A gentler approach to helping your baby sleep and self soothe is the Ferber sleep training method.
When you are about to become a new parent, the number one advice people will give you is “Get your sleep now while you can because you will never sleep again.”
But What if it Didn’t Have to be This Way?
You have mostly likely heard of the sleep training method called “Cry it Out.” But have you heard of Ferber sleep training?
The Ferber method of sleep training is a modified version of the cry it out sleep method. Ferber sleep training teaches your baby how to self soothe. This method helps your baby put themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night.
A Gentler Approach
The Ferber sleep training is a gentler approach to the cry it out method. Don’t be fooled, it still has your baby doing some crying. Consequently, this is not a tears free option to sleep training.
The Ferber sleep training method is a progressive waiting approach. This method has you checking in on your baby when they are crying. Next, you soothe your baby with verbal cues or a gentle rub or pat.
This article explains exactly what the Ferber sleep method is. But more importantly, how you can use it to help your little one sleep better.
What is the Ferber Sleep Method?
The Ferber sleep training method was developed by Dr. Richard Ferber. Hence, the name “Ferber Sleep Method.” This method is also known as graduated extinction. Specifically, it is an infant sleep training program that involves letting your baby cry it out in increasing intervals for a specified period of time.
The Ferber method of sleep training is designed to help your baby or toddler learn how to self-soothe. Self soothing, ultimately resulting in longer stretches of sleep through the night and during nap time.
The Ferber sleep method consists of letting your baby cry for a predetermined amount of time before parental intervention. In particular, avoiding prolonged exertional comfort. This is done by gradually increasing the amount of time before checking on your baby. These checks are done when your baby wakes quickly from sleep.
The graph above shows an example of the Ferber sleep training method. This method focuses on giving your baby a set amount of time before going into your baby’s room and intervening.
You can start with whatever amount of time you feel comfortable with, in this example we started with 3 minutes.
On night one, once you lay your baby down for bed you want to wait to start your timer until your baby starts crying. If your baby is still crying after 3 minutes, then you can go in and comfort your baby. Remember, it’s best to try and not pick your baby up. Moreover, be as quick as possible in your baby’s room.
If your baby is still crying, then you want to increase the time to 6 minutes before going back in to comfort your baby. You will want to repeat this for the first night increasing the timer to 10 minutes for each check.
On night two, you want to repeat the same steps from the first night. However, you need adjust the time upward to 5 minutes before checking on your baby. Followed by, increasing the time to 15 minutes. Ultimately, checking on your baby every 15 minutes until your baby has fallen asleep.
The idea is to gradually increase the amount of time you wait to go in and comfort your baby, giving your baby a chance to self soothe. Ideally, your baby learns to self soothe so you will no longer need to go in and comfort your baby throughout the night or during nap time.
When is Your Baby Old Enough to Start Sleep Training?
You should always consult your pediatrician before starting any sleep training method. Most babies are typically ready to start sleep training when they are old enough to sleep through the night. This is generally when they no longer need to be fed at night. Night feedings are no longer necessary around 5-6 months.
Five to Six months is also when your baby is normally developmentally ready to start a sleep schedule. This is the the age when your baby is developing a circadian rhythm.
A circadian rhythm is defined as the natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This rhythm is repeated every 24 hours. Consequently, it is an essential developmental milestone that is needed for successful sleep training.
How Long Does Sleep Training Normally Take?
Typically, babies will cry for an hour or less. However, there are some babies that will cry for 1-2 hours the first few nights. The time it takes to sleep train your baby varies.
Some babies will be fully sleep trained in 2-3 nights. In other cases, sleep training can take as long as 1-2 weeks. The Ferber Sleep method typically takes 4 nights.
If sleep training isn’t going well and takes longer than 2 weeks, you should stop sleep training and consult your pediatrician. You can always try again later.
Providing the Perfect Sleep Environment is Important
Providing the perfect sleep environment is important to the success of sleep training. It is best to start off with a good foundation when starting sleep training. Moreover, establishing a good bedtime routine and providing a safe sleep environment for babies is key to successful sleep training.
Basic Bedtime Routine & Safe Sleep Space
A basic bedtime routine can look like this; bath, pajamas, bottle, book/song and lay your baby down awake.
Another important factor in sleep training is the sleep environment. The AAP recommends all babies be placed alone, in a crib, on their backs, on a firm surface. You will want to make sure there is nothing in the crib with your baby. Make sure their crib mattress is firm.
The SafeSleep® breathe-through crib mattress is the number one pediatrician recommended crib mattress. It offers a safe, sanitary, firm, and breathe-through surface for your baby to sleep. Most importantly, when your baby rolls over, they can breathe normally through the SafeSleep® crib mattress. It is the only crib mattress that registers 100% fresh oxygen while a baby is breathing through the mattress. It’s no wonder pediatricians prefer it.
A dark quiet room with white noise is also recommended. Black out currents are great for creating a dark room. They also provide a sound barrier from unwanted outside noise. A sound machines or white noise is a must. Both help achieve the perfect sleep environment.
It’s Important to Know if Sleep Training is Right for Your Baby
Make sure your pediatrician has cleared your baby to start sleep training. There are some circumstances where you do not want to sleep train your baby. For example, your baby could have an underlying issue that prevents sleep training from being successful or even safe.
You should never start sleep training when your baby is sick. If your baby becomes sick after sleep training has already started, you should stop and start again when your baby is feeling better. Teething, acid reflux and ear infections can all affect sleep training.
After a few weeks, if sleep training is not working and your baby is still crying a lot during sleep time, it’s best if you take a break and consult with your pediatrician.
The Ferber Sleep Training Method is a useful tool to help your baby learn to self sooth. However, it is also important to listen to your baby. Some babies may not be ready to sleep train just yet.
Your baby won’t be ready if they are ill or if they are not developmentally ready. You can always check with your pediatrician before starting any type of sleep training method to see if your baby is ready.
Make sure you have a safe sleep environment for your baby. Be sure to follow the safe sleep guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. We love and promote the SafeSleep® Breathe-Through Crib Mattress to all the moms and dads we work with. My own baby sleeps on a SafeSleep®. It truly eliminates many of the risks associated with safe sleep. I also love it for the convenience. It’s super easy to wash the entire mattress and no bathtub or shower is needed.
Remember to be flexibility with your baby’s sleep training. If your baby doesn’t seem to be responding to the Ferber Sleep training method, it is ok to quit and revisit it later.