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Ferber Method for Night Wakings

Navigating the sleepless nights that come with parenting can be a daunting challenge, leaving many in search of a consistent, effective solution. 

Enter the Ferber Method for night wakings: a sleep training technique developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, designed to teach infants self-soothing skills and encourage uninterrupted sleep. 

This method, balancing structured intervals of comforting with gradual independence, promises a transformative approach for both weary parents and restless babies. 

In the upcoming sections, we'll delve into the workings, benefits, and practical steps of the Ferber Sleep Method, offering a beacon of hope for those yearning for peaceful nights. Get ready to embark on a journey towards restful sleep for your entire family.

But first, a quick caveat - as with all sleep training styles, it’s not the right fit for everyone. There are many newborn sleep training methods to consider, such as the fading method sleep training or camping out sleep training approach. That being said, what is the Ferber method for night wakings?

ferber method for babies

What is the Ferber Method for Night Wakings?

Richard Ferber is a Pediatrician, founder of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston’s Children's Hospital, and the creator of the Ferber Method. He also published a book on children’s sleep called Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems in the mid-1980’s.

His namesake method of sleep training is considered to be one of the least gentle sleep training techniques - second only to the Cry-It-Out Method as the least gentle. 

The Ferber sleep training method is sometimes referred to as ferberizing, and it has an emphasis on encouraging self-soothing in your little one. 

Ferber’s methodology says that as soon as your baby is developmentally ready, you can begin teaching them how to self-soothe at sleep times. Most data supports that you shouldn't sleep train until your baby has reached 6 months old. 

The Ferber Sleep Method, sometimes called graduated extinction, is when you put your baby to sleep awake and then periodically go to check on them after a predetermined amount of time regardless of how much they fuss. 

This contrasts with other methods of sleep training in which the baby is held whenever they cry, or put to bed drowsy or asleep to avoid crying altogether.

ferber sleep training method

These check-ins can include comforting your little one through physical touch to help the fall asleep - putting your hand on their chest, stroking their head, etc. - but it is not advised to pick them up out of the baby sleep site, according to the Ferber Sleep Training. The period of time between check-ins begins to get longer over time in this approach to sleep training.

The goal of the Ferber Sleep Method is to have your baby eventually learn to calm themselves and have them falling asleep on their own.

Ferber Method Chart





Day 1 3 minutes minutes 10 minutes 10 minutes
Day 2 minutes 10 minutes 12 minutes 12 minutes
Day 3 10 minutes 12 minutes 15 minutes 15 minutes
Day 4 12 minutes 15 minutes 17 minutes 17 minutes
Day 5 15 minutes 17 minutes 20 minutes 20 minutes
Day 6 17 minutes 20 minutes 25 minutes 25 minutes
Day 7 20 minutes 25 minutes 30 minutes 30 minutes

Source: Solve Your Child's Sleep Problem by Dr. Richard Ferber

How Does the Ferber Method for Night Wakings Work?

As we said from the outset, the Ferber sleep training method is considered one of the less gentle sleep training methods and is structured to encourage babies to self-soothe. 

It encourages parents to give their infants time to fuss and realize that it won’t result in being comforted immediately, eventually leading to them falling asleep without this parental comfort. 

how does ferber method works

Step #1: Develop a Consistent Bedtime Routine

The founder of the Ferber method, Richard Ferber, recommends establishing a consistent, soothing bedtime routine for your baby to kick off the sleep training process.

This depends on what you have time to do and what your baby finds the most relaxing but could be made up of bathtime, a quick story, and some goodnight kisses and cuddles before they settle down in their crib.

Step #2: Put Your Baby in Bed Awake

After you’ve taken your little one through all the steps of their newborn bedtime routine, it’s time to put them in their crib or sleep space. And remember, a crucial part of this method is to make sure that you are putting your baby down while they are still awake. 

Step #3: Don’t Rush in if Your Baby Cries

Once baby is safely in their crib, you leave the room. If you hear your baby cry, wait for a specific amount of time before going back into their room to comfort them. With the Ferber method, this amount of time gradually increases night-after-night.

For the first night it is recommended that you wait 3 minutes before you go back into the nursery to console your baby if they are crying. 

Then you leave the room for five minutes, and if your baby is still fussing after that you can go back in and console them again. All subsequent visits should be after a 10 minute waiting period or until your baby falls asleep. 

Step #4: Slowly Increase the Time Before You Attend Your Baby’s Cries

The periods of time between visits slowly increases night-after-night with the Ferber Sleep Method. For the complete list of how many minutes to wait before visiting your little one each night and the nightly progressions, reference “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” by Richard Ferber, M.D.

Step #5: Start the Process Over as Needed

After your little one has fallen fully asleep, each time they wake in the middle of the night the process starts from the beginning.

So, if your baby wakes up at 3am crying after having been asleep for hours the Ferber method recommends that you start from the 3 minute wait period and work your way back up to 10 minutes between visits until your baby can fall asleep again.

Step #6: Modify to Fit Your Family!

Modify to fit your family! There are several ways to adjust this sleep training technique to work more seamlessly with your family’s routines and preferences. Here are a few tips you could use to adjust the Ferber sleep method to your needs:

Adjust the times between visits!

Don’t hesitate to adjust the waiting times to fit where you and your baby feel more comfortable. If you’d rather start with 2 minutes between visits, do that!

Ferber Sleep Method Room share options

This model is based on the premise that your infant has their own nursery. But, even if they sleep in a bassinet in your room this method is still a viable option!

Simply try not to engage with baby during the time between visits, and once the predetermined time is up you can talk to them from your area in the room or get up to physically comfort them at the baby sleep site.

Try our soothing Zen Sack

Sleep training can sometimes be tricky, especially if your baby cries through the night and struggles to self-soothe. If you need a helping hand with sleep training, our Zen Weighted Sleep Sack could be the answer!

What is the point of a sleep sack, though? If you aren’t already familiar with the benefits of a sleep sack, it’s a great choice after you’ve made the swaddle transition and still want to wrap your child in a warm cocoon for sleep. But, our winter sleep sack and bamboo fabric sleep sack take things even a step further. 

This wearable blanket utilizes the same Cuddle Pad technology as all of our weighted sleepwear, like our weighted baby swaddle. This provides light pressure that feels like your soothing touch to help your little one fall asleep independently. It can even be put on backward if your baby prefers to tummy sleep!

Learn more about sleep sack sizing, what to wear under a sleep sack, when to stop using a sleep sack, sleep sack vs swaddle, when to transition from sleep sack to blanket, and more in our blog. 

Or, get the best sleep sack for winter or the best bamboo fabric sleep sack at Nested Bean today to support your sleep training journey! We’ll leave you with a few more tips on implementing the Ferber sleep training method below.

When to start the Ferber Sleep Training Method

It is recommended by most sleep experts that sleep training should not begin until your baby is at least 6 months old. 

Before this, your baby won't be able to sleep more than 6 hours without a feed, and they won't be able to make the sleep associations that sleep training methods tend to rely upon.

You can wait until a little later to start sleep training, particularly if you're currently in a situation where it would be difficult for your family to maintain, such as during moving house when traveling, or on vacation. 

However, getting a headstart on sleep training can make an important difference to your baby's sleep as they get older, placing some important foundations that can carry over to healthy childhood sleep and beyond.

More Advice on Implementing Ferber Sleep Training Method

Successfully implementing the Ferber Method requires more than just following the steps; it's about understanding your baby's unique needs and being consistent yet adaptable. Here are some additional insights to enhance your sleep training journey:

  • Emotional Preparation: Before starting, ensure you are emotionally prepared for the process. It can be challenging to hear your baby cry and not immediately comfort them. Remind yourself of the long-term benefits of healthy sleep habits for your child.
  • Consistent Bedtime: Apart from a soothing bedtime routine, ensure your baby's bedtime is consistent every night. This regularity helps set their internal clock and makes the training more effective. Learn more about maintaining your newborn sleep schedule in our blog.
  • Daytime Naps Matter: Don’t overlook the importance of your baby nap schedule in this process. Ensuring your baby gets adequate sleep during the day can prevent overtiredness, making bedtime easier. You can learn more about how to get baby to nap longer or when do toddlers stop napping in our blog.
  • Monitor and Adapt: Be observant of how your baby responds each night and be ready to make small adjustments. For instance, if a particular wait time seems too long for your baby's current stage, it's okay to modify it slightly.
  • Communicate with Caregivers: If other caregivers are involved (like partners or babysitters), ensure they are also aware of and comfortable with the method. Just as with your child bedtime routine itself, consistency across caregivers is crucial. 
  • Creating a Comforting Environment: While the Ferber Sleep Method focuses on self-soothing, the sleep environment can greatly impact its success. Ensure the room is comfortable, with appropriate temperatures and minimal distractions.
  • Keep a Sleep Diary: Documenting your baby’s sleep patterns can be incredibly insightful. Note the times they fall asleep, wake up, and how they respond to the training. This can help you adjust the method as needed.
  • Patience is Key: Understand that progress might not be linear. Some nights might be more challenging than others. Stay patient and persistent.

Parting Thoughts on the Ferber Sleep Training Method

Though the Ferber method isn't for everybody, it definitely has a good track record in a lot of cases for helping many babies learn how to fall asleep independently. Ferber sleep training success stories are easy to come by online. Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll have a success story of your own!

Our blog has more resources on parenthood and sleep. Check out our articles on signs of sleep regression, the best sleeping position for teething baby, how to calm an overtired baby, safe cosleeping with baby, newborn wake windows, or baby cries meaning.

Or, spoil your child with the best baby pajamas and weighted sleepwear the world has to offer here at Nested Bean. Designed to improve sleep in as little as 3 nights and backed by millions of happy parents worldwide, you’ll be glad you did!

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