How to Use the Ferber Method for Getting Baby to Sleep
The Ferber Method is a sleep technique for infants developed by pediatrician Dr. Richard Ferber that encourages infants to use “self-soothing” techniques to achieve a better night’s sleep. Ferberization is suggested for infants at least 6 months old and has been cited as a highly successful sleep training method for babies that have difficulty sleeping through the night.
Step 1: PROVIDE BABY WITH DAYTIME ACTIVITIES
Ensure that baby’s day is full of fun and exploration so that the infant will indeed be tired at nighttime. Excessive napping during the day can sabotage your efforts for getting baby to bed as they will already be rested. One tactic is to not allow your infant to sleep past 5pm, but the exact time will depend on baby’s wake time, nap schedule, and ideal bedtime.
Step 2: DEVELOP A BEDTIME RITUAL
It’s important that baby can distinguish between daytime (play) and bedtime (sleep). To do this you will need to develop a bedtime ritual that helps the infant calm down and prepare for a good nights sleep. One example of this would be a relaxing bath, story time, and a lullaby followed by goodnight kisses from Mom and Dad. Other popular bedtime rituals include infant massage, lavender scented bubble bath, the playing of a Heartbeat CD, or even listening to a song on a crib mobile. It doesn’t matter which bedtime activities you decide to include, but ensure that the room is dark enough to signal its nighttime, that baby is warm but not too hot, and that the crib is free from any toys that may be distracting.
Step 3: LEAVE BABY IN BED AND LEAVE THE ROOM
At this point you will have completed your planned bedtime rituals and baby is dressed, diaper changed, and ready for bed. Let baby know it is time to sleep and quietly leave the room without hesitation. Your infant may start to cry and become upset, but it is important to leave the room without emotionally reacting to him or her.
Step 4: FOLLOW A “PROGRESSIVE WAITING” SCHEDULE
This final step is critical to success with the Ferber Method and the cornerstone of Dr. Ferber’s sleep training technique. “Progressive waiting” is the practice of progressively waiting longer and longer between comforting the baby at bedtime to encourage the infant to learn how to soothe itself to sleep. For example, on the first night you may wait three minutes before returning to baby’s crib and reassuring him/her and that it is time for sleep. Do not lift the infant out of its crib, but simply comfort the child with pats on the back, stroking of their hair, or giving the baby his pacifier. After briefly comforting the baby, once again leave the room as before. However, instead of waiting only three minutes before re-entering the room, wait five minutes instead. Keep practicing the “progressive waiting” at intervals such as 7 minutes, 9 minutes, and so on until baby falls asleep. The first night will most likely be the hardest, but with time baby will learn to soothe itself to sleep without your intervention.