The Ferber Sleep Training Method - How to Implement It

02/19/2017 07:22 am ET Updated Oct 26, 2017

Although the bulk of my business is focused on helping families find their perfect nanny, I do get a lot of questions about sleep training since lots of my NYC nanny agency clients have young babies.

The good news is that I've put together the "cliffs notes" on one of the more popular sleep training methods - The Ferber Sleep Training Method.  As a token of good measure, I've also put together this cool baby sleep chart which you can download below.  For what it's worth though...this is not at all meant to be a comprehensive guide on the Ferber Method...if you want more detail, you should get the book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber.

Here are some quick notes on the Ferber Sleep Training Method (also known as the "Cry it Out Method" or "The CIO Method").

  • Developed by pediatrician Richard Ferber
  • Based on the theory that in order for children to fall asleep by themselves they must learn to soothe themselves first. Self-soothing can only be learned by being left alone to cry for short periods of time and discovering that crying only gets the child a short time of comforting.
  • This method does not include leaving the child in the crib to cry it out until he/she falls asleep. Instead, it is based on gradually increasing the amount of time that the child is allowed to cry between soothing.
  • A child learning to fall asleep and learning how to self-soothe are skills that need to be mastered, as any other skill a child is learning. By learning these skills at bedtime, a child can then be able to implement the skills at nap time or if he/she wakes up during a nap or during the night.

Here are the steps to implement the Ferber Sleep Training Method of getting a baby to sleep:

  1. Create a bedtime routine to follow every night. This can include a bath, a story or whatever activity is calming to the child.  A bedtime routine will begin to teach the child when sleep time is coming.
  1. Put the child to bed while still awake (but sleepy) and then leave the room. Do not sleep in the same room as the child so that the child will feel comforted when the parent returns.
  1. Gradually allow the child to cry for longer periods of time each night before returning to soothe the child. For example, on the first night allow the child to cry for 5 minutes until returning to comfort.  As each night goes by, allow the child to cry for longer periods of time.   This routine is called “progressive waiting.”   
  1. When comforting the child, do not pick him/her up. Instead pat the child on the back, make a “shhh” sound or stroke the child’s back while speaking softly.  Comfort the child for only a minute or two and then leave the room again, even if the child is still crying.  Make sure to leave the light off and speak quietly.  Again, this does not include picking up the child.
  1. Stay out of the room a little longer each time and only return to comfort for a minute or two each time. Continue to repeat until the child falls asleep.

Additional notes about the Ferber Sleep Training Method:

  • If the child should wake up during the night, repeat the same steps as above.
  • Results from this method can begin to show as early as the first day and usually within just a few days.
  • For the full method, see “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Richard Ferber.

Download a Baby Sleep Chart

And as promised, here is the free baby sleep chart that you might helpful as you work on teaching your baby to sleep through the night!

I've written a few other blog posts on the topic of baby sleep training methods.  You might find some of these other ones helpful as you decide what's right for you: Sleep Training Methods: The Sears Method Sleep Training Methods: The No Cry Method The Sleepeasy Method of Training Your Baby to Sleep The Weissbluth Method of Training Your Baby to Sleep

Note: a version of this story first appeared here

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