If your priority is to have your little one sleeping through the night independently, with no need for extra comfort from mom or dad, then the Ferber sleep training method could be the right choice for your family.
Sleep training baby can be a polarizing issue, there are so many different sleep training methods and everyone has their preferred method that works best for them.
Here at Nested Bean we know every baby, and every family, is different. Sleep training is not a one size fits all situation. From the pick-up-put-down method to the cry-it-out method, there’s a reason why the spectrum of sleep training methods is so expansive - not every method works for every child.
So, we’ve created resources to help break down the most popular, healthy sleep training methods.
This time, we’re talking about the Ferber Method.
In This Article
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 Method of sleep training 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.
As with all sleep training styles, it’s not the right fit for everyone. There are many sleep training methods that can help your baby develop good sleep habits. So, don’t feel tied to just one type of training like the Ferber Method. If one training method isn’t the right fit, try another!
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What is the Ferber Sleep Training Method?
The Ferber 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.
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 method. The period of time between check-ins begins to get longer over time in the Ferber method.
The goal of the Ferber method is to have your baby eventually learn to calm themselves and have them falling asleep on their own.
Ferber Method Chart
FIRST CHECK-IN AFTER
SECOND CHECK-IN AFTER
THIRD CHECK-IN AFTER
|Day 1||3 minutes||5 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|Day 2||5 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 Sleep Training Method Work?
As we said from the outset, the Ferber 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.
Ferber Method Step #1:
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.
Ferber Method Step #2:
After you’ve taken your little one through all the steps of their 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.
Ferber Method Step #3:
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.
Ferber Method Step #4:
The periods of time between visits slowly increases night-after-night with the Ferber 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.
Ferber Method Step #5:
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.
Ferber Method Step #6:
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 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 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.
Every sleep training method can be adjusted to fit your family and your baby's bedtime routine. Feel free to make edits to the Ferber Method that are unique to your family too - if the adjustments can help your child fall asleep on their own, you're doing something right!
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 Sack could be the answer!
This wearable blanket utilizes the same Cuddle Pad technology as all of our sleepwear, providing light pressure that feels like your soothing touch to help your little one fall asleep independently. It can even be put on backwards if your baby prefers to tummy sleep!
Key Takeaways from the Ferber 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.
Commonly asked questions about Ferber method
What type of method is Ferber sleep training?
The Ferber Method, or graduated extinction, is when you put your baby to sleep awake, after a specific amount of time you go to check on them and comfort them without picking them up out of their crib or sleep space, and, according to this method, they will eventually learn to fall asleep without parental intervention.
Why is the Ferber method of sleep training sometimes considered controversial?
One of the main reasons that some people take issue with the Ferber method is that they believe leaving a baby alone to cry for any amount of time can have a negative impact on them.
It is considered one of the less gentle methods of sleep training, and it is not the right fit for every family or every baby.
However, there is no research to suggest that this sleep training technique has a negative impact on infants when used properly, and for many families, the Ferber method works great.
Are there more gentle methods of sleep training?
Yes! If you're interested in sleep training but not sure that the Ferber Method is the right fit, the Fading Method and the Camping Out Method of sleep training are two more gentle sleep training techniques to help your baby fall asleep. These involve less crying overall and have less of a focus on leaving your baby to self-soothe.
Does sleep training really work?
Yes! Sleep training techniques like the Ferber method are proven to help your child's sleep problems, and it is also proven to improve overall family health. Techniques like the Ferber sleep method helps infants fall asleep and get a good night's rest, which supports healthy development. And the reduction in night wakings helps parents get much needed rest, which supports mental and overall health.
How does the Ferber method work?
The Ferber sleep method works by gradually increasing your baby's tolerance to being without you. By spending less and less time comforting your baby, and making the intervals in between visits longer, you're encouraging self-soothing and reinforcing the idea that your baby is capable of snoozing all on their own.
This is why it's so important to stay consistent when utilizing the Ferber method. If your baby is getting used to self-soothing, and suddenly you start coming into their room to hold them when they start crying again, it may confuse them and leave them unsure of whether they can rely on your comfort or whether they need to soothe themselves independently.
What is ferberizing?
'Ferberizing' is the term used to describe implementing the Ferber method to sleep train your baby by helping them learn to sleep through the night without you constantly being with them. While the technique is formally called the Ferber method, you might also use people using this term as a quick shorthand when discussing how they're sleep training their little one.
When to start the Ferber 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.
Do you feed your baby during the Ferber method?
Because sleep training doesn't usually begin until your little one is at least 6 months old, feeding isn't usually an issue. At this point, your baby should be able to make it through the night without a scheduled feed, so the training won't be disrupted by a hungry tummy.
If your baby starts crying in the night at this age, it's unlikely to be due to hunger unless factors like not feeling well have been affecting their eating during the day.
When to feed during the Ferber method?
Because you aren't meant to feed your baby in the night when using the Ferber method, you may want to plan feeds around their bedtime and wake-up time to ensure that you won't hear baby cries caused by hunger in the middle of the night.
For example, you might find that feeding your baby at 7 pm before they're put down to sleep and again at 6:30 am when they've woken up works for you. If your child wakes earlier than this because they've become hungry, you might want to try a later bedtime or earlier wake-up time before reintroducing a night feeding, as this can interrupt the lessons and associations created through Ferber sleep training.
When to stop the Ferber method?
In an ideal world, the goal of the Ferber method is that the training ends with your baby sleeping through the night without waking! However, this isn't always the case - sometimes, infant sleep problems or family factors beyond your control can impact on your ability to do this training.
Although we strongly recommend sticking to a single training method once you've chosen one, you may want to try a gentler sleep training method such as fading or the pick-up-put-down technique. These involve less crying and are therefore easier on both babies (and parents) who may struggle with getting upset at bedtime.