One of the hardest parts of parenting a toddler is teaching him/her to sleep alone in his/her own room. While most parents feel that kids should sleep with either their mother or father until at least 5 or 6 years of age, it is highly recommended that they start early (at least at 3 months) in order to provide their kids with a sense of confidence, independence and security as they grow older!
One of the ‘not so popular’, but very effective methods to sleep train your toddler happens to be the Ferber Method. Also called as Ferberizing, this method of training babies to soothe themselves, was developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, an American paediatrician (guess you probably know how the method got its name now).
According to the Ferber Method of sleep training, parents are urged to ignore their kids’ cries for a predetermined interval of time before responding to the same and providing external comfort. That’s right! You need to stay put when your baby cries out for you and offer comfort only after a few minutes. And with each Ferber session, you need to gradually increase the gap between his/her cries and your reaction to the same.
Now this may seem as a near impossible task, considering the fact that your parental instincts kick into action the moment you hear your little ones’ cries. In fact, the method has received flak from several sleep experts, paediatricians and even parents over the years who feel that this method of sleep training infants is brutal and could possibly lead to emotional scars in the future.
However, the term and its context has been highly misunderstood and sometimes exaggerated by several individuals; the reason for its’ so called low popularity. But believe me, once you come to know about the general facts of the methods (by busting the myths surrounding it) and try it on your little one, you would most definitely come to realise its significance in helping your toddler (and yourself) overcome sleep issues in the long run.
Myths about the Ferber Method busted
Feberizing is the same as Cry It Out Method: Many individuals feel that the Ferber Method of sleep training infants is akin to the Cry It Out Method wherein babies are left alone in their cribs and cry their hearts out before tiring themselves up and going to bed.
In sharp contrast to this popular notion, the Ferber Method actually implies that parents let their children cry only for a stipulated amount of time before offering comfort. The method states that you need to gradually decrease the time you spend in your toddler’s room and should slowly increase the duration of the gap between repeated visits to his/her room.
The Method works for everybody: Some individuals who have tried and tested the method claim that it can work effectively and easily for everyone. However, the truth is far from that. In general, the method is quite hard to adapt, especially for parents who need to control their emotions and stay put when they hear their baby crying. The method does not provide instant results as well. Reports state that it may take anywhere between a week and a few months for your kid to get used to the practise.
Sticking to a particular routine is essential: There may be some truth to this statement which works for any kind of practise or regime that you intend to start. However, the Ferber Method clearly indicates that there are room for compromises in certain situations where letting your child cry his/her head off may not be the best thing to do.
These include situations where in you are traveling, your baby is sick, he/she wakes up in the middle of the night due to a bad dream, and if you have a babysitter at home.
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Don’t give in to your child’s cries even if he/she becomes sick or throws up: This situation is similar to the above scenario wherein your baby tires himself/herself out and then sleeps off. Sometimes, this may not happen and he/she may fall sick, throw up, urinate or go toilet. In these cases, the method recommends that parents should clean up their babies and start the process all over again.
The Right Time to Use the Ferber Method
The best time for parents to employ the Ferber Method would ideally be from 6 months onwards. Babies less than 6 months would find it very hard to go to sleep and so would require their mother’s comfort. Some babies would also need to be breastfed at least twice in the night (within 6 months). Therefore, it is considered better to start the training process after your baby crosses 6 months of age.
Ther is also no standard, fixed time for ‘ferberizing’ your baby. According to Dr. Richard Ferber, parents can start off with 15 minute intervals to check on their babies in case the little ones start crying. It is also advised to start counting the minutes as soon as your baby starts crying and not from the moment you put him/her to bed.
Useful Tips for Parents who wish to adopt the Ferber Method
The first few nights can be very hard for both the parents and the toddler. As parents, you need to think about the process and possible implications if any before deciding to follow it. Accordingly, the practise requires immense discipline, dedication and self control on the parents’ part in order to bear fruitful results.
If you are employing the Ferber Method to sleep train your baby for the first time, here are some essential pointers that would help you during implementation.
Start a regular bedtime routine and stick to it. This way, once his/her bedtime nears, your baby would automatically start feeling sleepy; making it easier for you to put him/her to bed with minimum or no hassles at all. It also pays to keep him/her busy throughout the day. This would make him/her extremely tired at the end of the day.
Before you put your baby to sleep in his/her room, make a routine check of certain important parameters like room temperature, the bed he/she sleeps on, the lights in the room (need to be dim), his/her diaper, and the working condition of baby monitors or video cameras placed in the room.
Stay by his/her side until he/she drifts off to sleep. Leave the room quietly. Now, if and when he/she starts crying, don’t rush to his/her room immediately. Rather, wait for a while (preferably for 5 minutes for the first few nights) before entering his/her room. This phase is called ‘progressive waiting’.
Refrain from picking him/her up. Rather, sit beside his/her bed and pat him/her gently until he/she gradually dozes off again. Leave the room again. If he/she starts crying again, wait for the stipulated amount of time before entering his/her room again. Repeat the same procedure eash night while gradually increasing the time you take to respond to his/her cries. Increase the 5 minute interval to 10, 15 and then 20 minutes depending on your level of comfort with the procedure.
Slowly (and steadily), your child will come to realise that you would not respond to his/her cries and tantrums, and would drift off to sleep on his/her own. And that is when you realise that the Ferber Method actually works in baby training a child to soothe himself/herself off to sleep.
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