Leave Your Child to Cry – The Ferber Method
I am not a parent myself and just as many other people who don’t have children, I have a strong and unasked-for opinion on how kids should be brought up. One of the main points in my child-raising philosophy is running as fast as possible to the kids whenever they are crying (after all, what if they need anything or feel in pain?) But today my views are going to be harshly challenged by the FERBER METHOD.
Okay, I will start with some boring details. Ferber Method (also known as “graduated extinction” or “cry it out” method) was developed by Richard Ferber – a famous pediatrician and the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston. He wrote a best-selling book called “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” where his method is described in every detail. I took a peek at this book and found out that Ferber’s ideas are not as bad as I originally thought (even though still a little doubtful as for me). So, without further ado, here is more or less what parents should do on the first night of applying the Ferber Method: (please note that the method can be used only for babies over 6 months’ old)
1) Put the baby into the crib and leave the room without soothing him or her to sleep (I assume a little kiss and nice song could be okay though)
2) Leave the baby and come back to check on him only after 3 minutes even if the baby cries
3) Briefly comfort the child (but don’t pick the baby up and try not to feed him – he should be fed beforehand)
4) After about 2 minutes of comforting the baby – leave the room again even if the baby is still crying
5) Repeat the process gradually increasing the waiting period
After a couple of weeks or even days, the infants will plausibly start crying less and less while parents will continue extending the waiting period each night until the baby learns to “soothe himself to sleep”. If you are already feeling like Ferber’s method is good for you – here is a little table that you can use so see how to extend the waiting period:
Based on Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (Book by Richard Ferber)
(I do hope this table can be useful to whoever is interested but I also recommend reading or at least looking through the Richard Ferber’s book before actually implementing the training).
The advantages of the method are quite obvious – kids who complete the training are learning to go to sleep quicker than other “untrained babies” and parents can finally get a good night’s sleep. Whether the method actually works or not depends on each individual infant, but many bloggers will happily tell you that it is in fact very effective. Some parents who tried Ferber’s method even said that they noticed improvements in babies’ daytime behavior.
So even though I was almost convinced by Mr Ferber I decided to continue my research for a little bit more before recommending my cousin to try the Ferber method with her baby. After a very brief search, I came across a Guardian article that made me doubt Mr Ferber again. To put it shortly, parenting guru and senior research fellow Penelope Leach argues that leaving infants to cry is very damaging to their brain. The reason for that is simple – crying releases stress hormone cortisol that can damage the development of child’s brain. Obviously, babies cry a lot anyways as it is their way to communicate – but leaving children to cry to force them into going to sleep is just cruel. Penelope Leach says that parents who do sleep training for their babies can “fit” kids better into parents’ modern busy lives but at the same time harm the little ones emotionally.
When I looked at some other – more recent – information I found out that babies who were sleep-trained didn’t actually have higher stress levels (based on pediatrics paper from 2016). But if we consider some other studies, we can see that by ignoring kids cry parents can cause separation anxiety in children. I also looked at another notable article – this time by Tracy Cassels – where she analyzes sleep-training research and argues that letting babies to “cry-it-out” has never actually been proven to be any good.
From what I can see, this “sleep-training” area is still somehow rather under-researched and thus leaves parents a lot of space for speculation. But I guess it’s difficult to know for sure whether letting children go to sleep by themselves and ignoring their cry will have any influence on their psychological health or not. We can never really know what the baby is thinking, can we? But isn’t it better to “overlove” rather than “underlove” your kid even if it costs more sleepless nights in total?
And now – if I may – I’d like to bring up one topic that has been on my mind for some time but is not probably worthy to mention. Neighbors. I know health and happiness of one’s child is way more important than health and happiness of one’s neighbor but let me just say this – the lady who lives upstairs would definitely not appreciate any parents living in our house practicing the Ferber Method or pretty much any other method that could increase the baby cry time by more than 1% at any given night (even if the parents will explain to her that soon baby will start crying less and less. This lady would rather soothe the baby herself than let the Ferber method go into play). But – you know what – this same lady didn’t enjoy my awesome Rock playlist so we will just ignore her and let the Ferber Method be for now.
So again – I am not very experienced at raising kids and particularly not experienced at handling baby crying, so I really want to know what do you guys think – is Ferber method any good? Would you try it or maybe you have already tried it with your baby? Is “tough love” really a good way to bring up kids?
Please let us know in the comments in our Facebook group while I will continue annoying my upstairs neighbor lady with my awesome music list and re-thinking once again my child-raising philosophy (By the way, I am actually playing music very quietly so please don’t judge me).
- Guardian article I mentioned – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/apr/21/leaving-baby-to-cry-brain-development-damage
- Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (Book by Richard Ferber)
- Image source: https://pixabay.com/pl/