Bedtime is the time when parents have to be the best possible caretakers for their children. Healthy sleep training is, after all, highly important for child development.
This is a time when kids should be able to get their whole night’s sleep and wake up in the morning feeling fresh. It’s a period of peace, rest, comfort, relaxation, calmness and safety.
However, for some, bedtime is a challenge. Indeed, bedtime can often be incredibly stressful for both children and parents.
The common complaint from many parents is that they have to stay up with their child until they fall asleep or risk having them wake up during the night. This is because they have been unsuccessful in putting their child to sleep on their own and want another person in the room with them while they try again to get them to sleep.
Ideally, the parent has to be able to predict what will make their child fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night without disrupting it by waking up in the middle of the night.
Many exhausted parents have trouble finding a consistent bedtime routine to improve their child’s sleep quality. One of the most popular methods of sleep training is the Cry-It-Out Method.
The Cry-It-Out Method is commonly defined as an umbrella term for several techniques used in early-sleep training. Cry-It-Out (CIO) is a form of controlled crying that involves parents leaving a baby alone to cry until they are tired, then picking them up and comforting them.
A form of sleep training that falls under CIO is the Ferber Method. In this article, we will look at what the Ferber Method is and why parents should use it to help put their child to bed at night.
What is the Ferber Method, Really?
The Ferber Method is named after Dr. Richard Ferber, a physician and the author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (1985), a book about child sleeping and behavioral problems.
Dr. Ferber realized that many children had trouble falling asleep at night because they didn’t know how to fall asleep on their own or because they were afraid of being left alone when they were in bed.
As a result, he created a way for children to learn how to fall asleep by themselves while their parents stayed awake in another room until the child fell asleep on his or her own.
The Ferber Method is also considered as a gentler version of Cry-It-Out, as it involves multiple check-ins by the parent throughout the night.
The goal of sleep training using this method is so that children know how to fall asleep on their own, can feel safer and more confident by themselves, and thus be able to fall asleep easily at night.
Since first introduced, it has been widely used by parents around the world as an effective way to encourage consistent sleep in their children without direct parental intervention.
When is it Safe to Start?
The Ferber Method, and most sleep training programs, generally are not suited for freshly newborn babies.
Instead, the suitable age for sleep training methods like the Ferber Method is around 5 to 6 months of age. That is the age when a child develops the ability to self-soothe, and no longer require night weaning or nighttime feeding.
Additionally, parents should pay attention to their children’s anxiety levels. According to Dr. Ferber, “Taking a child who is frightened and has separation anxiety […] and putting him in a dark room by himself may not be the best idea.”
Some babies may need more security, and thus not be suited for any CIO methods. For parents willing to try, though, the Ferber Method may be a good place to start.
How Does It Work?
The goal of this sleep training technique (known also as “graduated extinction”) is to teach children how to get used to falling asleep without direct parental intervention.
The Ferber Method utilizes a nighttime routine that has parents checking in on their babies at set intervals. Usually, the interval time between checkups can be anywhere between 3 to 15 minutes.
The important thing, though, is that parents can only speak calmly to their child and not physically handle them.
This gentle parenting routine means that parents can still help soothe their babies to bed, while also allowing the child to independently learn a natural bedtime.
Additionally, parents can help raise the chances for a restful sleep by setting additional limits and rewards. Examples include not giving your child an extra bedtime story or giving them stickers when they succeed.
According to Dr. Ferber, parents should see an improvement to their child’s bedtime rituals in approximately a week.
Other Benefits of the Ferber Method
Other than helping children achieve restful sleep, parents feel that they have a better chance of bonding with their child if they don’t participate in sleep training.
If parents are to follow the steps of the method without intervention, it is said that they will be also able to increase their child’s self-esteem and reduce their children’s anxiety levels.
The method also does not require any scary verbalizations of displeasure at a child’s behavior, which may make a parent feel guilty for what he or she has done.
This is also why some experts in psychology believe that this method may be more effective in treating night terrors and other types of anxiety disorders than other CIO methods, such as the Weissbluth method, which has parents leaving their children to sleep and not returning until morning.
Of course, whether or not this method works will depend on your children. Finding a sleeping routine for your baby is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, so refer to your pediatrician when needed.
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