Are you slugging through life on caffeine and adrenaline? If you’re an exhausted parent, sleep training is life-changing. You can’t put a price on feeling well-rested – and sleep is crucial to our overall health and well-being. (Not just for your children- you too!) There are many different methods of sleep training, and all of them are viable options that depend on your parenting style and your unique child’s needs. Today, I’m covering everything you need to know about the Ferber method of sleep training to help your baby learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own!
The Ferber Method of Sleep Training
One of the many sleep training options is the Ferber method. It’s a bit more of a “gentle” approach to the cry-it-out method (or the extinction method). It teaches your baby to self-soothe while still allowing you to check in from time to time and provide comfort. This is a great option if you’re somewhere in between the fading method and letting them cry it out. It allows you to be a bit more involved in their sleep training and gradually learn to calm themselves to sleep. Once your baby learns to self-soothe and sleep through the night, your sleep schedule will be so. Much. Better. Keep reading for tips on the Ferber method of sleep training and how to implement it into your own life!
What Is the Ferber Method?
The Ferber method is a slightly more hands-on approach to the extinction method. It was developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, a nationally recognized pediatric sleep expert. There are several variations of the Ferber method, but the jist of it is that you check on your child in predetermined intervals, gradually lengthening the intervals until they fall asleep. This helps babies to develop the skill of self-soothing, while still being able to pop in from time to time and offer comfort and emotional support. The timed intervals can make it easier on you as a parent than the cry-it-out method, knowing that you will be able to go check on them soon!
The Ferber method will not only help your little one fall asleep initially, but they will develop the skills to get back to sleep on their own later on if night waking occurs. When your child is only able to fall asleep by your soothing, it can hinder their sleep habits as well as yours. Sleep training and teaching your child the skills to fall asleep, stay asleep, and fall back asleep on their own is so invaluable to their long-term sleep patterns! Once your child learns to self-soothe, you will notice such a difference in their temperament as well as your own energy levels. It’s much easier to be patient, fun, and involved as a parent when we get much-needed rest!
How to Do the Ferber Method
Once you have completed your bedtime routine, put your baby down in their crib awake and check on them at predetermined intervals starting at 3 minutes. Keep the interaction level at a minimum- resist picking them up or feeding them. Give them a quick pat and say a short phrase, like “Mommy loves you, it’s sleepy time now” and leave the room. Increase the time intervals slightly each time, until you reach 15 minutes or so. You can continue this process until they fall asleep. This will offer the comfort of your presence and increase their feelings of security without falling into a parent-led sleep association where they need to be rocked, fed, or held to sleep.
For each wakeup throughout the night, follow the exact same process. Make sure to use the same process during naptime as well. Within a week or so, your child will be able to initiate sleep independently without needing you to soothe them. Self-soothing is a lifelong skill that your child will be so much better off knowing!
When Should You Start the Ferber Method
Babies are typically ready to begin sleep training around 4 months when they have developed the skills to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. If your child is older than 4 months, don’t worry- it’s never too late to start sleep training! Sleep training is extremely beneficial for both you and your child, even if you don’t start right away.
How Long Does the Ferber Method Take?
Every baby is different, but consistency is key! Typically you will notice less crying after a few days, and they will learn to self-soothe after a week or so. If your little one isn’t self-soothing right away, don’t worry! Your child is their own person, and won’t follow a rigid timeline for every milestone in their life. Stick with it and you will see results before you know it!
Ferber Method Sleep Training Tips
Consistency is key
I cannot stress this enough! Stay. Consistent. If you break your routine, your child will become confused, and it will ultimately make it more difficult for them to establish the habit of self-soothing. Follow the same process for naps as well. Even if it feels like it’s not working at first, sticking with it will help your baby learn to self-soothe. It may feel tempting to bend the rules or take a break for a night, but lacking consistency will ultimately lead to confusion for your little one, making the process take longer.
Wean nighttime feedings
Nighttime feedings can make sleep training feel more difficult! If possible, wean nighttime feedings for best results. If weaning nighttime feedings isn’t right for you at the time, I have a whole post on how to night feed during sleep training!
If you have a big life change going on, now may not be the time to start sleep training. Begin sleep training when life feels relatively steady for your child so that the sleep training can be the only big change they’re going through.
Place them in bed awake
Make sure that you put your little one to bed while they’re still awake. This will help them to develop the skills to self-soothe, and they’ll recognize their surroundings as they’re falling asleep.
Create an optimal sleep environment
Create a sleep environment for your little one that encourages a good night’s rest. Blackout shades, white noise machines, and swaddles are all great baby sleep products that can encourage deep sleep for your child.
Follow a bedtime routine
Establish a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and make bedtime less stressful for everyone. This is something that will be super valuable, especially as they grow into toddlers and childhood, and can begin to look forward to relaxing bedtime activities like books or coloring. The consistency of a nighttime routine will make bedtime feel steady and safe, and will make it much easier to follow the Ferber method.
You know your baby better than anyone- and there’s no one-size-fits-all for sleep training! If you feel that the Ferber method is right for you, follow these tips to sleep train your baby. If you’ve tried these tips and are still struggling, please feel free to reach out. I offer one-on-one support to help your family get the sleep that you deserve!