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The Ferber Sleep Method

There comes a time in the life of every new parent, usually sooner than later, when they feel the time is right to have their child sleep through the night. Whether they arrive at this point as a result of exhaustion or frustration, or both, they begin to look into ways to help their child sleep better and, hopefully, longer. This is usually the time when parents first learn about "The Ferber Sleep Method."

Dr. Richard Ferber is the director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the Children's Hospital in Boston. Ferber's Sleep Method, sometimes called "Ferberizing," has become very popular with parents and pediatricians, though both groups readily admit that this method is not for everyone. Some feel that Dr. Ferber's book, "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" is a godsend, others feel it can make both babies and parents suffer.

Ferber's method takes a progressive approach to getting your child to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. It involves putting your child to bed while awake and teaching your child to fall asleep on his or her own. The Ferber method advises that you leave the room once you put your child to bed and say goodnight. If your child cries, you must wait a certain amount of time before checking on them. (The period of time suggested in Ferber's book depends on your comfort level, how long you've been using it and how many times you've already checked on your child that particular evening.)

When you do return to your child's room to check on them, soothe them with your voice and rub your child gently with your hand, but do not pick them up, rock them, or feed them during these checks. Ferber believes that in many cases waking up is a learned behavior, which the child may have associated with some type of reward, and by removing the reward(s) associated with waking up, a child will learn to sleep through the night.

According to Ferber, the next step is to gradually increase the amount of time between checks. After about a week, according to Ferber, your child will learn that crying earns nothing more than a brief visit, and that it isn't worth the effort. They learn to fall asleep on their own. It should be noted that the Ferber Method is recommended only for children six months of age or older, after their need for a nighttime feeding has passed.

Changing behavior is never easy, and can be complicated tenfold when it involves your own child. Our need to "make it all better" can get in the way of teaching our children to sleep through the night. Many parents are not comfortable letting a child cry for any period of time. It is that fact that has raised controversy over Ferber's method. Still for those parents who can do it, it may offer a quick and relatively easy solution to the problem of getting a good night's rest, for everyone.

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