Sleep Training with the Ferber Method

In a previous post I shared why Jimmy, Beckett, and I have all earned our 12-hours of sleep each night, the resources that helped get us there, and probably FAR too much insight into my Type A personality. 🙂 One of the formal sleep training methods I mentioned was the Ferber Method. I believe this method deserves it’s own post simply because it gave us our lives (and sleep) back.

Like I mentioned in my other post, first, sleep training looks different for every family, and most importantly, how you get your baby to sleep isn’t a “problem” unless your family sees it as one, and it isn’t working for you! It’s not wrong. It’s what works for YOU! Second, I’m not a professional sleep consultant. I don’t guarantee anything I share in this post will work for you or your baby. I’m just a Mommy who has been in some dark, yet sleepless, places, and I want to help others if I can, even if it’s just to giggle in sleep-deprived delirium together. 🙂 Back to business…

The most common methods of sleep training I found were the no tears, cry it out (CIO), pick-up-put-down, stay in the room/chair, or Ferber method. Beckett didn’t respond well to the pick-up-put-down or stay in the room methods. He became more upset, which was worse for us all. I didn’t want to do CIO full extinction (putting him down for the night, shutting the door and not going back in until morning).

That’s why I like the Ferber Method found in Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber—it’s timed-interval sleep training or graduated extinction. Once we put Beckett down for both naps and bedtime, we allowed him to cry for intervals of time before we went in to check on him.  When we went in, we didn’t pick him up or offer a sleep prop, like the paci. Just verbal assurance and patting on his chest for no more than one minute per check-in. The intervals of time gradually got longer until Beckett learned how to self-soothe and put himself to sleep. The best thing is: the parents choose the time intervals. It doesn’t matter where you start, just as long as you’re consistent and the time intervals gradually lengthen.

Ferber also strongly encourages eliminating sleep props or associations (any dependence on something other than themselves to go to sleep) when doing sleep training. So, we took away the swaddle, Dock-a-Tot, rocking, bouncing, swinging, and the pacifier all at the same time. We didn’t want to have to re-sleep train for each sleep prop. So, we ripped the Band-Aid off and did it all at once.

Now, like I had mentioned in another post about our sleep journey, the big argument between the different schools of thought is at what age a baby can self-soothe. The majority seemed to think six months. We decided to start sleep training at nine-weeks-old (read this post for why). Beckett learned to self-soothe by night THREE of sleep training by sucking his fingers and rolling onto his side. The longest he cried using this method was 15-mintues. We never had to endure the hours and hours of crying. The best thing was that he would always welcome us back with a HUGE smile after he slept. My first thought was always, ‘Oh, thank God I didn’t ruin him!’ Ha-ha! I’m so glad we listened to our parental gut and just went for it. We all got sleep a lot sooner! J

My tips for implementing the Ferber Method:

  • Let Daddy be a part! Because Beckett screamed non-stop for the first nine weeks of life, I was a bit numb to hearing him cry. So, this method didn’t break my heart or make me feel like I was hurting him, but for anyone it’s stressful to hear a baby cry. So, we started the formal sleep training when Jimmy had a weekend stretch off of work. Beckett has always gone to sleep easier when Jimmy puts him down then when I do. (Ugh, what gives?!) So, Jimmy dealt with the sleep training when he could so that Beckett could practice self-soothing without screaming for Mommy. If this breaks your heart, but you know it needs to be done, consider letting Daddy take lead, if he can! I’ve had friends who have left their house to go on a walk or visit a neighbor while Daddy fielded the sleep training.
  • Don’t begin sleep training when you can’t provide consistent nap and bedtime routines and time ranges (e.g. when family’s visiting or holidays) or when your energy and focus is in high demand elsewhere (e.g. work deadlines or big changes in your household).
  • Write out your interval times for each day and have a timer handy. It’s SO easy to forget when you’re stressed. Don’t rely on yourself to keep track of this in your head. Because I’m horribly Type A, I made a typed-out document of our plan. Don’t judge me! 🙂
  • Stay distracted! When Beckett was crying, just one minute felt like eternity. It helped to wash bottles, talk with a friend, scroll through social media, play with the dogs, etc.
  • Caffeinate – if it’s your thing! 🙂 You may find yourself up throughout the night quite a bit more as baby learns. Just remember, it’s just a season. It’s very likely that this won’t be how your nights go for the rest of your lives.
  • Write out why you’re doing sleep training and have it nearby when you need the reminders. I told a friend our goals and “whys” and called her when I needed the extra reminder and support.
  • Give yourself grace.

 

I’m not a professional sleep consultant. I don’t guarantee anything I share in this post will work for you or your baby. I’m just a Mommy who has been in some dark, yet sleepless, places, and I want to help others if I can, even if it’s just to giggle in sleep-deprived delirium together. 🙂

 

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