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The Ferber Method

Is the Ferber method really all about crying it out? Up to the point of vomiting? Is it for every single baby? How to get started?

NOTE: This is a cry it out method that I do not advocate and do not support. I describe it here for your general information only. If you feel crying it out is for you then it is still safer to read up about it than to do it on your own, without guidance.

The baby sleep training method, which is also called ferberizing, is the well known sleep method by Richard Ferber, M.D. Richard Ferber is the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the Children's Hospital Boston.

The first version of his book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems raised a lot of discussion and controversy when it was first published in 1985. The straightforward tone of the book and the letting baby cry (being quite matter of fact about vomiting because of the crying) technique were the main cause for the controversy.

Many reported success with the method, but many parents and pediatricians opposed, saying it is cruel to let a baby cry alone in her crib for a longer time and that it damages baby's health, both physical and mental.

Ferber published an extended and updated version of his original book in 2005.

Even if the method itself has not changed, the tone is a bit softer in this version of the book. Ferber clarifies that he does not promote unnecessary crying for extended periods and accepts that co-sleeping can work.

Getting started with the Ferber Method

The Ferber method is based on the idea that settling and sleeping alone, no matter what, is the key to sleeping independently and sleeping through the night. To teach baby this, parents must put baby in her crib, awake. Letting baby to cry may be necessary to teach her this. According to Dr. Ferber this crying is not harmful.

However, it is not cold turkey crying it out: parents use a progressive waiting routine to go in and check on baby regularly. Baby is left alone for increasing periods of time (suggested times detailed in the book).

So the first night you would go in and check after 3 minutes the first time, 5 minutes the second time and then 10 minutes each further one.

The second night you start with 5 minutes, then 10 minutes and then 12 minutes from then on.

You use the same technique at night awakenings.

Checking on baby means comforting (patting, talking soothingly) to stop the crying, but without feeding or picking up.

Some baby's will vomit when crying, Dr. Ferber suggests to clean up without much extra attention, and continue with the routine. (Something unimaginable here at Baby-Sleep-Advice.com by the way ...)

All important to support the method are a good bedtime routine and a strict sleep schedule.

Important Note: Dr. Ferber does not recommend to start with his method before the age of 4 to 6 months, depending on baby's maturity. This again supports my general cry it out no-no's.

As with any approach, consider the Ferber method only if it feels right for you and if you think your baby may benefit from it.

If you do not want to let your baby cry, know that there are alternatives, with usually better and longer lasting results. Go to the Baby Sleep Method overview or start browsing the baby sleep through the night pages on this site.