Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ferber method

(Today's post is about children/parenting.  If that's something you don't wish to read about today, feel free to click away.  Hope to see you again soon.)

I wrote here about the troubles we've had with MJ waking up at night for the past few weeks.  At our boys' 9-month well-check today, our (very experienced, well-respected) pediatrician strongly suggested that the best way to address this would be the Ferber method.  (If you don't know what the Ferber method is, wikipedia provides an explanation here.)  He assures us that a recent longitudinal study found no detrimental effect on mental or physical health in 12-year-olds whose parents had employed a "cry it out" method of sleep training.

I want to get honest input from moms who've had difficulty getting babies over 6 months of age to sleep through the night.  Did you use the Ferber method?  If not, what method did you use, if any? 

I do believe that sleep is very important to infants' growth and development.  I also know that it's not healthy for me to be constantly sleep-deprived. . . but I would never put my own needs before my boys' needs, even if it meant losing sleep.

I don't wish to influence the comments I'll get, so I will simply say that, in our household, one of us is in favor of the Ferber method and the other is not fully on board and let you figure out who is who.  :-)

Thank you in advance for your input!


  1. I don't know if we've had difficulty or not. Gwen still wakes up 1-3 times per night because she's lost her pacifier and/or gotten into an awkward position (the latter happened quite a bit during the week or two before she figured out crawling, and during that period she was up every 2 hours or so); but all she requires from me is putting the pacifier back in and pulling her back into a more comfortable position, and then she goes right back to sleep. I do this without turning any lights on; I use the light from my phone to help me find the pacifier and replace it. She then goes back to sleep without a peep.

    In the mornings, she's still waking up between 5:30 and 7:30 needing a bottle. Sometimes she'll eat and then go right back to sleep if I put her back in the bed, sometimes not, and there's no clear rhyme or reason that I've been able to find, so some mornings I simply struggle with the early wake up. (And then some mornings like today, she sleeps from 19:00-7:40, waking up only once. Bliss!) Every once in awhile when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she's awake and will cry. Those times I've had no problems with picking her up, sitting and rocking with her for awhile, until she calms down and is ready to go back to sleep.

    I will let her sit in the crib and cry sometimes at naptime, when I know she's tired but she doesn't want to go to sleep. But there's a very clear difference in her "I'm crying because I don't want to take a nap because I'm not tired and I will not go to sleep or stop crying no matter how long you leave me here" cry, and her "I'm overtired and I want to be sleeping but I don't know how to wind down so I'm crying" cry, the latter of which usually only lasts ~5 minutes before she peters out.

  2. Oooh tough question.

    I think you need to look at his overall personality, honestly. Three kids in and we've done various levels of cry-it-out (and I won't pretend like we're done with #3, though he is a good sleeper usually now).

    A is strong-willed and he WOULD cry just to get our attention. Day, night, he was literally looking for attention, and once he had it he'd go back to sleep. We felt ok about letting him cry knowing it was just a power struggle.

    D? D HAD to CIO. The more we picked him up, the worse it got. It started after a surgery and he just had this utter NEED to be alone to sleep, so we ... had to, and hated every minute of it. (But now he wakes up and talks to himself at night, and only cries when he NEEDS us. And he's always BEEN very independent and not wanting attention.)

    N? Well, he's a lot like what you're saying, wakes up and just wants to be held. And that's who he IS, too, during the day. He wants physical reassurance. He sleeps better on nights when he's already had a lot of physical contact, and so he gets a LONG snuggle before bed. He also does better if he falls asleep with NO physical contact (so put down awake and no patting or rubbing). If he wakes up, we give him 10-15 minutes to settle himself (unless it's that loud panic-screaming), and if it goes beyond that I go in to pat him down, and if that's not working he does end up in our bed or on the couch. I will say though it goes in spurts, he'll go 1-2 weeks of needing it and then reverts to sleeping through again.

    So .. that's my long-winded way of saying .. it depends on the baby. Don't do Ferber just because your ped says to do Ferber. Figure out a way that makes you ALL feel comfortable. Not all CIO is created equal, and I think really looking at your child and trying to figure out WHY he's waking and needing to be held will go a long way to helping you decide what to do.

  3. Short version: I am philosophically opposed to CIO, but, yes, have done (am doing it) with my kid and think with some kids/situations it probably is the best thing. Many posts on my blog if you're interested(see SLEEP).

    BUT. Ferberizing does not work, in my experience with both kids. CIO has had moderate success, but if I check on Tiny Boy it just makes him mad and makes the whole process take longer.

  4. Not sure what I would use honestly. My parents used the cry it out method on my brother and I. Unfortunately this wasn't wise for us since we both had stomach issues.

  5. It worked with my daughter, and I was TOTALLY against it from the start. She would cry more and get very upset if we picked her up, so we started out in increments. By the end of a week, she was falling asleep on her own in her crib and sleeping through the night, this was around 7 months or so. She was so used to falling asleep on her own that we went out of town as a family and she slept in her Pack'n'Play like a champ! However, I will agree that it doesn't work on all babies. I hope you find a method that works for you and your family!

  6. We used Ferber "check and console" when our girls were 8 months-ish (wow, amazing how quickly we forget all these little details - I know they were somewhere between 7-9 months). It worked fantastically well, but they both have fairly easy-going temperaments and were not persistent. They fussed but never screamed hysterically. It was the right method for them and I think it is worth a try (but I also think it may not work for every baby and it's okay to change methods after giving one a decent, consistent try for a little while). What we did discover was that it did NOT work when they were in the same room together (one might settle, but the other keep fussing, and when we'd go in for the scheduled and timed "console" period, it actually made the previously quiet one start fussing when she saw us). After a couple days of this, we split them up and put one crib in the office. With them separated, it took about 4 days of check and console in increasingly longer intervals before they were able to settle themselves down on their own, no crying whatsoever. We left them split up for a couple of months and then moved them back into the same room together. They have been rock star sleepers ever since. I hope whatever method you choose works! Good sleep is worth its weight in gold. :)

  7. The sooner you do sleep training, the sooner everyone will get better sleep. I waited until I felt like baby C was ready, but really I was waiting to feel ready to do it. It went much better than expected, and I should have done it sooner (he was one year). However, travel always screws up his sleep so we still to do it from time to time.

    Some babies have serious stamina. Just make sure you and MM make a plan and are on the same page about how long you will let them cry, because it can be hard listening. Good luck!

    Getting caught up... Happy belated anniversary! Awesome on all of your shopping deals! I will message you so we can plan to get together sometime. :)

  8. This article helped us figure out "who" are son was and which of the many sleep methods to try. Hope it helps.

  9. I think you have to know your own comfort level and modify any of the techniques to fit you.
    We did a modified CIO. Basically we did our normal routine (dinner, bath, rocking). We limited our rocking/bouncing to 200 bounces on the yoga ball or 3 minutes in our arms. Once the boys were basically asleep (I know all the books say drowsy yet awake but our boys are pretty scheduled so they would be close to asleep just from that) we put them down. If they woke up we would start the timer and go in after 5 mins. When we went in we didn't make eye contact or smile we just gently picked them up and soothed them until they stopped crying. Once they were not crying we put them right back down. Then if they started crying again we started the timer again and we waited 10 mintues to go in again. We(I) wasn't comfortable letting them cry more than 15 minutes so on the rare occassion they were overtired and wouldn't settle we would just do an additional 15 minutes. CIO might sound mean but healthy sleep habits are so important. The first time we did it I basically stayed up all. The next day the boys realized I meant buisiness so when I put them down for their naps they cried the first 5 mins, I went in to sooth them and they fell asleep during the 10 minutes. We have had to do a couple of refreshers again but they have basically slept through the night since about 4 months. Actually we have been pretty lax lately and are due for a refresher soon. I guess 4 months is young but they had both had long stretches of sleep (even sleeping through the night once or twice just naturally) and when they woke up in the night it wasn't because they were hungry,they didn't even finish their bottle. Basically when they woke up in the middle of the night we just repeated the same CIO method. We even did it when they tried to start waking up at 4:30 instead of 6:30. It is exhausting but worth it. I say that and we are in dire need of a refresher. Generally they sleep 12-13 hours so if once or twice a week they wake up for a quick bottle (usually around 10-11pm) when we are still up it just seems so easy to pop a bottle in and rock them to sleep (bad mommy). I am not going to lie CIO isn't easy but in my opinion it works. You have me motivated so if anyone wakes up tonight I am going to go stick to my guns.
    Good Luck

  10. We did ferber with big W. He was a horrible newborn sleeper, but figured it out at 6 mos. He then slept 7-7 very reliably. Little w is another story. She was an awesome newborn sleeper but went ferral at about three months. We finally did CIO at 6 months because NOTHING would make her happy and her down. We took away paci, swaddling, and put her in the crib. It seemed like torture but she was not sleeping no matter what we did to concloe her. She still wakes at 5 to nurse (which I allow). She also often still cries for two or more hours from 2-4 despite interventions. She cried a long while during the first round of sleep training. She can just really cry. The checks usually make it worse, so ferber may or may not be a good idea depending on the kid. E-mail me if you want to know more details.

  11. LN10 was Ferber-ized at 6 months. Was a GOD send....took 2 days.

  12. both my girls were hard to sleep train. Eventually I did the cry it out when they were 10 or 11 months. Still we would have the occasional wake up till about 16 months.


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