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Thank You Dr. Ferber

We used the Ferber method on our twins when they were youngsters and we've have peaceful nights of sleep ever since. In fact we've had many friends marvel when we tell them how easily we get the boys to bed and that they (and we) have been sleeping through the night since they were 4 months old.

With our third boy, whose just about to turn 9 months, I'm less involved in the feeding since he breastfeeds and won't take bottles. Over the last month our little man who had been naturally sleeping through for along time suddenly discovered that some time between midnight and 4am he was going to cry loud and hard until he got a breast.

The other night my wife announced that there would be no more boob for him late at night. He's huge, and both of us agree it's not about the food - we've checked all the other possible reasons. All the mothers and child psychologists in the audience will be glad to know I actually did pay attention to the books and forums - since I was the one who figured out that our 9 month-old was actually using my wife's boob as his transition (to sleepy time) object. Our twins self-selected their stuffed animals that they made heavy use of as transition objects when they were younger. The little guy hadn't bonded to any particular object except the breast. He was falling asleep on it (a nighttime no-no), so it really shouldn't have been a surprise to us that when he started waking up at night he would look for the one thing he knew would lull him back to sleep. Unfortunately for the Wizbang wife, that meant her...

The first night of the Ferberization is the hardest. I'm convinced that most people fail there and give up for good. It's much easier to rationalize a reason to cave in than it it to listen to your baby cry. Don't be fooled - they're manipulators even at 6 months old. Once you've eliminated all to other possible causes it's time to get down the the ferberizing. You really must read the book because it's not about ignoring the crying of your child.

Day One - Beginning at 1:30 A.M. the baby cried steadily for 1 hour then fell asleep.
Day Two - Baby woke up at 12:30 A.M. the baby cried for something less than 10 minutes. We never got past the 5 minute visit.
Day Three - That's today. I'm predicting little or no nighttime crying.

When I see people at the grocery store at 10PM with little babies or toddlers I often wonder who runs their house - them or their child. I don't know about them, but at our house the parents do, by design...

Update: The other hero of our household Tracy Hogg (The Baby Whisperer) has her final book coming out next week. Shockingly, and sadly, she died earlier this month of a very rare cancer - malignant melanoma of the esophagus. Her original Baby Whisperer book was a godsend in our household. Her last book (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems) is supposed to be filled with answers to the questions she got all the time and much more.

If you'd like to see a more personal side of Mrs. Hogg read these letters to the members of her BW community.

Update 2: Here's the current results:

Day One - Beginning at 1:30 A.M. the baby cried steadily for 1 hour then fell asleep.
Day Two - Baby woke up at 12:30 A.M. the baby cried for something less than 10 minutes. We never got past the 5 minute visit.
Day Three - No waking or nighttime crying.
Day Four - No waking or nighttime crying.

It looks like nighttime peace and quiet is here to stay.


Comments (37)

Well said. We didn't have t... (Below threshold)

Well said. We didn't have to Ferberize initially; my son slept well right off the bat. But once he started teething and realized that yelling in the middle of the night got attention... The first few times? I went in and held him and gave him some Orajel. By the fifth night, though, he'd gone from crying to just yelling. That's when we drew the line in the sand. It took a few nights, but no more problems. And he has been a great sleeper ever since. Consider this comment a little bit of salve for the flames that are sure to follow. :-)

You Boob Nazi... (Below threshold)
Rodney Dill:

You Boob Nazi

My son we ferberized fairly... (Below threshold)
Eric:

My son we ferberized fairly late- he didn't have a consistant bedtime until he was over one year old and his sister was coming. Now he sleeps through the night virtually every night, and thankfully sleeps through his sister's crying.

My daughter we have repeated tried to Ferberize, but she has yet to consistantly sleep through the night. Last night was particularly bad- she was up every 2 hours between 8-2:30. She has been known to cry for two hours or more if we let her, and often is actually asleep while she's crying. Not good times.

NO MORE BOOB FOR THE KID. P... (Below threshold)

NO MORE BOOB FOR THE KID. Plenty more boob for Kevin.

Am I correct? ;-)

Hell, my wife is STILL tryi... (Below threshold)

Hell, my wife is STILL trying to wean me off the boob.

All hail Dr. Ferber! We sta... (Below threshold)

All hail Dr. Ferber! We started on the Ferberization of Spiderman when he was 4 months old. Yes, the first few nights are a bitch, and you feel like an evil mutha, listening to your little one cry. It's hard - but in the long run, it's good for you AND it's good for your baby.

Now, my attachment parenting friend would have you believe that I had sucked my son's soul out his ears by Ferberizing him, breaking the "delicate" bond between mother and child at too young an age. Of course, she still co-sleeps and breast-feeds her five-year old, so I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

The bond between me and my son is about as delicate as rebar, and he's an incredibly well-mannered and self-assured four year old. His Mommy and Daddy run his house, not him - and he likes it that way.

I have 5 kids, and each on ... (Below threshold)

I have 5 kids, and each on has been different. Some ferberized really easily ... but my last one cried for 2 hours when I tried it. It was awful, and I never did it, with him, again. He still remains pretty stubborn (almost three.)

If you want to see how NOT ... (Below threshold)
Rick13:

If you want to see how NOT using the Ferber method works, just watch "Nanny 911" on FOX. You can see how "giving in" puts the child in control of everything. They show children that are 5-7 years old using "wubby's" and "Binky's". The parents NEVER want to be the bad guy.

Good call on the Ferber tec... (Below threshold)

Good call on the Ferber technique. That first night was tough though. My 19 month old is good for 8-10 hours a night now.

Okay...thread to avoid in t... (Below threshold)
ginabina:

Okay...thread to avoid in the future...first time I've ever been outright distusgusted at Wizbang.

Ferber is evil. You are cruel parents. All of you.

I've got four kids...none spoiled...all very wonderful, independent young adults and older children. All BREASTfed, none ignored.

Yuck-o!

Ferber says that there a... (Below threshold)
tee bee:

Ferber says that there are a number of things that may interfere with your child's sleep. Before you "Ferberize," you should make sure that feeding habits, pain, stress, or medications are not causing or contributing to your baby's sleep problems.

that's the rub with babies... and why I struggled to let the kids try to sleep through the wake-ups of their former routines. I was never much of a mind reader. plus I didn't try to put them to sleep while they were still awake; it seemed to me that if they were sleepy they'd sleep. Ferber sounds sensible, and seems to encourage people to follow their instincts with reason, and some confidence that a doctor who knows what he's talking about is recommending this method.

it's cruel if you are robotic about it, and don't consider other reasons the baby is crying when it might be wise to do so. which wasn't my strong point, but good for Kevin et al.

I never formally used this ... (Below threshold)
tongancat:

I never formally used this method on my boys, but I do believe in following and sticking to a routine. Life is SO much easier when your kids know what to expect in regards to naps or bedtime. I breastfed all of them, and it never seemed to interfere. I try explaining this to friends who have three year old who take naps at 4 or 5pm, and then keep the parents up until 12am or 1am, but they are convinced there is nothing they can do. Their life is miserable as a result, with no time for adult 'interaction' between them, and grouchy attitudes the rest of the time.

I'm with ginabina. Doing su... (Below threshold)
Pat:

I'm with ginabina. Doing such things to babies under the age of one is an awful way to start out their young lives. What are you teaching them? How cold the cold, cruel world really is? How uncaring their parents are? How crying out in need doesn't cut it with mom and dad? Of course, they stop crying after awhile--it's called giving up. Good job, parents. And done for what? YOUR convenience.

I see nothing wrong with NOT letting children dictate to their parents, but starting with an infant makes no sense whatsoever. Use some sense: What Ferber people are doing is extreme.

I'm of two minds on this su... (Below threshold)
Sean:

I'm of two minds on this subject. I think letting your child cry herself to sleep just to teach her a lesson or two is cruel and makes you a bad parent. I think the same thing of anyone not responding to their child's cries for the same reason. Your child needs to know she can count on you when she needs you. That's pretty basic common sense.

On the other hand, you have to be a parent and set limits. My wife breast feeds our almost-five-month old daughter. We refuse to ignore her cries, but guess what? She sleeps from about 8 or 9 at night to 6 or 6:30 in the morning, and has been for the past 2 to 2 1/2 months. Occasionally she'll wake up earlier and every once in a while she wakes up once during the night - gasp! you mean ... just like some adults?! yes!

We didn't realize we were using what could be described as a "modified ferber method". You see, whenever our baby cries - no matter what time of day or night - we go see what is wrong. We change her if necessary, feed her if necessary, or rock her if necessary. We do all three, if necessary. If, however, she continues to cry after being changed, fed, and rocked (for a reasonable period - usually about 15 to 20 minutes) we put her back in her crib and let her cry for a short amount of time.

This is NOT to get her to cry herself to sleep, but to let her tire herself out. Then one of us goes back in adn rocks her some more. If for some reason she doesn't go down right away this sequence is repeated until she does go down. Note, we have never, ever, let our daughter simply cry herself to sleep.

Funny thing is, by responding to her cries and soothing her, she now is the happiest baby I've ever met (and everyone that meets her comments on this) and she also sleeps through the night. Imagine that. A happy child that also sleeps through the night, and we don't ignore her cries.

So, as far as Ferber is used to ignore your child's cries and teach them to "self soothe", I think it is a horrible and cruel method. That in mind, you can't let your child run roughshod over you. If you can't tell the difference between a child that actually needs attention and soothing vs. a child that is trying to manipulate you with crying, seek the help of someone that can tell the difference (like your parents, or friends with more parental experience).

And let's not forget this little nugget of knowledge: a child does not have the mental capacity to manipulate you before six months of age. So you can respond all you want to your child's crying for the first 5 to 6 months or so without fear of reinforcing manipulative behavior.

I am with GinaBina and Pat.... (Below threshold)
Library Lady:

I am with GinaBina and Pat. How cruel. You have just taught your child not to come to you when he has needs.

I have raised 4 children, NEVER dreamed of letting them "cry it out". The 3 boys are all Eagle Scouts and college graduates, my daughter is a 14 year old delight. I also don't believe in hitting children and mine turned out great. The one tragedy is....one of my sons is a Democrat.

Ginabina, Pat, Library Lady... (Below threshold)
Teri:

Ginabina, Pat, Library Lady,

Is your relationship with your children so incredibly fragile that an occasional non-response will irreparably harm them?

I find it hard to believe that twenty minutes of crying themselves to sleep is going to wipe out nine months of loving and caring.

Since you are loving and caring the next day, I think that they learn that "this too shall pass." A very valuable lesson - postponing gratification and all that.

And although "postponing gratification" sounds awfully sophisticated for a nine-month-old, it's only because we use big words for something very simple - things get better. It's never too early to learn that.

Teri, I have an excellent r... (Below threshold)
Library Lady:

Teri, I have an excellent relationship with my children. On Christmas I had all 4 (and my daughters-in-law) chose to come to my home for the holidays.
They are young such a brief time and I was more than willing to "postpone my gratification" to meet their needs. I also have an undergraduate degree in Social Work and did volunteer work as a early childhood educator for years.
I only need to compare my children to those of my friends' and relatives' to feel totally confidant that I raised mine in the way that resulted in the type of adults any one would be proud to claim.

Me too. Thanks.... (Below threshold)
Teri:

Me too. Thanks.

Our pediatrician explained ... (Below threshold)
Paul Phillips:

Our pediatrician explained the method to us including making sure nothing was poking them in the crib, no fever and a dry diaper, though without the name. We were a bit shocked as it seemed counter to our instincts but, for both our boys, by the third night they were both sleeping all night. First night about an hour crying, the second fifteen minutes and then all quiet on the home front.

The method is NOT to ignore... (Below threshold)

The method is NOT to ignore the children, it is to not let them manipulate them into playing with them all night and depriving them (and the parents) of much needed sleep. My 2-year-old is experiencing this again right now and it is hard for me. I had surgery, so she was spoiled by my mother for a week while I was recuperating. Now, she thinks that someone should sleep in the room with her and entertain her at her every whim. I have responded each time she cried to make sure she was safe and OK. Each time she was. Like one of the earlier comments, she was simply yelling after the last time I check. I stood at the foot of the stairs and told her that she was fine, it was bedtime and mom was going to bed. Within about 15 minutes, she settled down and realized mom wasn't going to play this game. How can THIS be considered mistreatment or ignoring a child? It can't be.

As far as babies are concerned, they don't need to be fed during the night after they're 4-months-old (unless there is a special need), so they're perfectly fine on their own. I like the modified Ferber method of going in and comforting the child the first time, wait a few minutes, don't pick him/her up, but pat them on the back and reassure them ... you know the spiel. It isn't like you're dumping the baby in his crib and never returning.

Wizbang and the Mrs, you're doing just fine.

Tracy Hogg! I read her obit... (Below threshold)
julie:

Tracy Hogg! I read her obit and I am sorry she died but I find some of her ideas, well weird. Even weirder is the Hollywood crowd that paid her big bucks to help them with the trophy babies they bought. I heard Michael Medved criticize the Hollywood nuts for giving their kids pet names. So reading that she was called the Baby Whisperer didn't help matters.

We call it the "Mad About Y... (Below threshold)
AFSister:

We call it the "Mad About You" method, since we tried it on our oldest son after seeing them do it on their show. It was sooo hard to do! It took several days, but each day took less time to get him to soothe himself. This is not ignoring your crying child- it is teaching them self reliance. You always make sure there is nothing wrong with them- dry diaper, full belly, nothing poking or pinching them, not sick, etc.- but you just don't hold them constantly or stick a boob in their mouths to get them to sleep through the night. We did this at about 9 months with our oldest, and it took about 3 or 4 days. My younger one slept through the night when he was 2 weeks old, and never needed assistance getting to sleep.
Bottom line is- some kids need it, some don't, but those who do need it are not being ignored or abused.

The day after my youngest o... (Below threshold)
Charlie:

The day after my youngest of four was born, her mother passed away from a pulmonary embolism. Do you think I remembered any of that nocturnal stuff? Thankfully my mom was here to help and she helped do EXACTLY what you describe. Today my precious angel is nearly three and goes to bed on time without protest and sleeps the whole night through. Viva Ferber!

So, Kevin, did the little g... (Below threshold)
julie:

So, Kevin, did the little guy make it through the night?

Hey Kevin, you don't need s... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Hey Kevin, you don't need something like the FERBER METHOD to figure out how that works. Why waste your money? Talk to people who've done it - like me and I didn't need a method, just knew what to do.

Cindy

Do you know what is cold an... (Below threshold)
arielb:

Do you know what is cold and cruel? Depriving your kids of enough continuous sleep is cold and cruel. Sleep deprivation that makes it more likely she'll get sick, be irritable and not have the rest she needs for her brain and body to grow.

People who don't have twins... (Below threshold)

People who don't have twins are clueless as to just how big the sleep issue gets when you have TWO at the same time.

Hi Kevin - You rock. I thin... (Below threshold)
Carol:

Hi Kevin - You rock. I think we have a very similar style of parenting. Even better than the grocery store is people who take their babies and toddlers to the movies at 10PM. I don't get it!

I've got an 8 week old baby at home and I hope he sleeps as well as my 2 year old - thanks to Tracy Hogg (god rest her wonderful soul).

Happy Sleeping...
Carol :)

I tread lightly when it com... (Below threshold)

I tread lightly when it comes to other parents' choices for their children. . . But I'm honestly baffled as to why crying-to-sleep-train is embraced by some, if they are aware of the scads of research about infant brain development, hormones, brain chemicals and prolonged crying.

Now, we did the cry-to-sleep-train thing with our first two (out of ignorance in part, and out of encouragement by friends) but didn't with our 3rd and 4th. Cring-to-sleep-train is so unnecessary, why do it when it has so many medical negatives associated with it?

Btw, all of our kids have ended up with good sleep habits, definitely are NOT sleep deprived, (and the only time I am is when I'm up late online instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour! *L*)

You guys will really think ... (Below threshold)
shauna:

You guys will really think we're crazy! We let each of our children sleep with us till they were two. They are all in their own beds now except for the 13 mos. old, they all go to bed willingly at 7:30 and sleep through the night.

I think it's the way mankind was with babies from the begininng. We were probably in a one room cave together all huddled up. And I enjoy having them cuddled up against us and they never woke during the night.

This was taken from the Sco... (Below threshold)
shauna:

This was taken from the Scotsman obit on Tracy Hogg, kinda shows how rad she really is.

When Hogg moved to the United States in 1992 with her second husband, she sent her two young daughters, then eight and 11, to live with their grandmother while she established herself as a baby nurse. Her decision opened her up to criticism when she became famous, with articles suggesting that she had abandoned her own children in order to care for those of the rich and famous.

I think it's incredibly dan... (Below threshold)
Snappi:

I think it's incredibly dangerous to judge other people's parenting choices. Each family has a unique set of resources available to them (financial, emotional and otherwise). I am an attached Mom who has had no choice but to try the Ferber method after co-sleeping did not work (our daughter could only sleep ON us - even sleeping next to us wasn't enough). She is 12 months old now and is currently being Ferberized after a solid year of mostly rocking her to sleep in a chair...many nights I had to end up sleeping in the chair with her because I couldn't move her to her bed. It has been a really rough ride and I am ready to be a normal person again.

Like others who have responded to this comment, I believe that depriving your child of the opportunity to learn how to self-soothe is damaging in the long run....perhaps not just for the reasons stated....I for one feel that I have sacrificed my basic needs because I was simply afraid to let my daughter cry as a result of the propaganda I read about crying it out. Sacrifice to that point usurps my power as a parent. I am much less likely to be engaged during the daytime because I am tired, etc.

Like everything, moderation is the key. All it takes is some common sense to assist you with the material that you read.

I think there is a lot of grey area with respect to parenting that needs to be respected.

To ginabina:Thank ... (Below threshold)
Jupiter:

To ginabina:

Thank you for passing judgment on other adults making their own decision on how to raise their children. It must be great to know you have all the absolute answers to parenting.

Just who do you think you are? I used modified Ferberization on both my boys (I would go in and rub their tummies while I soothed them). When they were sick (ear infections!) I would hold them in the comfy chair. When they were simply crying for attention at 3 am, I used Ferber and it always worked.

I don't spank my kids, nor am I a cruel parent. My 3-year-old is a smart, well-adjusted kid (most of the time, anyway. He IS three.)

Every parent has to decide what works for their children. I've heard Ferber doesn't work with some children. You have to find something everyone can work with and still get sleep. Exhausted parents and children don't make for a good household.

Ok i need some advice, i ha... (Below threshold)
sarah:

Ok i need some advice, i have an almost 2 year old that won't sleep threw the night unless she is in bed with us.. she sleeps in a regular bed, so we can't just leave her, cuz she gets out and walks to our room and opens the door.. She shares a room with her 10 month old brother (who thank god sleeps all night) i was just wondering if any of you had any advice on how to get her to sleep better at night in her own bed.... I've read stuff on the ferber method, and i just don't know if it would work (she can open doors and get out of her bed and into ours and i don't want her to wake up her brother) I would just really like to have my bed back to just me and my husband... I would appericate any advice.. thanks.. Sarah

We went through the exact s... (Below threshold)
Carol:

We went through the exact same thing just after my daughter turned 2. We put a gate on her bedroom door so if she got out of bed she couldn't get out of her room and wander the house and get hurt. We also had to go through a couple days of letting her cry - but it wasn't long at all. 10 minutes the first night - 3 the next - none the next and thereafter. She would get out of bed and stand at the door and cry and when she realized we weren't going to budge, she climbed back into bed and went to sleep. She is now a very happy little 3 year old who naps/sleeps great. If you're concerned about the baby waking up, you may want to bring him into your room for a few days - or better yet - if she likes sleeping in the same room with him, you may want to tell her that you will only let her sleep in the room with him if she quiets down and goes to sleep. Good luck!

Thanks for the advice we mi... (Below threshold)
Sarah:

Thanks for the advice we might have to try that... I really appericate it.. .. I'll let you know if it work... Wish me luck.

Is there any concensus on h... (Below threshold)
Jimmy:

Is there any concensus on how soon to start ferberizing? We have heard that Ferber says 6 months, but a pediatrician friend-of-a-friend said start now, even though our little girl is 7 weeks. What do you people think?




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