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What is the Ferber Method of sleep training?

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The Ferber Method is also known as Progressive Watching or Graduated Extinction. The goal is to teach your baby how to sleep on their own and put themselves back to sleep if they wake up during the night. Richard Ferber, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston, developed this method. He advises parents not to start this training until their baby is at least 5 or 6 months old. Here’s an overview of how it’s done:

  • Put your baby in their crib -- drowsy, but awake. Once you've finished their bedtime routine, leave the room.
  • If your baby cries, wait a few minutes before you check on them. The amount of time you wait depends on you and your baby. You might start waiting somewhere between 1 and 5 minutes.
  • When you re-enter your baby’s room, try to console them. But do not pick them up and do not stay for more than 2-3 minutes, even if they are still crying when you leave. Seeing your face will be enough to assure your baby you're close by so they can eventually fall asleep on their own.
  • If they continue crying, gradually increase the amount of time you wait before going in to check on them again. For instance, if you wait 3 minutes the first time, wait 5 minutes the second time, and 10 minutes each time after that.
  • The next night, wait 5 minutes the first time, 10 minutes the second time, and 12 minutes each time after that.

Adopting this method might be difficult during the first few nights. But you’ll likely see improvement in your baby's sleep pattern by day 3 or 4. Most parents see an improvement within a week.

SOURCES:

Mindell, J. Sleep, 2006; vol 29: pp 1263-1276.

Mindell, J. Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep. HarperCollins Publishers; 2005.

KidsHealth.org: "Sleep and Newborns."

Mindell, J. Sleep, May 1, 2009; vol 32: pp 599-606.

Ferber, R. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems: New, Revised. Fireside; 2006. 

HealthyChildren.org: "Getting Your Baby to Sleep," and news release: "AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction."

Franco, P. Pediatrics, May 1, 2005; vol 115: pp 1307-1311.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on May 7, 2019

SOURCES:

Mindell, J. Sleep, 2006; vol 29: pp 1263-1276.

Mindell, J. Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep. HarperCollins Publishers; 2005.

KidsHealth.org: "Sleep and Newborns."

Mindell, J. Sleep, May 1, 2009; vol 32: pp 599-606.

Ferber, R. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems: New, Revised. Fireside; 2006. 

HealthyChildren.org: "Getting Your Baby to Sleep," and news release: "AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction."

Franco, P. Pediatrics, May 1, 2005; vol 115: pp 1307-1311.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on May 7, 2019

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