Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ferber Method Reviewed

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Filed under Baby Sleep

ferber method

Dr. Ferber's sleep training strategy teaches babies to soothe themselves to sleep

The Ferber Method is a sleep training strategy designed by renowned sleep doctor Richard Ferber, which puts the work on baby to fall asleep on his own. 

It teaches parents to put baby to bed when he’s sleepy but not yet asleep, and to give him some time to calm himself before going in to comfort him.

Ferber encourages this self-soothing method to begin at around 4-6 months of age. 

The key points of the method are a loving pre-bedtime routine, putting the child to bed while he’s awake, and leaving him to soothe himself for long stretches of time, broken up by check-ins.

Pros of the Ferber Method

• It puts the work on baby – caregivers go in to check on baby only after a set amount of time spent fussing.  Baby quickly learns to calm himself.

• Results are fast, usually within a few days

• Babies get a combination of learning to soothe themselves and knowing that a caregiver is nearby and attending to them

Cons of the Ferber Method

• This method is hard, as it requires caregivers to ignore baby’s cries for stretches of time

• Opponents say it is too harsh and teaches children that they are alone in the world

To learn more, read Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. If Ferberizing seems too harsh for you and your family, and you’re looking for more gentle strategies to help calm your baby and teach him to sleep through the night, please check out ParentingHQ’s brand new book: Baby Sleep Secrets.

Inside, you’ll discover 22 simple sleep training techniques that are guaranteed to have your baby sleeping through the night, without using harsh cry it out methods. You can also download our free “7 Minute Baby Sleep Solution”  report here.

Comments

40 Responses to “Ferber Method Reviewed”
  1. sally says:

    I am the mother of 4. The Ferber method was recommended by my Ped for the first child, worked wonders, he is now 12 and he still wakes a night but is very well equipped to go back to sleep. As a pre-teen he gets 9 + hours of sleep per night and is a well balanced healthy child. I also have an infant and she has been “ferberized” quite painlessly and is a very scheduled sleeper. The stress of “cry it out” is with the parent. It is my job as a parent to develop healthy habits and a rigid routine sleep schedule is my responsibility. The earlier the rigid schedule is introduced,the less “crying out” occurs.

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  2. My 4.5 month old was sleeping through the night until a few weeks ago. Now she is waking up numerous times during the night and nothing is helping. I read a bunch of rave reviews on the Ferber method but I’m a little skeptical, as I’m not a big fan of listening to my child cry. Any experiences?

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    blw Reply:

    My son just turned 4 mos and is havin the same problem. He was sleepin thru the just up to eat once and now he wakes up to eat goes bak to sleep but wakes up a few times after that.

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  3. linz says:

    I wasn’t able to let my son cry it out, until last night. He was up crying all night and would not calm himself without breast! I thought to myself this is not a good habit for my son. He needs to learn to sooth himself. So this morning we were awake still until he got sleepy, I fed him and then put him in his crib sleepy with calming music. He cried for an hour, this was quite painful for me….but I pushed on with some headphones on, checked and finally for the first time……….Sleeping on his own, very proud of him and myself. My father always told me, if you can’t decide the route to take in life, and there are two paths, the one that hurts the most now is usually the best in the long run, because it is usually hardest to do the right thing. I believe it hurts first, before we grow…keep on keeping on

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    tuckersmom Reply:

    I just wanted to say thank you! I read your reply and reality set in. How can I expect Tucker to change if I don’t change something! I loved reading what your father once told you. It is so right. My 7 month old was a sleeper. 12 hours a night. Then we went on vacation and disrupted the routine and he is up once, which isn’t bad, except I let him fall asleep in my arms (as not to wake up my 7 year old who has to get up for school and my husband who has to go to work) and then as I am laying him down in his crib he wakes up and will not go back to sleep. So that once time of waking up ends up being 2 hours of fighting sleep! But for his nap time today I put him in his crib still awake and let him cry for a little bit. He cried, but did fall asleep. Thank you!

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    Zennysmom Reply:

    I have to say thanks to you with you quoting what your father told you. It strengthens me to help Zenny with his sleep problem, I was weak n only do the Ferber method partially, ends up he is repeating himself to the same problem.
    I will start the training again and this time I know what I have to do.

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  4. Sabrina says:

    Sherman, it sounds like your situation is a lot like mine. After sleeping through the night quite well for 4 months, my baby boy suddenly started waking several times a night. I know I wasn’t helping the problem by nursing him during these night wakings, but it was the only thing that settled him down. This night-waking routine lasted for two months, and I was at the end of my rope. I read about several different methods, and decided to try Ferber. I urge you to actually buy the book and read it first. He outlines his method in detail. We are only on day two, and I already see a difference! I would highly recommend his book. Good luck!

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  5. Adrian says:

    My daughter is 18 months old. She still wakes at night and wants to be held and given some warm milk…This is my fault for this routein. I just could not let her cry when she was so young. now that she is older I am ready to let her learn to self soothe. I have heard you let them cry for a couple min at a time. Can any one give me the cliff notes or tips of what to do? I am a full time working student with two kids and a husband that works two jobs so he is not home to really help. I dont have any spare time to read the book but am at my wits end. I can not go on like this any more.

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  6. Shelby D says:

    Now I’m worried, my 7 week old has slept well through the night since week 1 or so… Is it common for babies to sleep well in the beginning of life and then have trouble later?

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  7. marie says:

    Hi, I was reading the other comments and I feel very identified. My daughter was a very good sleeper until she was +- 3 month 1/2. Suddenly she started to wake up at night. I thought it might be theething…. so I just breasfed her until she fell asleep. That was about a month ago and now I am on my way to the pediatrician so he gives me the Ok to start the Ferber method. I really think that it is what will help me becuase I tried many other things and none of them have shown a single improvement. Wish me luck!!! I will let you know how it went

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  8. Rick Hupp says:

    These ideas fly in the face of the modern attachment research that has emerged in the last 15 years. (Bowlby, Schore, Porges, Siegel and the psychobiological considerations of child rearing, Dr. Sears) There is a reason an infant cries, and according to both animal and human research, bids for attention should be responded to just as urgently as one would respond to a baby’s need for food, shelter, and hygiene. Anyone considering this method could quickly see how the research proves how potential devastating Dr. Ferber’s neglectful approach could be. It is now proven how important eye contact, skin contact, and soothing is to wiring up the brain (amygdala and other primal centers) in the early stages of development. A child that is denied a response to his/her crying will have their fear center wired to consider the world as non-responsive, that they are not safe, and will have a high probability of becoming avoidantly attached in all future relationships and prone to addictions. Look up the terms “failure to thrive” and other connected research articles to realize how just important the “social nutrient” is to infants prior to considering Ferber’s recommendations.

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    Tracy Reply:

    Are you presenting this from experience? Do you have children? Parents can tell the difference between a ‘real’ cry of pain, sadness, anger, hunger, etc, even in an infant. The fact that this ‘modern attachment research’ is called ‘attachment’ is for a reason. It ‘attaches’ the child to it’s parent. All day long the child feels love and affection from the parent. Every whine and cry can’t be responded to the same way. People who demand feed their child teach their child that anytime they cry they need to eat. There are strong indicators that attachment parenting has largely contributed to obesity in children by training children to eat when they are under stress.
    “Failure to thrive” is about denying a child what it needs to live and causing it to fail due to neglect. Ignoring a whine or frustrated cry for short periods of time at bedtime and nap times for a week or two is not going to send a child down a spiral. Waking hours are for showing love and feeding, comforting, playing, etc. Sleep time is for sleep.
    I can go into great detail about the myriad of problems with attachment parenting (including, but not limited to, co-sleeping, brain development issues from broken sleep patterns and lack of multi-cycle REM sleep, marital struggles from alienation of affection, co-dependency in older children, inability of older children (2-12years) to be separated from parents for even short periods of time without tremendous distress, etc.). There a numerous books written on the dangers so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. :0)

    With all due respect, the world IS a non-responsive place. There are places where children will not be safe. However, a loving home is not the world. A parent who trains a child that he is only safe and loved if he is with his parent all the time is actually telling the child what you fear. The child becomes nervous, fidgety, and scared to be apart from the parent for any reason. To allow a child to realize that he will be fine to be alone in his bed for a few hours gives him security. He’s not going to feel unloved.

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    Toby Reid Reply:

    Rick,
    Interesting points you make. Do you have any sources to back up the claims you suggest, ie:
    - that a child that is denied a response to his/her crying will have their fear center wired to consider the world as non-responsive
    - that a child that is denied a response will feel not safe
    - that a child that is denied a response will have a high probability of becoming avoidantly attached in all future relationships
    - that a chile that is denied a resonse is prone to addictions.
    It would interesting to learn more about the scientific research and conclusions that back up these claims.
    Or is this merely your opinions?
    Thanks for your help!

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    gostosa Reply:

    Thank you Rick for this post. Seems like it’s the only one of this sort, but makes me feel I’m not the only one who feels exactly the same :)

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    Shula Reply:

    Loved your posting. I read “Becoming Attached” by Robert Karen — fascinating intro to these researchers. I felt validated! Now I am just exhausted, but I still can’t bring myself to walk away from a crying baby, who’s just had pneumonia… Pediatricians who recommend Ferber seem to forget a parent’s natural instincts. I clearly have a lot of thinking to do. And sleeping. Definitely sleeping! Thanks again.

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  9. Jessica says:

    Linz – I absolutely love the advice you said your father always told you. It’s so true. We have to start this tonight with my 9 month old son and am really not looking forward to it. So I’m going to have to keep that advice in my head while doing this tonight. Thank you.

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  10. Ames says:

    Linz,
    It says above that the Ferber method teaches your child that you are closeby and attending to them. I hardly think leaving your baby alone for an hour to cry is what Dr. Ferber had in mind.

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  11. Vin says:

    Linz,

    What you did was NOT Ferberizing! The Ferber method works in intervals, beginning with 5 minutes long, to teach your child new associations with falling asleep.

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  12. zakia says:

    My baby is 7 months , when he was 5 months i applyed The Ferber Method for him to sleep, the first day cryed for 3 hours , then the days after started less hours cry, but my problem now , my baby is crying every time before sleeping(for nap or night)it became habit for him to cry for 10 minutes , i am really stressed i tryed evry things for him , some time i am out for walk he will cry for 10 minutes or more before sleeping in baggy , please i need your help ?

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  13. Teresa says:

    I have a 21 month old who has been sleeping 9+ hours since he was 3.5months old.
    When he went to his own room at 6mo, it’s silly to say we used ferber method because
    He slept but did have a few cry it out nights. I now have a 7mo old who is quite the
    Opposite. He will still only sleep 4-5 hour stretches. When he wakes he’ll fall asleep while being
    Held but wakes screaming the minute he touches the bed. He is still being fed a bottle during the night My ped suggested Ferber and it’s killing me hearing my baby cry/scream foe over an hour. It seems like if I try to console him it just makes things worse. Any suggestions??

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  14. Annee says:

    I had exactly the same experience as Sabrina – baby sleeping through at 4 months then waking several times during the night. I too would highly recommend the Ferber Method because I used it successfully with both my children, now aged 10 and 12. The crying it out is well managed by the method and I reduced this period further by using a time limit that I could manage. Beginning with two minutes before returning and reasuring him, working up to leaving him to cry for no longer than 5 minutes max. Within two nights both my children were able to sleep through the night. Using the method gave me back my evenings and sleep time so I was no longer exhausted all the time and could be a better parent.

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  15. Angela says:

    My daughter is 5 months old and had never slept through the night. She is a wonderful child other than the sleeping issue. I finally decided I could not deal with being sleep deprived any more. Sometimes she would wake up as many as 5 times a night, about every 2-3 hours. We tried the Ferber method and oh my god it worked!! And it wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be. I highly recommend reading the book because it helps explain a lot of stuff about sleep and why it is so important. It helped me feel less guilty about letting my baby cry for a bit (which she didn’t even do much of)! The first night, she cried for about 10 minutes, the second night about 5 minutes and by the third night she only made a couple of sounds in her crib, not even crying and I didn’t have to even get out of bed. She slept 12 hours that night! I put her down at 7pm and she woke at about 6:30 am. I feel like my old self now that I am sleeping!!!

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  16. Ashley says:

    My husband and I used the Ferber method starting around 6 months old. We set a limit of 20 min. for crying. If at that time she was still crying, we would go in and soothe her. Within a few days, she was sleeping from 7:30-7:30. She would still wake around 11-12 and would cry. If she was crying after 5 min. we would soothe her. We maintain an evening routine of dinner, bath, a few books and then we put her into her crib after hugs and kisses. She likes her glow worm and violet dog that play bedtime music. She naps for 1.5-2 hrs. every day at the age of 23 months. It is hard to listen to your child crying. You have to listen to the cry…you can tell a panicked cry from a mad one. It’s o.k. for baby to be mad, but you should soothe if you feel your child is scared. It is important for children to learn to soothe themselves as well. Being consistent with a bedtime routine and setting comfortable limits will insure everyone gets enough sleep.

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  17. kimberly says:

    If the child is 22 months old and sleeping in a Dora toddler bed from Toys R Us, is it still considered the Ferber Method? We try putting her in bed around the same time every night (8:30 or 9 pm) while she’s sleepy and have to read the same 5 or 10 books multiple times until she falls asleep. But this can go on for 20 minutes to 1.5 hours! Sure it’s easier to let her stay up longer but I don’t want to make a habit of that for her/our sake. Her room is basically a safe space with the exceptions of a few things that I will remove today now that she’s figured out climbing. I really want to try and let her cry it out. But at this age she knows how to stall by asking for things, and her tantrums are more physical i.e. throwing her self on the ground, sitting on her knees in bed and then falling backwards with the risk of hitting her head on the wall or falling over the one side (we have pillow on the floor). She slept great in her crib until 18 months when she jumped/fell out and we changed her to the toddler bed. As a result, we sleep less now than we did when she was a baby. She naps for about 2 hrs. between 1 – 4 pm everyday in her toddler bed and it can be quite a process, but not nearly as tough as the night time routine. Thoughts? Suggestions? Experiences?

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  18. Mn.. First time mom says:

    Infants do not cry only for hunger. They need emotional satisfaction as well. Why do we produce breastmilk? To nurture our babies. If nature ha intended otherwise we would have evolved differently. Every post that i have read talks about the difficulty parents have with the ferber method. Ever occured to you that the reason for this is that we are intstinctively wired to respond to our infant’s cries,that is what causes the distress. But as adults we try to work through it, to somehow get our lives back to our comfort zone, “before the baby”. Having a child means some sacrifice from our end whehr it is sleep or me time. Please do not ferberize your children. Once they are emotionally satisfied, they will behave better and sleep better on their own. Let them be babies , love them, do not hold back. This does not last long.

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  19. JGL says:

    As a psychologist with a child of my own, I cannot understand why anyone would allow their child to “cry it out” or “self-soothe.” It goes against the laws of nature. Human babies are one of the few species that cannot protect themselves at birth. They are completely reliant on their mothers/caregivers to survive – and they are primally aware of this fact. At birth only a small portion of the brain is fully developed (a baby’s brain is 85% developed at 2 years and 95% at 10 years). The part that is developed is the “reptilian brain” where the flight/ fight instinct resides. The Frontal Lobe – where rational thought is found – does not start developing til much later. Asking a child to “self-soothe” requires rational thought. All you are conditioning your child to understand is that you cannot be trusted to take care of their needs. The effects may not come out until adulthood, but the “core” insecurity is there from infancy. I co-slept with my child and he is a very secure kid (11years). Although “all boy” starting in kindergarten his teachers were amazed at his decision-making ability when it came to his peers. Although well liked and popular, when other kids were misbehaving he would simply remove himself from the situation on his own – to this day he could care less about peer pressure and is very confident doing his own thing if what his peers are doing seems unsafe or not something he enjoys. He is highly emotionally intelligent and able to talk about his feelings, knows how emotions feel in his body and is able to express himself. He is so confident, that he can make new friends wherever he goes and in his words he says, “all it takes is a minute to make a new friend.” I look at my friends kids who were taught to “self soothe” and they are often insecure, whiney, clingy, more attached to their peers then to their own sense of self. Please, if you are reading this before trying the Feber method, do some additional research on brain development…

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    PVV Reply:

    Until what age did your child sleep with you? our daughter is 22 months very very stronged willed and wouldn’t sleep in her own room last night with her Mother. She knew it wasn’t our masterbedroom and became hysterical until we brought back on the living room coach to calm her down…we later went back to her room and when she woke up she became hysterical again? I love having my daughter in our master bedroom but my fear is that she won’t be able to sleep on her own when she turn 3, 4 and 5 ect. I hear of horror stories where kids can’t sleep in their own room at age 4? Even heard of a kid at age 9 who wasn’t able to. Thanks for sharing any advice

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  20. Nicki says:

    It took 7 min….. checked on him after 3 sucking his hand within the next 5 min waiting period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Woo hoo for Bryce 5 months old!!! happy sleeping mom and dad!!!!!!!!!!

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  21. Megan says:

    I believe in “tuff love”, but my goodness. Letting your child cry for 1-3 hours? That is a bit ridiculous. This method suggests going in at intervals and soothing the child so that they know you are still there…not just laying them down and letting them cry for an hour.

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  22. Karmela says:

    My daughter has slept through the night (swaddled) since the first month. Once she turned 6 months I stopped swaddling her and she started waking up in the middle of the night and having a very hard time going to bed.
    I could try to swaddle her again, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea since she needs learn how to sooth herself. I tried letting her cry last night and checked on her every 15 minutes. When I put my hand on her cheek, she would stop crying. She would hold my hand close to her face and close her eyes like she was so happy that I was there to protect her. I don’t want her to think I’m not there for her. What should I do?

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  23. nate says:

    Yes, the ferber method does not mean let your child cry for hours until it falls asleep. It’s letting them cry for 1 minute before consoling them. Then waiting 2 minutes next time before consoling, then 3 minutes, etc. Max should be 5 to 10 minutes tops. Never an hour or more! that’s just torture… Plus Rick Hupp’s is correct… Their have been many new studies that suggest letting your baby cry in this manner can be harmful to both it’s future cognitive reasoning and social development.

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  24. Junebuggie says:

    Being a mom with twin boys I found early on that holding and feedings were important for brain development. My boys were always night feeders till 24 months. I went on with one or two hours of sleep for two years. As desperate as I could be I would never stoop so low as to Ferber my twins. They are three now and can fall asleep on their own and I must admit they are very gifted little men. They also know when to express when a stranger or a known adult hurts their feelings. They always run to me when their confidence is challenged buy a rude adult. I also feel confident that they may never be easy pray for a kidnapper or a pedifile.

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  25. Stina says:

    My baby is 11 months and still wakes few times a night, he once cried on and off mainly on for almost two hours? Anyone else experienced crying for so long? He was sick for a couple of weeks and waking every hour and being a single mum was so exhausted from the constant wake ups and let him sleep with me so we could both get some rest.
    Any suggestions?

    Thanks

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  26. Claudia says:

    My husband and I tried the Ferber method on our 3 month old daughter. She will not sleep ever unless she is lying on top of me or is strapped to me in an infant carrier. Obviously this situation is not going to work long term as I cannot carry her around 24/7! Anyhow, the night we tried the Ferber method, she cried at the top of her lungs for 3 hours straight. At that point, with no end in sight, we couldn’t take it anymore and ended up taking her into our bed to sleep as this is the only place she will sleep at night. We are now afraid that the Ferber method will not work for our child and therefore, have not tried again. Has anyone had a baby cry for more than three hours on the first night. Was the method successful? How many nights did it take for the baby to stop trying so long? We are desparate for our baby to sleep. Any advice would be apprciated.

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  27. roxy says:

    my son who is 8 months soon to be 9 just wont sleep in his bed. i am on night one and i just seen results! im amazed. he finally went to sleep in his crib after getting up three times on the 15 minute stage. buy my step sister also said not to try this because it may lead to anxiety in the futureand psychiatric disorders? is that true?”

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  28. My heart hurts when I think of all the precious babies out there whose young parents choose to use the Ferber method. I raised 6 boys and 2 girls, and worked FT. With my first baby I was at home with my grandmother because my husband was in Vietnam. My loving grandmother showed me how to care for an infant. I rocked every one of my children to sleep until they were about 2 1/2. That was the best time of my entire life. When they were older if they woke up scared they were always welcomed into their mom and dad’s room. If a baby cries it is because they need something-if nothing other than the fact they are lonely. babies and toddlers don’t have to figure out how to fall asleep alone. Our children will have the rest of their life to figure things out. In my family, only one daughter chose Ferber and one daughter in law. The rest of my kids have chosen the traditinal method. One older daughter of my daughter in law that used Ferber is now terribly scared of the dark, and has fullfilled that lack of closeness and crying it out with food and is overweight. This same family has another child 14 months old who is out of her crib and in a toddler bed. Her mother puts her into her room numerous times during the day because she is a very fussy child. This child bangs on the door, while she is crying and completely tearing up her room. She is only 14 months old and I wonder what her anger will be like in a couple of years. My daughter used Ferber by her husband’s wish. Now that child is 18 months old and out of his crib in a toddler bed. He is put in his room and the door shut for nap, and he also pounds on the door and crys out bitterly. When I visit them it is all I can do to not call child services for neglect. When I was parenting my children their room was used as a discipline for something wrong they had done-not as punishing them because they need their mom or dad to help go to sleep. Oh , and this child is also overweight. Parents please rock and love your children to sleep, they will be grown and gone before you know it. Before my time mothers put their babies on their back and took them out to the field to be close. My oldest daughter adopted a boy from South Korea and in that country, the parents sleep with their children until they are comfortable to sleep alone. Thank You-Barb

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  29. BuffaloMom says:

    Before criticizing the Ferber Method, or before trying it on your baby, please read the book. Dr. Ferber never says you should let a child “Cry it out”, and has spoken out about this misconception. Progressive waiting (letting a child cry for progressively longer intervals of 20 minutes max) is what he actually suggests for some children. Letting a child cry alone for hours is cruel. Sleep is very important, for both parents and babies, and Ferber’s methods, when used correctly, have helped countless families establish good sleep patterns.

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  30. Kenya says:

    I bought Ferbers book on Friday. I have read the book from front to back! My boyfriend & I are starting tonight!
    My son is 5 1/2 months old. He has been a poor sleeper from the beginning! Last night he had me up 7 times. It used to be 3 or 4 times then I’d pull him in bed with us! Now even allowing him to sleep next to me doesn’t work. I have also noticed a severe change in his attitude during the day! He whines and crys about everything, even if i play with him all day. This has been my breaking point, neither of us sleep at night and we are miserable during the day!

    Wish me luck, he is strong and stubborn like his parents. I hope he doesn’t fight us to much!

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  31. Kris says:

    I have a 3 month old boy who will not fall asleep without his soother. He wakes up 5 plus times a night when his soother is not in his mouth, so we rush in to replace it. I was never a fan of the soother but the hospital was the one who gave it to him in the nursery.I have read Richard Ferbers book front to back and feel like its worth a try. We are going to try the Ferber method and no soother tonight to see how things go. I will post again and let everyone know how things go.

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  32. Kris says:

    So last night was the first night taking his soother away and letting him self soothe. I was very surprised how well he did. He cried on/off for about 25mins……which was much better then I thought. We went in at increasing intervals and just rubbed his belly and let him know we were there. He slept straight from 9:30pm til 4:45am!! After his bottle he fussed for 5mins and went back to sleep. So glad we tried it. I think you will know if your baby is ready for it or not. And if it doesnt work, try again in a few mths.

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