In this post, I share a detailed guide on the Ferber sleep training method including what the method is about, the safety of the method, pros, cons, timing, when to start, when to stop, how long to use it, the chart, and day-by-day guide for a full week – 7 days. Read further to learn more.
We have more guides on sleep training, sleeping gear, and essentials of baby and toddler sleep here including the 5Ss and courses such as Sleep Sense and Taking Cara Babies.
What is Ferber sleep training?
The Ferber sleep training method is a technique that teaches babies to self-soothe to sleep without their parents’ intervention. The Ferber sleep training method, also known as the graduated extinction, teaches babies to sleep independently through a series of training sessions where parents leave their kids alone for strict time intervals, ignoring any of the baby’s cries or protests. The Ferber sleep training program works because babies become more receptive to their sleep patterns and minimize the usual resistance to sleep when they slowly accept that their parents will not help them.
Richard Ferber, a pediatrician and the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston is the founder of the Ferber sleep training method. Richard Ferber popularized the baby sleep training method in his best-selling song of 1985 called ‘Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems’ when he detailed the technique. Today, the Ferber sleep training method is used by many parents struggling to get their babies to sleep with minimal resistance.
This post provides a sufficient guide for you who is preparing to sleep train your child, or you who wish to try a different sleep training strategy from the one you are using currently. The Ferber sleep training method could be the one that is most effective with your kiddo!
How Long Does the Ferber Sleep Training Take?
Richard Ferber, the founder of the training program, suggests that the Ferber sleep training takes about 7 days. Dr. Richard Ferber, through his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, recommends 4 check-in times each day of sleep training. The first day has the shortest check-in intervals and the 7th day has the longest check-in intervals with the assumption that your baby becomes better at sleeping on their own with each passing day.
Below is a Snapshot of the Ferber sleep training method that shows the average duration of sleep training and the appropriate check-in periods.
Source: Dr. Richard Ferber, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
However, do not despair if it takes more than a week for your baby to learn to sleep or fall back to sleep independently. All babies are different. Some kids may learn to sleep on their own in less than 7 days, and others take up to 3 weeks. Just don’t give up easily. If the Ferber sleep training with your child, you can always try other methods.
How to Ferber Sleep Training
Ferber sleep training is simple and straightforward. Just follow the steps below.
- Put your baby in their crib after your bedtime routine. The baby should be drowsy but awake.
- Tell your child goodnight and leave the room.
- Check-in on the baby only at the intervals outlined in the Ferber sleeping training chart even when the child cries. Comfort them briefly if still crying by talking soothing voices or patting them gently. Don’t pick them up or feed them.
- Leave the room and repeat the recommended check-in routine until the baby falls asleep.
Sleep training with any method can be frustrating, especially when a baby is used to mummy or papa soothing to sleep. Tips come in handy in facilitating the success of sleep training.
Ferber sleep training method tips
- Start sleep training when everything else is relatively calm. Being smart with your sleep training start time can make a big difference between the ease or hardness of sleep training. Do not start sleep training your baby when they are sick, teething, when on vacation, or during holidays because of schedule disruptions.
- Do not feed her during sleep time. Make sure your baby is well fed before sleep time to avoid soothing with weaning during sleep training. Your baby will become reliant on feeding to sleep, which is not the goal.
- Have a bedtime routine and adhere to it. Establish a bedtime routine for your child that has soothing activities to wind the baby down for the night. A bath, reading a book, and snuggles are effective soothing activities. Just ensure that your baby is drowsy but awake when putting them in their crib.
- Know your baby’s sleepy cues. Understanding your baby’s sleepy cues such as fussiness and yawning allows you to put your baby in their crib before they become cranky and harder for them to self-soothe to sleep.
- Always use the crib for bedtime and naps. Sticking to the crib makes it easier for your baby to sleep because they identify the crib with sleeping.
- Be consistent. Stick to the sleep training routine no matter how hard and frustrating it seems. Consistency will quicken the sleep and the training.
Is Ferber Sleep Training Safe?
The Ferber sleep training is safe for your baby and scientific studies support the use of controlled crying sleep training methods. A 2018 study on infant sleep training concluded that sleep-controlled crying methods improved sleep among children with no adverse effects reported in a 5-year follow-up.
Learn more about the 2018 scientific study that supports controlled crying sleep training methods here.
Ferber sleep training age/ Timing for Ferber sleep training, can 3-month old do it?
The best Ferber sleep training age is between 3 to 4 months. So, yes, you can use the Ferber method to train your 3 months baby. Dr. Ferber explains that the Ferber method is unsuitable for newborns because they are unlikely to sleep through the night and it is ignorant to think that that can soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up at night.
Tip. Use the Ferber method only when your baby can sleep on their own, which mostly occurs at age 6 when they develop the circadian rhythm.
Richard Ferber Sleep Training Book
Richard Ferber’s sleep training book is titled, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem.’ The book, as the title suggests, provides safe and sound ideas for aiding your child to fly and stay asleep at night and perform well during the daytime.
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems informs the often anxious, frustrated, and overtired parents about the nature of sleep and the development of normal sleep and body rhythms during childhood. The book discusses the causes of many sleep problems in children (from birth to adolescence) and recommends different proven solutions for each sleep problem to allow you the parent to choose the best solution for your child.
The topics the book discusses in detail include sleeping difficulties, nighttime wakings, sleep schedule abnormalities, effective strategies for naps, sleep terrors, sleepwalking, sleep apnea, bed-wetting, headbanging, and narcolepsy.
Richard Ferber Sleep training book is available here on Amazon.
How Ferber sleep method for babies is different
Ferber method is a modification of the cry it out technique. The CIO method requires you to let your child cry themselves to sleep without checking on them or soothing them no matter how much they cry and is different from other sleep training methods such as Sleep Sense.
The Ferber sleep method for babies is different from other cry it out (CIO) methods because it requires the parent to check your baby at stipulated intervals and comfort them if they are crying.
The CIO method is likely to leave you and your child more tired and frustrated because their prolonged crying distresses you and the child is likely to take longer to sleep.
The video below compares the Cry-it-out sleep training method and the Ferber method.
Ferber Method Sleep training Chart
The Ferber Method Sleep training chart provides you a summary of the step-by-step guide of sleep training your baby using the Ferber Method.
Below is another look at the Ferber Method Sleep training chart.
Image: The Bump
How to do Ferber for Naps
Using the Ferber method for naps is similar to sleep training for sleep during the time. The only difference is that you stop the sleep training after 30 minutes of trying the self-soothing technique without success because naps are usually short.
- Ensure that your nap sleep training time is not near the scheduled sleep time to avoid night sleep training or sleep.
- Always sleep, train your baby for naps in their crib to prevent by creating familiarity.
- Create a nap schedule to promote consistency, the key to successful sleep training
- Keep your baby active between naps to promote quick sleeping when you put them in the crib for the nap.
- Keep your baby’s napping environment to stimulate sleep during the day.
Ferber Sleep Training guide – Day by Day Guide
Dr. Richard Ferber provides a 7-day guide of the Ferber method in his best-selling book, Solving Your Baby’s Sleep Problems.
- First check-in after 3 minutes
- Second check-in after 5 minutes
- Third check-in after 10 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after 10 minutes
- First check-in after 5 minutes
- Second check-in after 10 minutes
- Third check-in after 12 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after 12 minutes
- First check-in after: 10 minutes
- Second check-in after: 12 minutes
- Third check-in after: 15 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after: 15 minutes
- First check-in after: 12 minutes
- Second check in-after: 15 minutes
- Third check-in after: 17 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after: 17 minutes
- First check-in after: 15 minutes
- Second check-in after: 17 minutes
- Third check-in after: 20 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after: 20 minutes
- First check-in after: 17 minutes
- Second check-in after: 20 minutes
- Third check-in after: 25 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after: 25 minutes
- First check-in after: 20 minutes
- Second check-in after: 25 minutes
- Third check-in after: 30 minutes
- Subsequent check-in after: 30 minutes
How to Sleep Train Cry It Out (CIO)
Cry-it-out (CIO) method, also known as the total extinction technique, is a traditional and rigid method of sleep training that requires you to allow them to cry themselves to sleep without you soothing them no matter how long it takes. The CIO method also forbids you from touching your child back to sleep when they wake up at night.
Below are steps explaining how to sleep train Cry It Out:
- Develop a nighttime routine. A predictable nighttime routine allows your baby to get cues that it sleeps and start relaxing for bedtime. The bedtime routine should include activities such as taking a bath, playing soft music, reading a bedtime storybook, dimming the lights in your home.
- Put your baby in their crib when awake. Ensure your child’s safety by not swaddling the baby as they could fall dangerously and remove all stuffed animals and pillows to alleviate SIDS.
- Get out of your baby’s sleeping room but watch from afar. The idea of the Cry-It-Out method is letting your baby sleep on their own without you comforting them. However, you should still check on your child using a baby monitor to make sure they are safe. Never go back to the baby’s room no matter how much they cry (but I suppose crying for over 60 minutes is too long) and the distress it gives you.
- Practice consistency. The Cry-It-Out method, just like any other sleep training technique, requires consistency to actually work. Stick to your established nighttime routine and keep practicing the CIO the same way. Your baby will finally get a hang of her sleeping schedule and learn how to fall asleep or fall back to sleep on its own.
Crying-It-Out sleep training super tip
Ensure that your baby is not sick, teething, hungry, has a wet diaper, or the room is not too hot or too cold to promote the success of sleep training using CIO.
Ferber Method sleep in the same room, time intervals?
You can sleep train your child using the Ferber method even when you share a room with them or with a sibling.
While co-parenting makes sleep training more challenging, below are tips to sleep train using the Ferber method when sharing a room.
- Consider moving out of your room temporarily to develop the baby’s self-soothing skills to sleep.
- Use a divider between your bed and the baby’s crib to prevent the baby from seeing you if you decide not to move out of the shared sleeping area.
- Use white noise to prevent your baby from hearing any little noise you make and to prevent you from hearing any little noise your baby makes.
- Stay consistent with established sleep training routines.
Ferber Sleep Training Method Pros and Cons
Every technique of sleep training has its pros and cons.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of the Ferber sleep training method.
- It is a fast method of sleep training.
- Babies who complete the Ferber sleep training are likely to sleep on their own within 10 minutes
- Children who complete the Ferber sleep training are less likely to have bedtime tantrums
- Children who complete the sleep training are more likely to soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up at night.
- Babies who complete the Ferber sleep training have better daytime behaviors because they get sufficient sleep at night.
- Parents who complete the Ferber sleep training have reduced stress and tiredness levels because of sufficient sleep, bettering their interventions with their babies.
- The Ferber method is stressful for parents and babies because of the distress associated with crying
- The Ferber method is unsuitable for children who are afraid of being left alone.
Video Guide on Ferber Method
Ferber Sleep Training Success Story
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Sandra W. Bullock is a grand-mom to two boys and is part of the review board here at Motherhoodhq.com. She is responsible for the quality control of content and is among our most experienced moms. She has over 20 years of writing parenting content online focussing on baby safety indoors and outdoors. She has written widely on babyproofing nurseries and homes for infants and toddlers and published work on privacy and the safety of baby monitors. She is a renowned advocate for non-wifi baby monitors that cannot be hacked and spends a lot of time educating parents on how to secure their homes – including ways to secure the baby from harm in and around homes. Sandra is a native of Atlanta where she also works. She can be reached using her email, Sandra.w(at)motherhoodhq.com