Ferber Method: A Proven Sleep Training Technique For Infants

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 01/07/24 •  Sleep / Sleep Training

Every parent knows how important it is for their child to get enough sleep and during my many years of nannying, I know that getting sleep right lies at the center of parenting.

However, for many parents getting children to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night can be a challenge. 

While there are several recognized sleep training methods out there… One of the most well-known is the Ferber Method.

But what exactly is it? How do you implement it? Is it effective? And is it the right sleep training method for your little one?

Ferber Method Sleep Training

What Is The Ferber Method?

The Ferber Method is a sleep training technique developed by pediatrician and sleep expert Dr Richard Ferber that teaches babies to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. 

It is also known as The Graduated Extinction Method and involves gradually increasing the amount of time a baby is left alone to cry before being comforted. 

Check-ins are done in timed intervals, starting with a short period of crying and gradually increasing the time. 

The Ferber Method relies on consistent behavior and cues from the parent too. Therefore, it is important to follow a consistent bedtime routine and to respond to the baby’s cries in the same way each time. This helps baby learn what to expect and feel secure.

How Effective Is The Ferber Method?

According to a number of studies, the Ferber method can be an effective way to help babies sleep better and achieve a good night’s sleep. 

I have known many parents who have successfully helped their children fall asleep easily and sleep through the night after trying this method.

However, the Ferber method may not work for every family. 

Is The Ferber Method Suitable For You?

Leaving your baby to cry is not easy… and no matter how effective a sleep training method is, you should not leave your little one to cry if you are finding it too distressing or feel it is not working for your baby.

Additionally, it is common for babies to experience an extinction burst when learning to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, where they cry more intensely. 

This can be very hard for parents to overcome, so as with all sleep training methods, it’s important to identify what your criteria for a sleep training technique are and to trust your gut when trying different methods until you find one that works.

If your baby has very strong sleep associations that can be hard to break (such as being rocked or fed to sleep) you may find that the Ferber Method is not the right training regime for you and your little one either.

Timing is also key when implementing the Ferber Method… because if your baby is hitting a developmental milestone or teething, it can disrupt your attempts to help baby fall asleep by themselves.

You must always approach sleep training with patience and consistency, and be mindful of your little one’s individual needs and limitations.

Where Can You Buy The Ferber Method Book?

There are endless places to buy sleep training books. Amazon is the first place most people think of when looking for the Ferber Method Book… 

However, you can try looking for the Ferber Method at garage sales, libraries, charity shops, and online second-hand book shops such as Awesome Books and Better World Books.

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition

Putting an end to sleepless nights often seems like an uphill battle. 'Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems' acts as a trusty aide in this challenge. 

Each page reflects real parenting trials and triumphs, providing comfort that you're not alone in the quest for sleep.

Importantly the advice given isn't just theory; it's peppered with relatable scenarios. Dr Ferber’s knowledge provides important basic information, equipping you with what you need to tackle sleep training head-on.

  • Offers a step-by-step approach for various sleep issues
  • Includes real-world strategies that are flexible for family needs
  • Provides a comprehensive understanding of children's sleep patterns
  • The techniques may not align with all parenting styles
  • Some methods might take longer to see results
  • The book's size could be cumbersome for quick reference
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When Can You Start Using The Ferber Method Sleep Training Method?

According to Dr. Richard Ferber, the creator of the Ferber Method, you can start using this method when your baby is between four and six months old. 

At this age, your baby has developed the ability to soothe themselves and can sleep for longer stretches at night.

As always it’s important to remember that every baby is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep training. 

Some babies may be ready for sleep training earlier, while others may need more time before they are ready to learn to self-soothe.

In my opinion, if it was required, I would suggest waiting until baby is at least 6 months old to start sleep training.

You should also make sure that you are emotionally ready to handle the process… it can be very difficult to hear your baby cry as they learn to fall asleep on their own.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Implementing The Ferber Method

If you have decided to try the Ferber Method for sleep training your baby, there are a few things you must do to increase your chances of success.

1. Establish A Bedtime Routine

Always top of my list when helping a baby learn to fall asleep independently is to establish a healthy bedtime routine. This will signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. 

The bedtime routine should include a bath, a story, and a lullaby. Be consistent with your routine and try to keep it the same every night.

To learn more about creating the best bedtime routine for your little one, spread this post: Creating The Ideal Bedtime Routine.

2. Handle Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, it’s an important step for the Ferber Method to resist the urge to immediately rush to their side. 

Instead, wait a few minutes before going in to check on them. Use progressive waiting, gradually increasing the amount of time you wait before going in to check on them.

I would start by waiting for 30 seconds, then 1 minute, then 2 minutes, and so on.

3. Deal With Nighttime Feedings

Most 4 to 6-month-old babies will still be feeding at night, and more often than not, these night feeds are for comfort rather than nutrition. 

Now, if your baby relies heavily on feeding to fall asleep, you will find your sleep training efforts will be more successful if you night-wean your little one first. 

Trust me, trying to sleep train and night wean at the same time will be very tricky to manage. To wean your baby off nighttime feeds, read this post.

Ferber Method Chart

When implementing the Ferber method, it can be helpful to keep track of your child’s progress with a chart. This can help you to identify patterns and make adjustments to the method as needed. 

Here is an example of a Ferber Method chart:

Night Check-InCry TimeSoothing Time
First1 minutes1 minute
Second3 minutes2 minutes
Third5 minutes3 minutes
Subsequent10 minutes5 minutes

It’s important to note that the times listed in the chart are just examples. You may need to adjust the times based on your little one’s individual needs and temperament.

Keeping A Sleep Diary

In addition to tracking your child’s progress with the Ferber method, it can also be helpful to keep a record of your child’s sleeping patterns throughout the day and week. 

This can help you to identify any factors that may be affecting your child’s sleep, such as nap times or feeding schedules.

You can use a diary or a specially-made baby habits tracker. I personally prefer having a page-per-day diary like this:

2024 Daily Planner One Page A Day - Spiral Hardcover

With one spacious page dedicated to each day, you'll have plenty of room in this delightful planner to write down all your to-dos, appointments, and notes for the year.

Ideal for parents tracking baby's sleep, feeding, and pooping schedules...

Or a sleep journal for toddlers...

Whatever your requirements for the diary need to be, this handy planner will tick the right boxes.

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When Not To Use The Ferber Method

While the Ferber Method can be an effective way to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own, there are certain situations where it may not be appropriate for your little one. 

Here are some instances when I would recommend you consider other sleep training methods or put a hold on sleep training altogether:

Remember, if you’re unsure whether the Ferber Method is right for your baby, consult with your pediatrician or a sleep specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Ferber Method

Looking for more information about what the Ferber Method means for you and your baby? Here are the most frequently asked questions, answered just for you.

Q: Is the Ferber method harmful?

A: The Ferber method is not considered harmful when done correctly and with the guidance of a pediatrician. It involves gradually teaching your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, which can lead to better sleep for both you and your baby.

Q: What age is appropriate for sleep training?

A: Most pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is at least 4-6 months old before starting any form of sleep training. At this age, babies are physically capable of sleeping for longer periods and are better able to self-soothe.

Q: Can the Ferber method be modified for a gentler approach?

A: Yes, the Ferber method can be modified to suit your parenting style and your baby’s needs. In fact, an adapted version of the Ferber Method is my preferred sleep training method. It involves going in and comforting baby more frequently. To learn more about my preferred sleep training techniques, read this post: Sleep Training A 6-Month-Old.

Another preferred method is ‘Camping Out’ which has a more gradual approach and involves far less crying. It’s important to follow your instincts and watch your baby’s cues to find the best approach for you and your family.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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