An Update to the Ferber Method?
Recently, Richard Ferber, MD, reissued his landmark 1986 book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Simon & Schuster). While rumors swirled that he had altered his position drastically, a perusal of the book indicates that the hoopla surrounding its purported landmark changes may have been sensationalistic.
However, the updated version does espouse a few important variations. For example, he concedes that his method is not right for all babies. And he is more permissive of the family bed approach -- a practice he cautioned against in his first book.
A Compromise to a Self-Soothing Approach
Over in Motherwell, Scotland, Linda and David Allen took a more personal -- and much less structured -- approach to Ferberizing their children, Chloe, 11, Jacob, 9, Mitchell, 6, and Elspeth, 4. The couple agreed with Ferber's theory that every baby noise is not a cry for food and that crying for a little bit might be necessary for the baby to learn to sleep alone. But timing the baby's crying spells wasn't their style. "David didn't want to hear the baby crying," Linda says. And she wasn't keen on standing outside the nursery with a stopwatch.
So when should she pick up the baby, and when should she let him resettle himself? Linda handled this problem in her own, unscientific way: When her babies reached 6 weeks, she took the baby monitor out of her bedroom. From that point on, if the baby was crying loud enough for her to hear all the way down the hall, she'd go in and breastfeed him.
"But I only heard the babies' cries if they were really wailing," she says. "If it was just a little fussing, I didn't hear it." Instead of making three or four trips to baby's room, Linda found herself making only one and sometimes none. For three of her four babies, going sans-monitor was a blessing; they did indeed learn to put themselves back to sleep.
But Linda is careful to let other moms know it's not right for every baby. "My third was often sick and uncomfortable, so I didn't apply the same toughness," she says. "He screamed relentlessly no matter what I did, and it was years before he slept through the night."
It may take some trial and error, but stick with it and you'll find the technique that works for you and baby.
Jennifer Graham Kizer is a writer based in Springfield, New Jersey, who is expecting her second child in August.
Originally published in the May 2006 issue of American Baby magazine.
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