Cry It Out Method—Ferber Method

image001Richard Ferber, a renowned pediatrician, presented a method of putting children to sleep in this book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.” The book was published in 1985, but undergone revision and expansion in 2006. In this famous book, he introduced a method-- “Cry It Out” or CIO, which most parents often refer to as “Ferberizing.” What’s the theory behind the cry it out method? How can you carry out this method effectively if you want to try it out?

What’s the Cry It Out Method—Ferber Method?

Popular impression about this sleep training is leaving infants alone and let them cry themselves to sleep. Nevertheless, “cry it out” (CIO) is a general term referring to sleep training approaches. According to this training approach, it is okay to leave an infant crying for a certain period of time, usually short time, before receiving comfort from parents.

The Theory Behind It

The underlying theory behind CIO is that falling asleep without assistance is a skill that anyone, even babies, can master. As for babies, mastery is possible as long as they are given the opportunity. An infant or a child who is used to falling asleep while being nursed or cradled will not learn to fall asleep without these routines. This may especially be problematic if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night. The absence of parents may also be a cause for alarm, resulting to their staying awake and cry for you rather than going back to sleep.

In contrast, a baby who can sleep on his own can easily use his skills to go back to sleep at night despite waking up. This approach emphasizes that crying is not the goal, but is regarded as a natural reaction as the baby tries to sleep without aid from parents. The state of being alarmed and crying may seem problematic at first, but will bring more benefits for both parents and children in the long run. Children can sleep on their own 

Notes: Several details must be noted down about CIO like the following:

  • It is not the solution if the baby cannot sleep comfortably due to hunger
  • It is not the practice to follow if the infant is hungry, needs a change, in pain, and others
  • It does not mean locking your baby alone in a room and ignore his cries
  • It is not a parenting replacement

Watch a video to learn tips on sleep schedule (Ferber Method):

How to Carry Out the Cry It Out Method—Ferber Method

Ferber method can be effective, but requires that the baby be prepared physically and emotionally to undergo training. The recommended age is approximately four to six months. However, it would be worthy to note that readiness may vary depending on the baby or child. Simple steps to conduct the training include the following.

Important Notes: How Long to Leave Your Baby Alone

Ferber recommends these time intervals in leaving your child:

  • On the first night, wait for 3 minutes before going back to the room for the first time, then 5 and then 10 minutes.
  • Time interval will start at 5 minutes for the second night and increase to 10 and then 12 minutes.
  • Increase intervals consistently on the next nights.

How to Train Your Baby to Sleep with the Cry It Out Method

Steps

How to Do It

Step 1

Place your sleepy baby in his crib, but make sure he is awake.

Step 2

Say goodnight and leave the room. Let him cry for a specific amount of time. The recommended time duration is noted above.

Step 3

Return to the room, pat your baby for assurance, and leave after two minutes even if he is crying. Do not turn off the light and soothe your baby using quite voice.

Step 4

Stay out for a longer period of time than the first time you left him. You will increase these intervals while limiting the time you stay inside the room throughout the course of training. Reassure with a pat and leave while he’s awake.

Step 5

Continue doing this routine until your child falls asleep.

Step 6

If he wakes up in the middle of the night, do the same routine with the same minimum waiting duration you followed at first and then increase as you continue with the training.

Step 7

Increase the time duration in between your returns to the nursery. Ferber explains that your child will be able to sleep by himself after three or four nights of training. Results may show after several weeks if the child is very anxious when left on his own.

Tips on Cry It Out Method—Ferber Method

Carrying out the Ferber method is quite easy as it is only about setting a routine. However, planning is important to ensure results, regardless of how many weeks it might take for the child to develop his skills. Take note of the following tips to launch your training effectively.

1. Set the Foundation—A Consistent Routine

The core of Ferber method is to develop a good bedtime routine and adhere to it. You can start by shower, reading your child a book, sing a lullaby, and put him to bed. Follow this routine nightly to set your kid’s expectations. Keep everything consistent and it will also be helpful to set a good daytime nap routine.

2. Devise a Solid Plan

Your partner’s participation will be a great help in the training process. Both of you should prepared physically and emotionally before doing your nighttime routines.

Practically speaking, it is best to train your child if both of you are present for the training. It is also recommended to not launch the training if other people will come to visit your house.

As for the emotional aspect, you must discuss the training with your partner to ensure both of you understand its goals and set expectations. You will serve as a support to each other in making the procedure more effective.

3. Stay on Your Plan

Parents who had undergone the training themselves are well aware that consistency is crucial. Stay on plan unless you notice that your child is not emotionally and physically prepared for the Ferber method. Do not give in to your kid if he wakes up early in the morning and cries. Doing this will only ruin the entire plan.

4. Start When Staying Up Is Okay for You

Experts recommend training your child if it is okay for you to stay up for the night since you need to keep track of him. A Friday night will be a good time if you work the entire week.

5. Be Ready for Challenging Nights

As a parent, it might be difficult for you to hear your kid cry. To make sure you will not be tempted to comfort your kid, set your timer and then go in other parts of the house where you will not hear it. The first nights are often difficult, but keep in mind all the benefits to earn in the long run.

6. Ensure Teamwork

While waiting, take the opportunity to enjoy the time with your partner by playing a card or enjoying some activities. In case the cries are intolerable, let your partner do the training while you relax. You can take part on the training once refreshed.

7. Choose a Method Suitable for Your Family

Follow a simpler and less harsh approach that suits your family. Go for more than a week of training by gradually increasing the waiting duration every other night.

What’s New on Ferber Method in the Revised Version of the Book?

The revised “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” book released in 2006 included new noteworthy information on the Ferber method. It clarified some definitions that introduce the approach more clearly.

New Information

Description

Cry it out

Ferber clarified that his approach is not leaving the child crying until he falls asleep, regardless of how long he has been crying for attention. He stresses the concept of “progressive waiting” for parents to comfort their child regularly during the training process.

Sleep sharing

The original release stated Ferber’s strong opposition against sleep sharing. According to him, people sleep better when they are alone in bed and recommend it for training children. The new release, however, showed Ferber’s toned down strictness on the issue.

Naps

Naps were not discussed in the first edition, but the 2006 release has a dedicated chapter for this topic alone.

Updated information

Additional information was added on the new book including sleep requirements for children, sleep apnea, and other vital studies about sleeping that emerged more than 20 years after the first book was published.

More flexible strategy

Ferber’s tone is more relaxed in the new edition compared to the first one and suggests parents to adapt the sleep training approaches based on the situation in their own family.


Opinions of Other Sleep Experts

The term “Ferberizing” puts Ferber as the famous expert who supports CIO-inspired sleep training. Nevertheless, numerous professionals also advocate this strategy like Marc Weissbluth.

Weissbluth, a pediatrician and the author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” does not recommend CIO directly, but considers crying as a vital component in promoting healthy sleep habits for some children.

Jodi Mindell, a sleep expert and authorof “Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents can Get a Good Night’s Sleep”, is regarded as a gentler Ferber. Her bedtime method presents Ferber techniques’ variations.