Exploring the Ferber Method: A Guide to Sleep Training for Babies

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Has your little one been struggling to sleep or rather are you as a parent longing for some restful sleep yourself? For many new parents, this can be an extremely tiring and stressful process while they juggle needing to rest themselves while ensuring that their babies are well taken care of. Sleep training a baby often gets talked about but most parents don’t really know where to start. Perhaps you have been wondering how to sleep train your baby or maybe someone that you know has tried the Ferber Method.

If you think it is time to help your baby develop some better sleep habits then this blog will serve as a great tool to figure out how to go about it. Don’t worry, we understand how overwhelming being a parent in the early years is so we will make sure to focus on the information that will truly assist you while keeping you aware of factors you may want to consider along the way.

What is the Ferber Method of Sleep Training

This method was introduced by Dr Richard Ferber more than 3 decades ago and has gained popularity as it is a gradual process to teach your baby how to self-soothe instead of simply feeling like you need to make them cry it out without any support. Of course, as with any parenting technique, there are many opposing opinions on this method as well when it comes to its long-term impact. This is why we love to make sure you as a parent have all the information you need to make the right choice for your little one!

The Ferber Method is only one of several options for sleep training your baby. Instead of immediately comforting your baby when they wake up at night, parents using the Ferber Method gradually teach their little ones to fall back to sleep on their own.

This method differs from the “Cry It Out” approach, where caregivers leave the child alone until morning. Ferberizing allows parents to check on their baby at timed intervals.

How do You Implement the Ferber Method With Your Little One

While navigating the process of sleep training can be emotionally exhausting, the actual steps of the Ferber Method are quite straightforward. Here’s a short guide tailored for all our parents’ reading:

  • Begin their bedtime routine and gently place your baby in their crib, ensuring they are still slightly drowsy but awake.
  • Say goodnight to them and step out of the room.
  • If your baby starts to cry, wait for a predetermined duration (details on the duration below), then re-enter the room. Offer comfort to them by speaking in a calming tone or softly patting them, without picking them up or providing a feed of any sort.
  • Exit the room and repeat this process as needed, return at specified intervals if your baby continues to cry. In this step, you want to reassure them that they are safe, without picking them up or feeding them.

When Should I Start Ferberizing my Baby

It is suggested by Dr. Ferber himself that his method can be most effective for babies around 5 months and older. However, as we know, no baby is the same and each child hits their individual milestones at different stages. This might influence the right time to start.

Most paediatricians agree with this concept but do ask that parents be cautious and not start too early. The best way to know if your child is ready or not is to simply pay attention to their routines, things that soothe them, sleep cues etc.  It is also best to have a consistent space for 6-8 weeks to sleep-train your baby.

How Long Does it Take

While the initial crying may be very hard for any parent to hear, try to remember that you are doing this so they can have more restful sleep moving forward. The Ferber Method can provide results rather quickly but you have to make sure you are staying consistent with it even if you start seeing improvements within 3 or 4 days. With this process in mind, typically parents have seen significant results even within 7 to 10 days.

In his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (which I recommend you get a copy of), Ferber recommends doing check-ins at the following times:

Day 1

  • First check-in after 3 minutes
  • Second check-in after 5 minutes
  • Third check-in after 10 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 10 minutes

Day 2

  • First check-in after 5 minutes
  • Second check-in after 10 minutes
  • Third check-in after 12 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after:12 minutes

Day 3

  • First check-in after 10 minutes
  • Second check-in after 12 minutes
  • Third check-in after 15 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 15 minutes

Day 4

  • First check-in after 12 minutes
  • Second check-in after 15 minutes
  • Third check-in after 17 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 17 minutes

Day 5

  • First check-in after 15 minutes
  • Second check-in after 17 minutes
  • Third check-in after 20 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 20 minutes

Day 6

  • First check-in after 17 minutes
  • Second check-in after 20 minutes
  • Third check-in after 25 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 25 minutes

Day 7

  • First check-in after 20 minutes
  • Second check-in after 25 minutes
  • Third check-in after 30 minutes
  • Subsequent check-in after 30 minutes

When Should a Parent Avoid or Stop the Ferber Method

Watch for how your baby is responding. If after 2 weeks of trying the Ferber Method, your baby is still not really getting the hang of it, it’s time to maybe take a break! Depending on your child’s personality, if it starts to overwhelm them or is unsuccessful, it may be good to explore alternative sleep training methods. A quick search for sleep training methods online can provide you with all the resources you need.

So remember, for this to work, you want to tune into your child’s responses during checks. If the Ferber Method doesn’t work, don’t switch routines within the same night, your baby needs a break! Keep the bedroom routine consistent, set and follow the same times daily, set a fixed time for them to start their sleep routine, make sure that if multiple people care for your child, then you are all on the same page and most importantly don’t get discouraged when someone else’s child may be responding to the Ferber Method faster, just stick with your plan despite any potential challenges. Consult with your paediatrician or a sleep expert to find the best approach for your family. For further information, visit the EuroKids website to learn about how we can help you further. We know you can do this!