Jena - posted on 02/03/2009 ( 11 moms have responded )
The common method people refer to as "The Ferber Method" is actually what Dr. Ferber calls the, "Progressive-Waiting Approach" in his book "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems". To really understand and implement the method, I suggest carefully reading the book. The Progressive-Waiting Approach is only one solution for one type of sleep problem discussed in the book. He suggests using that method when your baby or child has inappropriate sleep associations. Meaning- they do not know how to put themselves to sleep and need something to physically put them to sleep. For example, being held, rocked to sleep, white noises, swinging, nursing, bottle feeding, pacifier, etc. If your child relies on any of these things, it may cause your child to depend on these things to put them to sleep. Whether it’s at bed time, middle of the night, or nap time. Dr. Ferber says only to take action if the current habits are causing a sleep disturbance for your child or self. Babies and children need a certain amount of REM and Non-REM sleep, and the book also explains these cycles.
The Progressive Waiting Approach is outlined as a 7-day process. He does say some babies have drastically improved by day 3, some it takes a little longer. He also says that after 7 days, you can add a few min. to the intervals outlined, but if things have not improved or have gotten worse- you should stop the method and re-evaluate. You may have made a wrong "diagnosis" or you may not be carrying out the method properly.
Here are the basics. Its called a "Progressive Waiting Approach"-
Put your baby to sleep no earlier than they can fall asleep. Your baby needs to be tired and able to sleep. If you put your baby to sleep before they are tired/capable of sleep, they will not fall asleep until tired.
Put your baby where you want them to sleep, awake. For us, it is in her own room in her crib. Make sure she is awake so she knows what is going on.
Tell them lovingly and reassuringly good night and then leave their room.
If the baby is crying, you go in to check on the baby. Do not pick up the baby or feed them. Spend 1-
2 minutes at the babies’ crib side patting them and reassuring them, then leave.
You repeat this process at gradually increasing intervals. The point is to teach your baby how to put themselves to sleep. You do the same thing in the middle of the night when the child wakes.
Here is the waiting schedule outlined in the book (You can modify it, if you wish):
Day 1- 3 min, 5 min, 10 min, subsequent- 10 min.
Day 2- 5 min, 10 min, 12 min., 12 min. subsequent
Day 3- 10 min, 12 min, 15 min., 15 min, subsequent
Day 4- 12 min, 15 min, 17 min., 17 min. subsequent
Day 5- 15 min, 17 min, 20 min., 20 min. subsequent
Day 6- 17 min, 20 min, 25 min., 25 min. subsequent
Day 7- 20 min, 25 min, 30 min., 30 min. subsequent
You do not wait longer than the last interval on each day. Though after a few days, you might not even reach the 2nd interval. You do the same exact method at nap time, however if after 30 min. your baby has not fallen asleep or quieted down, end the nap time and do not try again until the next scheduled nap. If your baby falls asleep on their own later, that is ok. The point is to teach your child how to fall asleep on their own.
For us, the first night it took about an hour- yes, 60 min., or varying degrees of crying. We followed the guidelines for checking. She was asleep in one hour and slept through the night. If she would have woke in the middle of the night, we would have started the process with the same intervals. Day 2 we did the same thing, while adding 2 day times naps. She fell asleep after about 20 min. for each nap and 30 min. at night, sleeping through the night again. We continued following the guidelines each night for the 7 days. Most nights she was right around 25-30 min. at bedtime for the 7 days. We continued past the 7 days and have been doing the method for about 3 weeks now. We did have some bad days where it took 40 min. at night. But for the past week now she has not been making one peep when I put her down at night. I put her in her crib awake, she tosses and turns to get comfy, then is quiet, and shortly asleep. She does the same at nap time. She does wake up usually once a night. She makes a little noise for maybe 10 min. then back to sleep on her own, without any checking from me. Her mood is so much better. I feel so happy that she can now put herself to sleep and enjoy sleeping!!
The reason my husband and I read the book and starting the Progressive-Waiting Approach is b/c our daughter had been a good sleeper early on at night. However, she would never take a structured nap. She may fall asleep in her car seat or swing during the day, but never at a regular time. Nights became difficult. We relied on feeding her, and putting her in her swing with white noise playing-all night- until she fell asleep. Well, this began to not work right around 6 months old. Some nights it took several hours to get her to sleep. I would put her in her swing, hold her, feed, and repeat until she finally fell asleep, then I would put her in her crib and sneak out the room. Only to have her wake up and repeat the process over and over. The book gives some really interesting/funny analogies to show you how this feels to a baby. Here’s one- imagine every night you fall asleep in your bed with your pillow...Only to wake up in the middle of the night in a different spot and with no pillow....You begin to learn that this happens every night... You realize that every night you fall asleep in your bed with your pillow and someone sneaks in the middle of the night, moves you and takes your pillow... You then begin resisting sleep. Honestly, when I read that I knew that was exactly what was happening with my daughter! Every night she fells asleep in my arms, with a bottle in her mouth, but woke up in her crib or swing all alone- no me or bottle. Well, she did begin resisting sleep and she was over tired and cranky all day. We took her to her 6 mo. check up, her pediatrician suggested the method. We bought the book and tried the Progressive Waiting Approach that night.
Just some key things to note- All babies, children, adults, have periods of heavier and lighter sleep. All people wake up in the middle of the night. It is a learned habit to me able to put yourself to sleep, and that is one of the goals of the "Ferber Method". It is important to put your baby to sleep so they know where they are and so they are in the same state when they wake up in the morning. The reason each night and each interval in the Progressive Waiting Approach is so that your baby does not get used to short, frequent trips. If they know that eventually you are coming and will be there, they do not get scared. The book also stresses the importance of a routine. Babies and children need to know exactly what is going to happen. They need to now you are there. They also need to learn how to develop healthy sleep associations.
Hope this helps!