we barely made it through before the timer went off and I raced into his room to begin the routine again,” she wrote.
While many parents worry about the emotional damage sleep training might cause to their little ones, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) claims that the Ferber method is effective and safe for babies – when done correctly, of course.