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The Ferber method is a sleep training technique invented and developed by Pediatrician Richard Ferber M.D. It involves a series of sessions where parents leave their crying children alone associated with incremental time intervals.
Sleep expert Richard Ferber is the founder and former director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital and the author of Solve Your Children’s Problems.
As a matter of fact, the method is closely associated with the inventor and developer parents often called it “Ferberization” (way of using Ferber’s sleep training method on the child), “Ferberizing” (action verb; during the course of the sleep training), and “Ferberized” when the child has graduated from sleep training.
Advantages of the Ferber method
Scientific studies suggest that graduated extinction sleep training, by which Pediatrician Richard Ferber encourages, is associated with the following advantages:
- Sleep training graduates are less likely to throw bedtime protests
- Sleep training graduates are less likely to wake their parents at night
- Sleep training graduates are less likely to request for parental soothing. This in turn, helps the child learn how to sleep on his own
- Sleep training graduates have lessened and/or eliminated the instances of nighttime disruptions. So if ever he wakes up in the middle of the night, he can go back to sleep quickly without the parents assistance
- Sleep training graduates are more likely to sleep soundly at night within 10 minutes. This in turn
- Sleep training graduates can soothe themselves to sleep at a very early age. This is because they have finally accepted that no one will come to their relief
- Sleep training graduates have reduced nocturnal crying
- Parents who graduated from the sleep training method have improved parent – child relationship that is, stress levels, moods and interactions (such as daytime behavior)
Disadvantages of the Ferber methodPregnancy week by week
Richard Ferber’s approach is effective in eradicating nighttime tantrums and stalling tactics. However, it is considered as controversial method since it involves letting the child cry in a scheduled amount of time before parents tend and give in their attention.
Ferberization sparked controversy through the years to people like parents, pediatricians, researchers, and sleep experts’ due to the following potential disadvantages enlisted below:
- Leaving a crying child unattended give the impression of violating parental instincts
- Leaving a child sleeping alone in his room would establish child abandonment or worse, attempted infanticide
- Children who sleep alone in their room are likely to suffer from separation anxiety, a primal and powerful stressor
- Studies show that prolonged crying is proven to be physiologically stressful. This is because crying heightens neonatal blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels
- Develops lifelong emotional scars to the child
Facts versus fictions about Ferberization
Leave the crying child unattended until she falls asleep.
Ferber encourages progressive waiting approach to the child. This limits the time that a mother spends with her child as she provides comfort and emotional reassurance.
Parents leaving the child cry until she throws up.
The Ferber method encourages a child’s prolonged period of crying will not affect him in the long run.
Ferber points out that even the crying child throws up, this should not discourage from this type of sleep training method. In line with this, clean the child and his crib shortly before leaving him again inside the room.
Ferberization works quickly and stress-free for everyone.
Ferber stated that his sleep training method is effective however it is not an easy process. The method depends on the mother and child’s case. In estimation, this will take effect within a few days to a week.
Do not digress from the set of sleep schedule.
Sticking to the Ferber method’s sleeping schedule is important. However, there are times where the parents need to be flexible such as the following situations below:
- When the child is sick
- When travelling
- When having a babysitter
- If the set of sleeping schedule has been disrupted, parents may have to start the process again
The process of the Ferber sleep training method
The Ferber method is developed mainly to teach a young child (preferably 4 – 6 months of age) the skills to self – soothe and sleep on his own. With that being said, here is the outlined process of Ferberizing a child:
Pre – sleep training checklist
- Visit a pediatrician to consult and rule out if there are any primary medical conditions that cause some trouble sleeping in the baby. With that being said, such potential causes include teething, food allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sleep apnea and the like. Once the results are clear from various medical issues, proceed with the sleep training.
- Lay a healthy foundation of sleep before Ferberizing a child. This is because both parties need to be well – rested before the sleep training begins.
- Ensure that the calendar is clear from all – day errands, late – night excursions and the like during the course of Ferberization. Do not start Ferberizing the child if the family just moved in a new house, just went home from a week – long vacation and the like. In line with this, do not proceed with the process right before the baby is born or before and after surgical operation (particularly if a newborn mother underwent a cesarean delivery). After all, consistence is the key to achieve the sleep training’s effectivity.
Ferberizing a child
- Develop steps to prepare the child to sleep. This includes nighttime or naptime routines rituals (such as reading bedtime stories, lulling him to sleep and the like) and daytime activities (such as taking a bath, placing a baby mobile in his crib and the like). By the same token, Ferber vouches for a warm and loving nighttime
- During bedtime, start Ferberizing the child by laying him down in bed or crib drowsy but awake. Then leave him inside the room.
- If the child starts to fuss, feel free to return [at gradually incremental intervals] and provide comfort. Then leave while the child is still awake. Ferber stated that leaving a child awake to bed is important in teaching him effectively to sleep on his own.
- Then apply the progressive waiting approach – where parents must gently pat their child at the back after each predetermined period of crying. The suggested waiting time depends on how comfortable the parents are with the technique, and how many times that the child has been checked on a single session.
- Each following night, return by applying the incremental time check intervals of the method. Ferber suggests that after a few days to a week of using the incremental time interval, most infants learn to sleep without the comfort of the parents.
Incremental time check intervals of Ferberization
Ferber’s approach is also called as check – and – console method since it contains a series of incremental time check intervals. Incremental intervals mean that during the course of the method, the amount of time between check – ins increases.
The strict time check intervals serve as the duration of how long parents/ a parent must ignore their hild’s cries, tantrums, and protests. This gives a child some space and time to fall asleep independently without the use of sleep associations.
With that being said, enlisted below are the series of incremental time check intervals of Ferberizing a child:
- 1st interval – 3 minutes
- 2nd interval – 5 minutes
- 3rd interval – 10 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 10 minutes
- 1st interval – 5 minutes
- 2nd interval – 10 minutes
- 3rd interval – 12 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 12 minutes
- 1st interval – 10 minutes
- 2nd interval – 12 minutes
- 3rd interval – 15 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 15 minutes
- 1st interval – 12 minutes
- 2nd interval – 15 minutes
- 3rd interval – 17 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 17 minutes
- 1st interval – 15 minutes
- 2nd interval – 17 minutes
- 3rd interval – 20 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 20 minutes
- 1st interval – 17 minutes
- 2nd interval – 20 minutes
- 3rd interval – 25 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 25 minutes
- 1st interval – 20 minutes
- 2nd interval – 25 minutes
- 3rd interval – 30 minutes
- Remaining intervals – 30 minutes
When it comes to time check intervals, parents are free to manage the pace that works for them and the baby.
Precautionary measures and limitations of Ferberization
Since the Ferber method is considered as a controversial sleep training method, Doctor Richard Ferber enlisted the precautionary measures and limitations on the table. With that being said, below are the following things that are inappropriate in Ferberization:
Children age 6 months and below
Sleep training is inappropriate for children age 6 months and below because of the following reasons:
- Babies need to be bottle or breastfed at night
- Sleep patterns of young children are still immature
Children who suffer from separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is the fear of being alone or separated with his parents. With that being said, children who suffer from separation anxiety should not be subjected to graduated extinction.
Instead, children with this kind of conditioned fear should be consulted with a behavioral psychologist about the most appropriate training for him.
Children who suffer from anticipatory nausea in cyclical vomiting
In line with separation anxiety, children with anticipatory nausea in cyclical vomiting – a condition where a child vomits in response to being alone or separated should not also be subjected to Ferberization.
Instead, consult the child to a behavioral psychologist about the most appropriate sleep training method for him.
Treat various child sleep problems
Even though Ferberization is a sleep training technique, this does not treat various child sleep problems such as:
- Bedtime fears
- Daytime stress
- Different forms of sleep – disordered breathing such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Nocturnal headaches
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorder
- Somnambulism (commonly known as sleep walking)
- Sleep or night terrors
Tool to teach children on how to fall asleep on their own
In a like manner with child sleep problems, Doctor Richard Ferber himself stated that his method does not teach children on how to fall asleep on their own.