The Ferber Method: A Review

As we started our sleep training program, I researched on Pinterest and other places for information. I realized very quickly that sleep training has a lot of controversy surrounding it. The methods are as diverse as the people doing the training, so of course, it seems a daunting task to a new parent. Today I present to you my review of the Ferber method of sleep training.

I decided to review this program for two reasons. First, we bought the book and I read it. Well, most of it. Second, we used this program with Emmeric to fabulous success! You can read about our experience with the Ferber method here.

Today my goal is to give you some basic information about Dr. Richard Ferber’s book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems so that you can decide if it’s worth your purchase. Personally I hate buying new books without reading reviews on them first, and this is true for fiction or nonfiction. I purchased this book and others to decide which method of sleep training would work for my family.

So let’s begin with Dr. Ferber’s book.

Baby Loves Ferber

You probably already know and can name several sleep training methods. There’s the cry-it-out method (CIO), the progressive-waiting approach, the no cry solution, and at least a dozen others. Clearly sleep training challenges the best of parents.

Ferber describes his method as a progressive-waiting approach. This approach is gentler than the CIO but certainly harsher than the no cry methods. In short, Ferber’s method falls somewhere in the middle on the difficulty scale.

One great thing about the book is the chapter on sleep itself. I highly recommend reading that chapter, even just for yourself! Ferber explains the sleep cycle in great detail and shares why our babies struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep. I felt a great deal more sympathetic to Emmeric once I realized how short the sleep cycle is and how difficult it is for babies to put themselves back to sleep.

Ferber himself says parents are tempted to skip straight to the training chapters that apply to their children and ignore the rest of the book. I admit I did that, too. I plan to go back and read more of the chapters that apply to our situation, but I agree it’s important to read the basic information in chapters 1-3.

One thing I like about this book is how broad it is. Ferber covers so many different situations that could arise. He includes chapters on colic, nighttime fears, sleep disorders, bedwetting, and other relevant topics.

Now let’s describe the method for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

Ferber recommends creating a set bedtime routine for your baby or older child. This helps the baby understand that bedtime is here and allows him to wind down. A bedtime routine creates a foundation for you to build on as you help your child learn to put himself to sleep.

The secret to the progressive-waiting approach is just that: you wait for longer and longer periods of time before going to reassure your child and comfort him. You might start with a 3 minute wait and work up to 7 minutes by the end of the night. Ferber recommends three different waiting periods (for example 3, 5, and 7 minutes respectively). If your child continues to cry or scream following the last waiting period, you continue waiting the same amount of time before entering the room (for example, you might wait 7 minutes each time for an hour before your child sleeps).

You must be consistent, though.

Your child takes his cues from you. If you put him down, reassure him you’re right outside the door, and then come in at regular intervals, he learns to trust you and relax enough to fall asleep. If you put him down but come back into the room quickly and pick him up, he learns he just needs to cry long enough to get your attention.

The hard part about this method is the crying. You might also find it difficult to be consistent about doing the method every time you put your child down for bed. If he wakes in the night, you start the method over until he falls back to sleep. When it’s naptime, you do the same thing. Consistency is key here.

Ferber gives examples of different families his method has helped and shares stories of children from birth to 4 or 5 years old. His method works for children of different ages, which I think is great.

I found Ferber’s recommendations for removing sleep associations like pacifiers to be a little much for us at this time, but I now understand why it’s important. Ferber gives a great illustration of what a sleep association is and why kids react negatively when parents try to take away things they have a sleep association with. In fact, he explains it so thoroughly I now really appreciate my own sleep associations!

Long story short: Ferber’s method will work for you if you can handle a little crying knowing that you get to comfort your child at a set time. It will work if you can be consistent about waiting to comfort your child and breaking sleep associations. The progressive-waiting approach can and does work with your commitment to it.

I believe any sleep training method will work if you commit to it, so if the Ferber method isn’t for you, there’s something else that is. Coming up, I’ve got a review of the Sleep Lady’s sleep training approach, which promises minimal tears. Check back later this week to read that review and see if it might work for you!


P.S. If you want to read my other sleep training posts, start here!

Note: This post might contain affiliate links. If you click the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

The Ferber Method: A Review
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