10 Questions You Should Probably Ask Yourself Before Committing To The Ferber Method

FURBIESMothers of all stripes have heard about the Ferber Method of sleep training. I even (kind of) used it to sleep train my two younger kids after five years of attachment parenting burnout from my oldest child. But there is still quite a bit of confusion about what the Ferber Method is and how it works — especially for novices.

So grab your cranky infant and a glass of wine (or four) and let’s check our facts.

10. What exactly is the Ferber Method, anyway?

sleepy infant 2

The Ferber Method is a popular style of sleep training for babies that came into fashion in the mid-1980s. It involves teaching your baby to gradually self-soothe by letting him cry for a predetermined amount of time that gets longer each night. While it’s not the most fun way to get your baby to sleep through the night, it’s relatively fast and effective.

(Photo: Lisa Rosario Photography)

9. Well, then what ISN’T the Ferber Method?

what baby 2

The Ferber Method is often confused with the “Cry It Out” technique (CIO) which simply entails leaving your baby to cry until he either falls asleep, vomits, or gets old enough to climb out of the crib and pummel you. The Ferber Method is also not to be confused with the Sears Method which, in my expert opinion* is the exact opposite of CIO.

*The only things I am an expert in are internet snark and craft beers

(Photo:  mirzan)

8. Who was this guy?

dr richard ferber

This wickedly bearded man, my friends, is Doctor Richard Ferber. He is the king of all sleepy babies. OKAY, not really, but he is the former director and founder of the Center of Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston, which is still pretty awesome. Since he published his book detailing the Ferber Method, confidently titled Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems in 1985, he has been known as a controversial leader and expert (the thing I am not) on babies’ sleep habits.

(photo: ChildrensHospital.org)

7. So why is Ferberizing so controversial? 

confused baby

The Ferber Method tends to ruffle a lot of feathers primarily due to its similarities to the CIO method i.e.: “the cry till ya puke technique.” Even when you take the differences into consideration, not everyone is happy. Attachment Parenting fans think that intervals of comfort aren’t enough and that babies should be picked up on demand well into late babyhood.

But if you’re a fan of the Ferber Method you know, ain’t nobody got time for that.

(Photo: Viper12 )

6. When is the best time to begin your journey to Ferberization?

triumphant baby

While some parents swear on starting this process as early as two weeks old, those pesky old experts (you know, like the beardy guy above who wrote the book) recommend waiting until at least six months. This is primarily because there haven’t been enough studies on how sleep training can effect a child’s hormones and what not.  Many experts say that 12 months is the sweet spot to send your baby to sleepy boot camp, but the exact age you start is up to you and your family’s needs.

(Photo: Sharizah)

5. So really, this will probably scar your baby for life, right?

baby say whut

Considering the generations of babies raised on the more extreme version of this technique (CIO) and how they aren’t a bunch of heartless, psychotic nutsos (no, your MIL doesn’t count). I would venture to say no, it’s not gonna scar our kid for life to let them cry for 15 minutes.

(Photo:  sentinellaphotos)

4. Can every baby be Ferberized? 

sleepy baby is sleepy

In a word? No. Just like not every baby can be tamed into sleepy submission through CIO, the Sears Method or any other technique. Some babies love strained peas while many babies (read: my babies) hate any food that doesn’t come in nugget form (for reals, I can even feed them spinach if it’s shaped like a dino nugget). Obviously not every technique is going to work for every child, but it’s worth a look if you’re comfortable with it.

(Photo:  Bjørn Giesenbauer)

3. So, there must be some unreasonable backlash movement, right?

no crying babies EVER

Is Richard Ferber’s beard luscious and white? Of course! There are plenty of people who think a baby shouldn’t be left alone to cry for even a minute. Most of those people can be found frantically posting on attachment parenting websites at three a.m. or drinking at noon (I would know). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and this is doubly true when it comes to parenting.

(Photo: getoutofthisplace)

2. So what is the biggest drawback of the Ferber Method?

crankiest baby

There is the most obvious con: it’s damn hard to listen to your baby cry for 15-20 minutes at a clip. Does anymore remember that special limited-commercial episode of “Mad About You” where Paul and Jamie are sleep training their baby? It was called “The Conversation” and it sparked a national debate on the moral and psychological ramifications of ferberizing and sleep training in general. But it was excruciating! That is what ferberizing is like.

(Photo:  ms.ellemvee)

1. Is it worth it?

happily sleeping baby

There is obviously no “fact” here, nor is there a right or wrong answer. The Ferber Method isn’t every everyone. But it worked well for my family, and it’s worked well for countless others (from what I can tell from the internet, which we all know never lies).

(Photo:  ClatieK)

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