Richard Ferber is director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston who believes in a “progressive” approach to helping your child fall – and stay – asleep.
Ferber has developed a forward-thinking plan of action to instill consistent and regular sleep patterns in your child. Briefly, he suggests that after a warm, loving pre-bedtime routine such as singing, rocking, or reading a book, you put your child to bed while she’s still awake. According to Ferber, putting your child to bed while still awake is crucial to successfully teaching her to go to sleep on her own.
Once you put her in bed, leave the room. If she cries, don’t check on her until after a specified amount of time has passed. Once you do return to her room, soothe her with your voice but don’t pick her up, rock her, or feed her. Gradually increase the length of time that passes between checks. After about one week, your infant will learn that crying earns nothing more than a brief check from you, and isn’t worth the effort. She’ll learn to fall asleep on her own, without your help.
Ferber says that there are a number of things that may interfere with your child’s sleep. Before you “Ferberize,” you should make sure that feeding habits, pain, stress, or medications are not causing or contributing to your baby’s sleep problems.
Ferber recommends using his method if your baby is 6 months or older. Like most sleep experts, he says that by the time most normal, full-term infants are 3 months old, they no longer need a nighttime feeding. And at 6 months, none do.
Ferber’s method can be modified if you feel it’s too rigid. Stretch out Ferber’s seven-day program over 14 days so that you increase the wait between checks every other night rather than every night.