Are you desperately seeking a new method of sleep training to help yourself and your baby get a good night of sleep?
Read this article to learn more about The Ferber Method- a technique used to help your babies develop the skills necessary to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.
We spoke to Cate Hope, our exclusive sleep consultant in Maidstone, to answer all of the questions you may have about the Ferber method.
In this article:
- What is the Ferber Method?
- What is the Best Age for the Ferber Sleep Method?
- How Long Does the Ferber Method Take?
- The Ferber Method Step-By-Step for Babies
- The Ferber Method for Toddlers – Explained
- Tips for Ferber Sleep Training Success
- Ferber Method Frequently Asked Questions | FAQs
- Contact Peaceful Nights
What is the Ferber Method?
The Ferber method is a method of sleep training devised by Dr Richard Ferber, a physician and the director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, at Children’s Hospital Boston, which aims to solve child sleep problems.
It was first released in his book, “Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems” in 1985.
In “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”, he recommends teaching your child to fall asleep independently, by leaving your child to cry for a set amount of time (5 minutes for example) before you go into the room briefly, making sure you leave while they are still awake- with each time leaving being for increasingly longer intervals.
This method has shaped sleep training as we know it with many variations of his method used today.
As a sleep consultant, I use a gentler version of his methods myself.
What is the Best Age to Start the Ferber Method?
Dr Ferber used his method on both babies and young children.
It is generally accepted that you wouldn’t sleep train a baby under 6 months old.
How Long Does the Ferber Method Take?
If your baby is in a cot you should see an improvement in your child’s sleep quite quickly often in a few nights. For older children in a bed it takes longer but you should see an improvement in 2 weeks.
Over the years I have tailored my methods to get the quickest result in the gentlest way possible and I would expect results by the third or fourth night for babies and 2 weeks for toddlers.
If you would like to find out when you can expect your baby to sleep through the night, you can read our article When will my baby sleep through the night?
Ferber Method Step-By-Step for Babies
If you’d like to try the Ferber method these are the steps he advises taking.
On the first night, you should start by putting your baby to bed and leaving the room for 5 minutes. If they are crying, go into the room for 2-3 minutes, reassure them, and leave the room.
Wait 10 minutes then if your baby is still crying go into the room again for 2-3 minutes then leave. Then wait for 15 minutes and if your baby is still crying go in for 2-3 minutes.
After that continue to wait for 15 minutes each time before you go into the room, until your baby falls asleep on their own.
In the night if your baby wakes, start the process again, waiting for 5 minutes before you go in as you did at the start of night one and adding 5 minutes each wait time, up to 15 minutes.
Repeat night one but this time start by waiting for 10 minutes before you go into the room. Add 5 minutes to each wait time up to 20 minutes.
Tonight start with a 15 minute wait time and increase up to 25 minutes. Repeat this for all night wakings.
Start with a 20 minute wait before going into the room and increase up to 30 minutes. Repeat this for all night wakings.
Start with a 25 minute wait and increase this to 35 minutes. Repeat this for all night wakings.
Start with a 30 minute wait and increase this up to 40 minutes. Repeat this in the night if they wake.
Start with a 35 minute wait and increase this up to 45 minutes. Repeat this in the night if they wake.
Night Eight Onwards
If your baby needs more training then keep this pattern up, adding 5 minutes more each night.
Ferber Method Chart for Babies
Here’s a schedule to help you know when to go into the room if your baby is still crying.
|Night||First Wait (minutes)||Second Wait (minutes)||Third Wait (Minutes)||Subsequent Waits (Minutes)|
An important part to note is that you do not use the help of a feed, dummy or rocking or holding your child to help your child fall asleep.
Keep this up until you reach a time in the morning that you’re happy to start the day. Get them up for the day if they’re crying at that time or wake them and start the day.
Do the same schedule for naps but if your baby cries after an hour get them up.
You can change the timings to suit you, going in sooner than 5 minutes if you want to as long as those timings get progressively longer.
Ferber Method of Sleep for Toddlers – Explained
The Ferber method for toddlers who are in a bed is maybe not what we would use for toddlers today! Ferber suggests explaining to your toddler that they have to stay in bed, and you’ll leave the door open if they do.
However, if they get out of bed you’ll have to shut the door until they’re back in bed again.
If they stay in bed you go in after the same waiting period as you would for a baby in a cot. But if they get out of bed you go back into the room, put them back into bed and then close the door, holding it closed for one minute.
Then go in, put them back to bed and explain that if they stay in bed the door stays open, if they get out of bed the door will be closed.
If they get up again you hold the door closed for 2 minutes, then 3 minutes then 5 minutes on the first night. You can talk to them through the closed door.
When they stay in bed you wait until the time is up then open the door to give them words of encouragement.
They must fall asleep with you out of the room.
The second night you add a minute, so hold the door closed for 2 minutes and add a minute after each wait time, and repeat this for night wakings and naps, the third night you increase the time by 2 minutes per wake up.
If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, then you should repeat this process to help them go back to sleep.
Ferber Method Chart for Toddlers
Here’s a chart with the timings for the Ferber method of sleep training for toddlers.
|Night||First Closing (minutes)||Second Closing (minutes)||Third Closing (Minutes)||Subsequent Closing (Minutes)|
Tips for Ferber Sleep Training Success
Establish a Bedtime Routine
A consistent bedtime routine can make a world of difference for the effectiveness of Ferber sleep training.
A simple bedtime routine, including bathing, reading books or other calming activities helps your baby to learn what to expect each night, and aids in setting your baby’s internal clock to help them fall asleep at around the same time every night.
It is recommended that you establish a bedtime routine by around 6 to 8 weeks old.
Set Up Your Baby’s Sleep Environment
Your baby’s sleep environment should be as dark as possible during the night and for naps.
Even small amounts of light can stimulate your baby, making it harder for them to fall asleep (and wake earlier too!).
It is certainly hard to hear your baby cry, and our first response as loving parents is to want to scoop them up and console them.
However, it is important that- for the ferber method of sleep to work- you remain consistent and stick to the timings mentioned above.
It will all be worth it in the end when your baby can fall asleep with ease.
Avoid Sleep Training During Big Life Changes
Big life changes can interfere with the sleep training process, so it is important that the Ferber method of sleep training is avoided during any big changes.
Big changes include teething or getting a new babysitter
Ferber Method Frequently Asked Questions | FAQs
What if My Baby is Hungry when doing the Ferber Sleep Training Method?
Babies over the age of 6 months can take in enough calories during the day to last them all through the night, in fact many babies sleep through the night from 4 months or even younger but we know without a doubt that healthy babies over 6 months old don’t need a feed in the night.
Ferber feels that hunger at night is learned hunger and will quickly pass during sleep training, so it is best to avoid night feeding.
How does the Ferber Method Work?
The Ferber method works by teaching your baby to fall asleep independently, and break any bad sleep associations they might have developed.
Should you use the Ferber Method of Sleep Training?
This method is used for naps, bedtime and night wakings.
Obviously nowadays most of us wouldn’t shut our children in a bedroom, but this approach was originally seen as new and progressive.
We now recommend that you take a gentler approach to teach children the skill of falling asleep on their own.
Is Ferber Method Harmful?
Experts agree that the Ferber method is not harmful, given that the baby receives plenty of love and attention whilst they are awake.
It does not damage the babies or their relationship with their parents.
Contact Peaceful Nights
For gentler ways to sleep-train your baby or toddler visit www.peacefulnights.net
The information in this article was taken from ‘Solve your Child’s Sleep Problem’s by Dr Richard Ferber.
parents.com, A Parent’s Guide to the Ferber Method of Sleep Training, September 2023
BabyCenter, Baby sleep training: Ferber method,June 2022
SleepFoundation, The Ferber Method for Sleep Training, May 2022
Cate Hope is an OCN qualified sleep consultant with over 30 years experience in childcare offering sleep solutions for bedtime, night time and day naps. She believes in tailoring her sleep solutions for each individual child and has successfully sleep trained hundreds of babies and toddlers. She is passionate about helping parents and their little ones achieve a good nights sleep.