Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sleep Training - Ferber Method

Let me start off by saying that I’m not proposing that anyone else do sleep training, nor am I a cheer leader for the Ferber Method.  I’m simply letting you know what we did and what worked for us!

Here’s a little bit of a background:
Peanut started sleeping through the night, and I mean the entire night, around 2 months of age.  Then, around 3 months and around the start of daycare, she stopped.  She started waking up on and off randomly between 11pm and 5am every – single – night.  Did I mention that this was also around the time that I went back to work full time?  Needless to say, no one in our house hold was very happy.
My sister, Lana, with Peanut on Mother's Day weekend

At first we blamed everything around us from the fact that she was climbing out of her swaddle sleep sack to the temperature in the room to the bed time routine.  As we perfected or eliminated these, we were really confused.  The temperature in the room was perfect, Peanut outgrew being swaddled, and our bedtime routine was working for her.  We struggled with other ideas back and forth, but everything kept pointing to starting some sleep training.

We wanted to wait until Peanut was at least 4 months old because we’ve heard that babies shouldn’t be trained prior to that age due to a few different things, including inability to keep full for that long, needing to know you’re always there, etc.  We also wanted to talk to our pediatrician and eliminate absolutely everything else.  We did everything we could and our pediatrician listened to our routines and schedules and recommended that we go ahead with some sleep training.  Jon and I talked about it and when Peanut turned 18 weeks old, we decided to start sleep training.
Who can resist her?

Our pediatrician mentioned using a “cry-it-out” method, going in to check on her in increasing intervals.  This is often called the Ferber method.  Since our friends have tried and been successful with this method and everything I read seemed to point to a variation of the same method, we decided to go ahead with it.  I downloaded a copy of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Ferber and read it about 6 times (only the parts about infants since he writes about a variety of age groups).  Then, on Saturday night we started our sleep training.

Our problem has never been getting Peanut to fall asleep.  In fact, we knew our bedtime routine worked for us because Peanut falls asleep within 5-10 minutes of being put in her crib drowsy, but awake.  Our problem was keeping her asleep.  We also decided, as described in the book, to adjust the intervals between checking in on our little baby to the following:

Day 1: 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes (if still crying, keep intervals at 9 minutes; if the baby wakes up again, start the intervals from the first one again)
Day 2: 6 minutes, 9 minutes, 12 minutes (same as above but use 12 minutes as the max)
Day 3: 9 minutes, 12 minutes, 15 minutes (same as above but use 15 minutes as the max)

The method worked like this:  after putting the baby to bed awake, you are supposed to say your good-nights and walk out.  Then you do not pick up, rock, or feed the baby.  If s/he is crying, you go in to make sure that nothing is wrong (wet diaper, pain, etc) in the intervals you’ve chosen (see mine above) until the baby has given up and fallen asleep.

On our first night Peanut woke up around 1am and cried until about 2am.  We checked in on her using our Day 1 intervals.  Around 2am, she gave up on crying and laid awake, staring at the ceiling until 2:30am at which point she fell asleep.  We were up for about 2.5 hours that night.  I cried for about 15 minutes that night.  We both questioned our sanity and doubted our reasons for doing this.

On the second night Peanut woke up around 2am and cried until 2:30, then stared at the ceiling for about 15 minutes, then cried again for another 15 minutes before falling asleep.  We followed our Day 2 intervals.  We were up for about 1.5 hours that night.  I managed not to cry and since the time of being awake shortened, we considered that we might be doing the right thing.

On our third night Peanut fell asleep and stayed asleep (or at least silent) until almost 6am.  We, on the other hand, kept waking up and checking to make sure she was still okay.
I don't think enough people kiss my baby

To make this method work, we also made some adjustments to her "routine” during the day.  Here is what we did:
  • We’re moving Peanut’s bedtime closer to 8pm to help her sleep longer without waking up because she got enough sleep.
  • We’re adding two extra meals (1 during daycare and 1 in the evening when she gets home) to offset the meal cut out in the middle of the night.  This should give her the calories she needs and keep her little belly full and happy all night long.
  • We’re back to having solids!  And this time, Peanut is participating.  She ate a whole tablespoon of rice cereal mixed with about 1.5 ounces of pumped milk.  I promise, this is a lot for her.
  • We are keeping her naps to 3-4 hours during the day to make sure that it doesn’t interrupt her night sleep.  For the most part this doesn’t require a lot of adjusting, but we have had to wake her up once or twice from a very long nap.
So far, we are all very happy with the adjustments and the full nights’ sleep!  Peanut seems to be more energetic during the waking hours and she’s even started eating more throughout the day.
or poke her cute little snout

For now, we decided to let Peanut keep her pacifier, but that’s something for another post.

I’ll keep you all updated as we continue our adjustments and, hopefully, our sleep-full nights.

Did you do sleep training?  Did it work for you?  What did you use?

Oh, and guess what today is?  It’s my Dad’s birthday.  Happy birthday old man Daddy!  I love you.

Dad working on yet another project at my house.  The man is good at everything he's ever laid his hands on.


  1. Wow - sounds like you hit on something that works great for your family! YAY for a sleeping baby!!

  2. I'm sure every mother reading this will roll their eyes at this statement but reading through this "method" makes me realize that's exactly what we did with our dog! And I remember crying in the middle of the night due to lack of sleep so I can't even imagine how that might feel with a BABY! glad it worked/is working for you guys :)

  3. Glad it's working out! And glad to be able to dream of the day we sleep through the night! ;)

  4. Hmmmm wonder if this method would work for a husband too. And Gina, I hear you on the dog training.

  5. YAY!!! So glad you have found something that worked!! I totally agree with all you have said and we did loose versions of the same things (adjust nap, feedings, etc) when we were getting -or attempting to get on schedule. We still have an occassional night where she wakes up out of sorts, but the next night we just get right back on track and we are back to the good schedule...we also still use our paci but ONLY for bed!! keep up the great work!

  6. Thank you so much for posts like this; just 3.5 weeks until my baby is born and your posts are so helpful!!!! Congrats and keep up the good work!

    ~ GGG

  7. I recently started doing sleep training with my three month old (to help her fall asleep by herself). It took three days or so: the second night she fussed, whined and cried alternately for an hour. But then she learned how to put herself to sleep, and now has no trouble with it. Her napping ability has improved as well. She usually sleeps 7/7:30 pm - 7 am.

    She still wakes up about twice a night (at around 11-12 pm and 4-5 am) to eat though, as I am concerned she is too little to go so long without eating (especially because she still seems hungry). (She has not yet slept through the night, unlike Peanut.) It's good to read your account of sleep training at night, as once she's a little older I plan to do this as well.

    Also, Peanut is completely darling!

  8. Huh! I never knew the "cry it out" method was called the "Ferber method" too. I am SO GLAD that you had success with this! I've said it before, but the "cry it out" method is some type of torture that a mother has to endure. It's ridiculously hard...but oh so worth it!

  9. That's what we have been doing as well (without counting the minutes) and it seems to be working so far. My mom came over today right as I was in the middle of getting her to sleep and after I had gone in to soothe her for a third time she begged me to let her go in and get her. "She is crying and doesn't feel good, how are you handling this so well?" my mom asked. And the answer is I've just gotten used to it. It had to be done for my sanity!

    Glad it's working for you guys! Miss Peanut is too too cute!

  10. What a devoted mother to do all this research! But I'm learning so much, I will have to keep this one in mind :)


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