Ferber Cry It Out Method - The Ultimate Guide
Getting enough sleep is crucial for both babies and their tired parents. Choosing the right sleep training method (whether that is the Ferber cry it out method - or something else) can have a significant impact on everyone's well-being.
One popular approach that has received both praise and criticism is the Ferber method. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of the Ferber method, helping you decide whether it's the best choice for your family's sleep requirements.
What's covered in this guide?
- Who is Dr Richard Ferber?
- What is the Ferber Method?
- Pro's and Con's on the Ferber Cry it Out Method.
- Why some people don't like the Ferber Method.
- Is the Ferber Method right for you?
- What sleep problems can the Ferber Method help with?
- What age can the Ferber Cr it Out Method work?
- Case study of a family using the Ferber Method.
- Do you need to unswaddle to use the Ferber Method.
- Can the Ferber Method work for naps?
- What is the difference between the Ferber Method and CIO?
- Is the Ferber Method Safe?
- Why do some people say babies can't self-soothe?
- What about learned helplessness and the Ferber Method?
- Do any other experts support the Ferber Method?
Who was Dr. Richard Ferber?
Understanding the Ferber method requires knowledge of its origins. Dr. Richard Ferber, a well-known paediatrician, is credited with developing this highly-discussed technique.
He formerly served as the Center for Paediatric Sleep Disorders Director at Boston Children's Hospital and as a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Ferber's groundbreaking work in pediatric sleep research led to the creation of the Ferber method, which he explained in his book "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," first published in 1985.
Dr. Ferber's extensive research on children's sleep patterns and his development of the Ferber method have made him an esteemed figure in the field of pediatric sleep medicine.
The Ferber method, also known as "Ferberization," is based on his years of expertise and aims to help both infants and parents get the sleep they need.
What is the Ferber Cry it Out Method?
The Ferber method is a sleep training technique that helps infants learn to soothe themselves and sleep independently.
It addresses sleep issues such as night awakenings and difficulty falling asleep, which can be challenging for babies and parents. The Ferber method typically works in a step-by-step manner, here is how it works:
Here are some simple steps to help you establish a consistent bedtime routine for your baby, so they can learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently:
- Bedtime Routine: Set up a consistent bedtime routine that signals to your baby that it's time to sleep. This could include activities such as a warm bath, reading a book, or gentle rocking.
- Place Baby in Cot Awake: Once your baby is calm but still awake, put them in their cot. It's important for them to learn to fall asleep in their own space.
- Check-Ins: If your baby cries or fusses, check on them at progressively longer intervals. During these visits, offer comforting words and gentle pats, but avoid picking them up. Over several nights, the intervals between check-ins should gradually increase.
- Consistency: Stick to the planned intervals and responses consistently. Over time, your baby should learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.
- Gradual Extension: As your baby becomes more accustomed to self-soothing, you can gradually extend the time between check-ins until they can fall asleep without your intervention.
The Ferber method's core principle is teaching babies to self-soothe and establish healthy sleep associations.
It encourages a gradual and comforting approach to sleep training, rather than a "cry it out" technique, which involves leaving the baby to cry without intervention.
We use a modified version of the Ferber method in our online sleep programs called spaced soothing. We offer a full guide on how to use this for bedtime, through the night, and naps including nap extensions, inside our online programs. Plus access to email support, all included!
Pros and Cons of the Ferber Cry it Out Method
Like any sleep training method, the Ferber method has its advantages and disadvantages. It's essential to consider both sides to make an informed decision for your family.
- Improved Sleep for Both Baby and Parents: The Ferber method can lead to more extended, uninterrupted sleep for both infants and parents, which is vital for everyone's well-being.
- Teaches Self-Settling: This method encourages babies to learn how to self-settling, an essential skill for better sleep and overall development.
- Establishes a Routine: The Ferber method helps establish a consistent bedtime routine, promoting healthy sleep habits from an early age.
- Long-Term Benefits: Many families report long-term success with the Ferber method, as children learn to sleep independently and self-soothe.
- Crying During Training: One of the main criticisms of the Ferber method is that it involves periods of crying, which can be emotionally challenging for both parents and babies.
- Not Suitable for All Babies: Some babies may not respond well to this method, as individual temperament varies. What works for one baby may not work for another. Take our temperament quiz.
- Requires Commitment: The Ferber method demands consistency and patience from parents, which can be challenging for some families.
- Parental Guilt: Some parents may feel guilty or conflicted about allowing their baby to cry during the sleep training process.
- Possible Regression: There is a possibility of sleep regression or setbacks during the training, which can be frustrating for parents.
Why Some Families Don't Like the Ferber Method
While the Ferber cry it out method has proven successful for many families, it is not universally embraced. There’s a reason the hashtag #gentlesleeptraining is always trending. Several reasons contribute to why some families opt for alternative sleep training approaches:
- Parental Discomfort: Many parents find it emotionally challenging to hear their baby cry, even with the controlled check-ins of the Ferber method. Read about gentle sleep training.
Belief in Co-Sleeping: Some families have a strong belief in co-sleeping or bed-sharing and prefer not to encourage independent sleep in their infants.
Different Temperaments: Babies have unique temperaments, and what works for one may not work for another. Some babies may become increasingly distressed with this method.
- Alternative Approaches: There are various other sleep training methods, such as the "no-cry" approach or gentle sleep training, which some families find more suitable for their parenting philosophy. Check out the gentle sleep training program we offer.
Personal Values: Some parents have personal values or cultural beliefs that lead them to choose alternative methods that align more closely with their values.
It is crucial to keep in mind that each family is different, and what may be effective for one family may not necessarily work for another. When contemplating using the Ferber method or any sleep training technique, it is vital to ensure that your approach aligns with your family's values, beliefs, and your baby's needs.
Is the Ferber Method Right for You?
Making the decision on whether to use the Ferber method with your family requires careful consideration of your parenting style, your baby's temperament, and your sleep goals. Here are some factors to think about when deciding if the Ferber method is a good fit for you:
- Parental Comfort: Are you comfortable with the idea of allowing your baby to cry for short intervals during sleep training? Consider your emotional readiness for this approach.
- Baby's Age: The Ferber method is typically recommended for infants older than six months. If your baby is younger, you may want to explore gentler sleep training methods.
- Consistency: Can you commit to being consistent with the method, including following the recommended check-in intervals? Consistency is key to success.
- Temperament: Consider your baby's temperament. Some babies are more adaptable to self-soothing and independent sleep, while others may struggle more with this approach.
- Support System: Do you have a support system in place, such as a partner or family member, who can assist during the sleep training process?
- Parenting Philosophy: Evaluate your parenting philosophy and whether the Ferber method aligns with your beliefs and values regarding infant sleep.
Ultimately, the decision to use the Ferber method or any sleep training approach should be made with careful consideration of your family's unique circumstances and needs.
What Sleep Problems Can Be Solved with the Ferber Method?
The Ferber method is primarily designed to address common sleep problems in babies and young children. Here are some of the sleep issues that can often be improved using this approach:
- Difficulty Falling Asleep: The Ferber method helps babies learn how to fall asleep independently, reducing the need for parental intervention.
- Night Awakenings: If your baby wakes frequently during the night and struggles to fall back asleep, the Ferber method can teach them to self-soothe and return to sleep on their own.
- Establishing a Bedtime Routine: This method encourages the establishment of a consistent bedtime routine, which is essential for healthy sleep habits.
- Reducing Sleep Associations: Babies who rely on specific sleep associations, such as rocking or nursing, can benefit from the Ferber method as they learn to sleep without these crutches.
- Creating Sleep Independence: The Ferber method helps infants become more independent sleepers, which can lead to better sleep for the entire family.
It's important to note that while the Ferber method can be effective for these sleep issues, it may not work for all babies. Each child is unique, and their response to sleep training methods can vary.
What Age Can the Ferber Method Work For?
It can be tough for new parents to navigate the world of sleep training techniques, but the Ferber method is a popular option for infants over 4-6 months old. It's worth keeping in mind, however, that every baby is unique and what works for one may not work for another.
If you're considering the Ferber method, it's important to consult with your paediatrician first to ensure your baby is developmentally ready for sleep training. It's also important to take your baby's temperament and individual needs into account when deciding when to begin sleep training.
Remember, every baby is different and there's no one "right" way to approach sleep training.
Case Study of a Family Using the Ferber Method
To provide a real-world perspective on the Ferber method, let's explore a case study of a family that successfully used this approach to address their child's sleep issues.
The Hodge Family: A Case Study
The Hodge family consists of Sarah, Michael, and their nine-month-old daughter, Emily. Emily was having trouble with frequent night awakenings, waking up every two hours to be fed to sleep. Sarah and Michael were exhausted from the lack of sleep, so they decided to try the Ferber method after consulting with our team.
On the first night, Sarah and Michael followed the Ferber method guidelines. They began with a bedtime routine and placed Emily in her cot while awake.
Emily cried for 15 minutes before the first check-in. Sarah and Michael comforted her with soothing words and gentle pats but never picked her up. Emily started standing in her cot, and they had to lie her down a few times, but they never took her out of the cot.
Over the course of the night, they gradually extended the intervals between check-ins.
The results were positive. Emily fell asleep on her own after 40 minutes on the first night with the help of check-ins. She woke up once during the night but was able to self-soothe back to sleep within a few minutes. Sarah and Michael continued with the method for several more nights, with each night resulting in less crying and quicker self-soothing.
Within a week, Emily was sleeping through the night without waking up.
Sarah and Michael noticed that she seemed more well-rested and alert during the day. The Ferber method had also strengthened their bond with Emily, as she was more content and rested during waking hours.
Everyone was happier! This case study shows how the Ferber method can be effective in improving a child's sleep patterns and providing much-needed rest for parents. However, it's important to remember that individual results may vary, and the success of the method depends on various factors, including the baby's temperament and the consistency of the parents' approach.
Do You Need to Un-Swaddle Before Using the Ferber Method?
The use of swaddling, a practice of wrapping a baby tightly in a blanket, is common to help infants sleep better during their first few months. However, when implementing the Ferber method, it's generally recommended to un-swaddle your baby. Here's why:
- Safety Concerns: Swaddling can pose safety risks as babies grow and become more mobile. Swaddled babies may have difficulty rolling over, hindering their ability to self-soothe and adjust their position during sleep.
- Developmental Milestones: Part of the Ferber method's goal is to encourage babies to reach sleep-related developmental milestones. Un-swaddling allows babies to practice self-soothing techniques like sucking on their thumb or using a pacifier.
- Comfort with Independence: The Ferber method encourages independence in sleep. Swaddled babies may find it more challenging to self-soothe and adjust to their sleep environment independently.
Before un-swaddling your baby, it's crucial to consult with your paediatrician to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for your child's age and development
. Additionally, consider using alternative sleepwear, such as a sleep sack, to keep your baby warm and comfortable during sleep.
Can the Ferber Method Work for Naps?
The Ferber method is primarily designed for nighttime sleep training but can also be applied to naptime sleep training. However, there are some important considerations when using this method for naps:
- Consistency: Maintaining consistency between nighttime and naptime sleep training is essential. The same principles of gradual check-ins and teaching self-soothing apply.
- Timing: Naps are shorter than nighttime sleep, so the intervals between check-ins should be adjusted accordingly. Shorter intervals may be needed to help your baby transition to self-soothing during naps.
- Nap Routine: Establish a consistent naptime routine to signal to your baby that it's time to sleep. This routine can be similar to the bedtime routine.
- Flexibility: Remember that some babies may have different nap patterns. Be flexible and adjust your approach as needed to meet your baby's specific needs.
While the Ferber method can be effective for naptime sleep training, it's important to remember that naps may not follow the same pattern as nighttime sleep. Some babies naturally take shorter naps, and it may take time to consolidate their nap sleep.
What Is the Difference Between the Ferber Method and Cry It Out?
The Ferber method is often confused with the "cry it out" method, but there are significant differences between the two approaches:
- Gradual Approach: The Ferber method involves a gradual approach to sleep training. Parents use progressively longer intervals between check-ins to allow the baby to learn to self-soothe.
- Comforting Check-Ins: During check-ins, parents offer soothing words and gentle pats to reassure the baby. However, they do not pick the baby up.
- Encourages Self-Soothing: The Ferber method aims to teach the baby how to self-soothe and fall asleep independently over time.
- Structured Routine: This method encourages the establishment of a consistent bedtime routine to signal to the baby that it's time to sleep.
Cry It Out Method:
- No Check-Ins: The "cry it out" method involves leaving the baby to cry without any parental check-ins. Parents do not intervene until the baby falls asleep.
- Minimal Comfort: This method typically involves minimal to no comforting during the crying episodes, with the expectation that the baby will learn to self-soothe without parental assistance.
- Faster Results: The "cry it out" method may lead to faster sleep training results, but it can be emotionally challenging for both parents and the baby.
- Less Structure: There is typically less emphasis on establishing a structured bedtime routine in the "cry it out" approach.
In considering methods for sleep training, it's important to be mindful of the emotional well-being of both the baby and the parents.
The Ferber method can offer a gentle approach that involves regular check-ins and encourages self-soothing skills. Alternatively, the "cry it out" method may produce faster results but can be emotionally challenging for both the baby and the parents. It's important to weigh the options and choose the approach that works best for your family.
Is the Ferber Method Safe?
The safety of the Ferber method is a valid concern for many parents. It's essential to approach sleep training with your baby's well-being as the top priority. Here are some safety considerations when using the Ferber method:
- Consult with a Doctor: Before starting any sleep training method, consult with your baby’s doctor if you have any concerns. They can provide guidance based on your baby's age, development, and individual needs.
- Age Appropriateness: Ensure that your baby is developmentally ready for sleep training. The Ferber method is generally recommended for infants older than six months.
- Monitor for Distress: During the check-ins, closely monitor your baby's cries and behaviour. If your baby appears excessively distressed or exhibits signs of distress that go beyond typical protest crying, consider adjusting the intervals or seeking guidance from a healthcare professional.
- Create a Safe Sleep Environment: Ensure that your baby's sleep environment is safe, with no loose bedding, pillows, or hazards that could pose a suffocation risk. Follow safe sleep guidelines from organisations like the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP).
- Be Attentive: While the Ferber method involves controlled crying, it's essential to remain attentive to your baby's needs during the daytime and outside of sleep training sessions.
- Consistency: Maintain consistency in your approach and follow the recommended check-in intervals to promote a sense of predictability for your baby.
- Emotional Well-Being: Monitor your own emotional well-being and that of your baby throughout the process. If you or your baby are experiencing significant distress, it may be necessary to reevaluate the method or seek support from a professional.
Ultimately, the Ferber method can be safe when implemented correctly, with consideration for your baby's age, temperament, and safety guidelines. It's essential to approach sleep training with sensitivity to your baby's needs and well-being, and consulting with a healthcare professional can provide valuable guidance.
Addressing concerns about the Ferber method potentially causing toxic stress or harmful cortisol level spikes in infants is essential.
Research in paediatric sleep medicine suggests that controlled crying methods like the Ferber method do not lead to toxic stress or lasting harm to a childs development. Toxic stress is triggered by events such as neglect, abuse or being raised by severally depressed non-responsive parents. Even then these stressors need to be chronic (long term), not a week of sleep training once in your baby’s life.
A study published in the Journal of Paediatrics in 2012 found that infants undergoing sleep training using the Ferber method did not exhibit elevated cortisol levels during the process.
Furthermore, long-term follow-up over 5 years did not reveal any adverse effects on the child's emotional development, or attachment to their parents.
The Ferber method teaches self-settling skills, improves sleep patterns, and has long-term benefits for children and families. It doesn't cause harm..
Why do some people say a baby can’t self soothe?
When Dr. Richard Ferber refers to "self-soothing" in the Ferber method context, he primarily addresses an infant's ability to comfort themselves and fall asleep independently.
In this context, self-soothing means that the baby can calm themselves down after crying or fussing, ultimately learning to fall asleep without needing external assistance or sleep associations like rocking or nursing. It's a crucial skill for infants to acquire to establish healthy sleep patterns.
In contrast, the psychological development of self-soothing in adults refers to a different concept.
It pertains to an individual's capacity to manage emotions, stress, and anxiety in everyday life. Adult self-soothing involves using various coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, or seeking support from others, to regulate emotions and reduce stress.
While the Ferber method focuses on teaching infants to self-soothe for the specific purpose of sleep, the psychological development of self-soothing in adults encompasses a broader range of emotional regulation skills needed for various life situations.
The two concepts are related in that the former can contribute to developing emotional resilience, which is valuable throughout life, including adulthood.
What about learned helplessness and the Ferber Method
It's crucial to differentiate between infant self-soothing, as promoted by the Ferber method, and learned helplessness, as they are distinct concepts with different implications for a child's development.
Infant self-soothing, as encouraged by the Ferber method, involves teaching babies to manage their emotions and learn to fall asleep independently.
It empowers infants to develop a sense of control and mastery over their sleep patterns, ultimately contributing to better sleep for both the child and the parents. This gradual process involves responsive check-ins from caregivers, promoting a sense of security and attachment.
It is important to distinguish between two psychological concepts: operant conditioning and learned helplessness. Operant conditioning is a process where individuals learn to associate their behaviour with consequences, leading to a sense of control and empowerment.
On the other hand, learned helplessness refers to a situation where individuals come to believe that they have no control over their circumstances, leading to a sense of resignation and passivity.
It is important to note that the concept of learned helplessness does not apply to infants undergoing sleep training, as they are at a stage of early development and are not forming complex cognitive beliefs about control.
Parents need not worry about the Ferber method causing learned helplessness as it is fundamentally different from creating a sense of helplessness. Instead, this method empowers infants to learn valuable self-soothing skills, build sleep independence, and develop a healthy sleep routine.
When used correctly and with care, the Ferber method can contribute to a more restful and secure sleep environment for the entire family without causing any harm or promoting learned helplessness.
Do other scientists and doctors support the Ferber Method?
People love to say why follow parenting advice from the 80’s, claiming the Ferber method is outdated, ineffective, or dangerous compared to modern parenting advice.
But several modern paediatric sleep experts and doctors in the field of child sleep medicine have expressed support for the Ferber method, citing its effectiveness in addressing common baby sleep issues.
While individual opinions may vary, some well-known experts who have encouraged the use of the Ferber method based on their research and clinical experience include:
- Dr. Marc Weissbluth: Author of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," Dr. Weissbluth has advocated for sleep training methods like the Ferber method to establish healthy sleep patterns in infants and children. He emphasises the importance of sleep for a child's overall well-being.
- Dr. Jodi Mindell: A paediatric sleep specialist and author of "Sleeping Through the Night," Dr. Mindell has praised the Ferber method as one of the effective sleep training techniques when applied thoughtfully and consistently.
- Dr. Michael Gradisar: A researcher and psychologist specialising in paediatric sleep, Dr. Gradisar has conducted studies that support the efficacy of controlled crying methods similar to the Ferber method in improving infant sleep and reducing night awakenings.
These experts, among others, have contributed to the body of research and literature on paediatric sleep and have recognized the potential benefits of the
Ferber method in helping both infants and parents achieve better sleep quality. However, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable sleep training approach for your child, as circumstances may vary.
Ready for change?
Are sleepless nights taking a toll on your family's well-being? At Baby Sleep Consultant, we understand the challenges parents face when it comes to infant sleep, and we're here to help you achieve peaceful nights and well-rested days.
Our expert consultants are committed to tailoring a sleep training plan that's perfect for your baby's unique temperament and your family's needs.
With our guidance and support, implementing proven techniques like the Ferber method becomes a stress-free and successful journey. Our evidence-based approach ensures that every step of the way is backed by research and tailored to your baby's developmental stage.
You don't have to navigate the complexities of sleep training alone – our team of experienced professionals is here to provide you with the tools, knowledge, and encouragement you need to help your baby sleep soundly through the night.
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Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the Block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education.
Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you