• Dr. Ferber or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Teach My Baby to Sleep

    Posted on April 15, 2013 by Noa in Crib Notes, Parenting.
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    I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve read more books on baby sleep in the last three months than novels in the last three years. My husband and I are champion sleepers so we knew having a baby would cut into our favorite pastime. We hoped that genetically she would be a good sleeper and, luckily she is, but we still had some work to do.

    I knew I couldn’t go back to work with our baby waking up constantly for feedings so I trolled the BabyCenter boards looking for tips on how to get your baby to STTN (sleep through the night) and CIO (cry it out) methods. What I learned was that STTN meant 5+ hours of sleep, which is a bunch of crap, and that people will burn you at the stake if you suggest letting your baby CIO before 16 weeks or ever for that matter.


    So I started reading books on baby sleep and did the work for you, my millions of loyal fans. Here are my findings:

    • Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp: Five S’s to soothe your baby – swaddle, sucking, lay on side/stomach, shushing sound and swinging. It was great for calming our baby but didn’t lead to hours upon hours of sleep.
    • 12 Hours’ Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano: Basically you feed your baby in four hour intervals and drop the middle of the night feeding by gradually reducing the ounces associated with these feeds. I just didn’t have the patience to get our baby to four hours between each feeding, we had enough trouble getting her to three.
    • On Becoming Babywise by Dr. Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam: Your baby’s day is divided into three hour intervals of eating, playing and sleeping time. I liked this method because our baby seemed to be gravitating towards three hour feeding intervals naturally and it made my day more predictable, giving me some “me” time every hour or two when she napped. And by “me” time I really mean time to shower, go to the bathroom or eat. It set a good foundation for the beginning of sleep training for our daughter.
    • Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg: This method was very similar to Babywise except it involves a dream feed where you put the baby down at about 7/8:00pm and then feed them, while still asleep, when you go to bed at 10/11:00pm. This always made me nervous because we had such a hard time putting our baby down that I didn’t want to risk waking her up.
    • And then came Dr. Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems…the man is pure genius. His method is called the Progressive-Waiting Approach and it entails putting your baby to sleep without any sleep aids (rocking, pacifier, etc.) and then checking on and soothing your baby at scheduled, increasing intervals.

    We waited till our baby was 12 weeks old and set aside a weekend to sleep train/”Ferberize” her. Our main goals were to get her to go down easily and to feed her only once in the middle of the night since that seemed to be all she needed. We also decided to get rid of the pacifier and swaddle at the same time. Cruel, I know, but I would rather my husband and I teach her good sleep habits than have daycare do it. Although part of me considered making it daycare’s problem, but I was worried daycare would be a tough enough transition.

    The first night of sleep training we did our Bath, Boob, Bedtime Story routine, put our baby down and left the room. My stomach was in knots waiting for her to explode but she didn’t. She actually quietly sucked on her hands for 40 straight minutes before she started crying. So I went in and checked on her after three minutes, then again after five minutes and then she cried for two more minutes and that was it. Silence. I couldn’t believe that was it. I was prepared for crying, screaming, bottles of wine to ease the pain. The rest of the weekend brought more of the same with the crying decreasing constantly until she went down without any fuss at all. Amazing.There are a few things that made the experience much easier for me:

    1. Your baby should have their hands free to suck on them – this is their way of self-soothing.
    2. Put your baby to sleep before they are too tired and start to melt down. I realized this was why it was so hard to put our baby down initially, she was just overtired. So now I put her to sleep after her first or second yawn.
    3. Realize your baby’s cries differ by need. By this point in time I could tell if my daughter was whining because she was tired or crying because she had a burp. So if I put her down for a nap and she seems to be crying out of discomfort, I will burp or change her before putting her down again.
    4. Remember your baby is human and so are you. Sometimes babies just want to cuddle. I know that someday soon my baby will be too big to sleep in my arms, so I break the rules more than I care to admit.

    What makes me laugh is that, after all that, here I am with my daughter sleeping next to me in bed and, instead of using this time to nap, I am blogging. I guess she’s trained me how to stay awake on a Saturday morning.

    Picture of a Sleep Trained Baby

    It looks like sleep training was a success.

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6 Responses so far.

  1. Sharmini says:

    Noa your post on sleep training is really helpful! I will also share it on my facebook.
    Being a first time mom I am trying to figure out if my little guy needs a little help.

    Our baby is a good sleeper and has been sleeping through the night since he was about 2.5months which is practically unheard of.
    Still some days he can use some help falling asleep. We tried to let him cry it out for a weekend without success, it was an hour and a half and the baby was still up screaming with two distressed parents! So that was rough.
    I also had very little support trying it as my kid is a good sleeper so why do I need to let him cry it out to fall asleep? So we keep tinkering a little bit with letting him cry it out some nights when he is fussy but have not gone all out…

    I have also noticed that any change in his routine effects his sleep. We were away for a weekend and strolling and driving the baby around a lot and he got used to falling asleep that way. So when we got back and put him in his crib he had a really tough time falling asleep.

    I do know that the later we put him down the more tired and fussy he is and the harder it is for him to fall asleep. So we try as much as we can to put him down earlier and that has helped a ton in recent weeks. He was going to bed between 9.30 and 10.30pm and now he is in bed between 7.30 and 8.30pm, with one less feeding. He seems to do just fine and wakes up between 6-7am most mornings.

    Looking forward to your posts and sharing the journey.

    • Noa says:

      Sounds like your baby is a great sleeper, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! With April, we had a hard time putting her down to bed so sleep training was necessary.

      Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting your baby cry/fuss for 5 minutes as they get settled, rather than actually letting them cry it out. But, really, it seems like you have a great sleeper on your hands so enjoy it!!

  2. Nicole says:

    Have you read “Bringing up Bebe?” French kids all sleep through the night very early. Something about not responding for a few minutes when they make a noise… basically also explains why firstborns tend to be worse sleepers than younger siblings later on. (Less panicky parents rushing to the crib at every sound or lack of sound!)

    • Noa says:

      Thanks for the recommendation! I will check it out. It makes a lot of sense. Once we moved April out of our room, we all slept a little better and the distance between rooms made it impossible for me to respond to her noises as quickly as I had been.

  3. Noa says:

    Haha well I warned you that the technique has some strong opponents. It really depends on your situation but if you can wait till 4 months or later, then you may as well. And definitely feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions when the time comes :)

  4. karen says:

    My husband and I read your post and love the idea of trying to get our baby to sleep through the night. I mean our baby hasn’t even been born yet, but I think it is important to maintain family sanity to start thinking about this on the soon side. I have a long drive for work and I really need to be awake when I got back 12 weeks or so after the baby’s birth.
    Unfortunately, we didn’t read your blog carefully enough and overlooked the part about not discussing it before 16 weeks. We mentioned it to our son’s future pediatrician (we had a pre-natal visit) with him. I thought he was going to fall off his stool! He recovered after a long awkward moment and told us that we really didn’t want to do ‘that’ until the baby was at least four months, but six months would be better. ;)

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