Sleep training comes in all shapes and forms; there are so many different ways you can teach your baby healthy sleep habits!
One of the most popular sleep training methods out there is the Ferber method. Developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, the director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, at Children’s Hospital Boston, the Ferber method of sleep training is an effective way to help your child learn to sleep through the night.
But what is the Ferber method, exactly? How does it work? Can you adapt it to fit your situation? We answer those questions in today’s post – read on for details!
The Ferber Method Explained
The Ferber method has the same goals as any method of sleep training: that is, to wean your child away from sleep associations and help him learn to fall asleep without your help. This, in turn, lays the foundation for sleeping through the night; if your child can fall asleep without help, then he can fall BACK to sleep quickly when he wakes between sleep cycles at night.
With the Ferber method, also known as the check-and-console method, you gradually teach your child how to fall asleep without your assistance through a series of incremental check-ins. Over time, you increase the amount of time between your check-ins. This allows your child space and time in which to practice falling asleep without using sleep associations.
The Ferber Method: How Does It Work?
First, as with any sleep training method, you start by laying a healthy foundation for sleep. This means going through all the steps in your pre-sleep training checklist, and making any necessary changes to your child’s sleep and feeding schedule.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can start Ferberizing. Start by laying your child down drowsy but awake at the start of bedtime, then leave the room. If your child fusses, feel free to check in and offer comfort, but be sure to leave while your child is still awake. From there, each night (or every few nights), you would gradually increase the time between your checks, allowing your child more and more time to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.
Your plan for timed check-ins may look something like this:
- Day 1 – 3 min (1st interval); 5 min (2nd interval); 10 min (3rd interval); 10 min (remaining intervals)
- Day 2 – 5 min; 10 min; 12 min; 12 min
- Day 3 – 10 min; 12 min; 15 min; 15 min
- Day 4 – 12 min; 15 min; 17 min; 17 min
- Day 5 – 15 min; 17 min; 20 min; 20 min
- Day 6 – 17 min; 20 min; 25 min; 25 min
- Day 7 – 20 min; 25 min; 30 min; 30 min
Now, the pace above moves pretty quickly. When it comes to the exact amount of time you use for your check-in intervals, you can use your judgment and move at a pace that works for you and your baby; that may mean you need to move more slowly.
The Ferber Method: Is It Flexible?
Definitely! The best sleep training methods are those that you can adapt to fit your needs and circumstances. With the Ferber method, you can increase or decrease the amount of time between your check-ins as needed; you can also use the same check-in intervals for several days at a time, if you think your child needs more time to get used to falling asleep independently.
You can also stay in the room during this process, to make it more gentle; while it will no doubt take longer to make progress, this may minimize crying and make the process easier on your child and on you. Be aware, however, that some children get really frustrated if their parents stay in the room during sleep training, as it can be very confusing to have mom or dad so close by but not offering comfort or putting baby to sleep.
Finally, HOW you offer comfort during your check-ins is flexible, too. Some families prefer to soothe just with their voices, while other families will pat their babies’ heads, rub their backs, etc. Other families prefer to pick their children up briefly. All of these can work, provided you don’t inadvertently end up putting your child to sleep during one of your check-ins (since that’s what your child is supposed to be doing on her own).
The Ferber Method: Making It Personal
This article offers a general overview of how the Ferber method works – but putting this sleep training method into practice may be tough indeed! Many families wonder how to cope with the crying and fussing between check-in intervals, or how long to do the check-in process each night. If you want a more personalized approach to the Ferber method, we can give you just that. Connect with one of our expert consultants; she’ll walk you through every step of sleep training and will provide detailed answers to your most pressing sleep training questions.
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