Thursday, January 21, 2010

Letting Baby Cry It Out a.k.a. The Ferber Method

My son (nearly two) did not sleep through the night until he was seven months old. As new parents (rarely exposed to little ones), my husband and I had no clue that just because a baby wakes through the night is not an invitation to feed him. Who knew?

So there we were, very weary parents when my husband decided he had enough. "We're going to let him cry it out tonight" came the proclamation shortly after my son turned seven months. I freaked out, but as always, my DH was prepared, and had obviously been thinking about this for a while. Equipped with noise cancelling headphones, I was instructed to turn away from the monitor while my husband periodically patted our son on the bum to let him know everything was ok. After a few minutes, my son would fall asleep. But our (mainly my) nerves were still raw from listening to him scream.This went on for five nights. Then magically, on the sixth night, my son effortlessly slept through the night. He was 'ferberized'.

The Ferber Method refers to the practice of letting babies cry it out at night and enabling them to learn to soothe themselves back to sleep. See
http://www.professorshouse.com/family/children/the-ferber-method.aspx
Like everything else however, it is not without criticism e.g. appropriate age for 'ferberizing', long-term psychological effects, etc. My husband and I however are staunch supporters. After being 'ferberized', our son's overall well-being improved. He was not as cranky in the daytime, he was more energetic, more social, and he is still our loving, gentle child. Obviously this process is harder on parents than it is on children.

Around month three, my husband and I started looking to our daughter for cues that she was ready to sleep through the night. E.g. not taking (or not completing) the breast or bottle through the night, and sleeping for at least six-hour blocks. After these consistent cues, we attempted to 'ferberize' her in the fourth month.

With our daughter, the process was a bit slower. Several weeks to be exact. But we were aiming for perfection. She began sleeping from 10pm - 5am. This didn't quite suit our schedule, so at 5am, we would take her from her crib and place her in the pack-and-play in our bedroom. In the comfort of her parents' presence, she fell back asleep for another hour and a half, which was more to our liking. We eventually phased that out by placing two of our worn shirts near her crib to surround her in the comfort of our scent. Guess what? It worked! Thankfully, our daughter now sleeps as well as our son in her own crib.

The point of this novel is don't be afraid to try something new to bring a little peace and harmony to parents and baby. Letting babies cry it out is perfectly acceptable. The process is very brief and baby won't be scarred. Baby won't even remember. More importantly, well-rested, happy parents are better prepared to take care of their offspring than their sleep-deprived counterparts. And with all the peace and quiet and sleep you'll get to enjoy, you may even find the time to make another one. :)

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