The Ferber Technique

Firm Sleep Method: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems By Dr. Richard Ferber

In the April 2010 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed popular infant sleep methods. We have already reviewed a few books about gentle infant sleep methods on our blog.

Last Saturday we reviewed how to comfort a newborn with the help of Dr. Harvey Karp in The Happiest Baby on the Block. We have also reviewed other gentle infant sleep methods of The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, as well as The Baby Book and Nighttime Parenting both by Dr. William Sears.

Today we review the old and well known firm infant sleep method by Dr. Richard Ferber in his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Dr. Ferber has become a world-famous pediatric sleep expert; however, some see his views as rather controversial.

Dr. Ferber’s book is easy-to-understand and a guide to common and uncommon sleeping problems for children ages one- to six-years-old. He provides advice on developing good sleeping patterns and daily schedules. Sometimes referred to as the “cry it out” method, Ferber dislikes the label and says it minimizes his advice and individual children’s needs. The Ferber Technique is centered on putting the child to bed awake so he can learn how to fall asleep on his own.

Often misunderstood as a cold and insensitive parenting style, many completely miss Ferber’s approach to helping a child fall asleep and stay asleep. Dr. Ferber strongly recommends developing a loving and predictable bedtime routine for children to help ensure that the transition to falling asleep without a parent is comfortable for the baby. Before using this method, Dr. Ferber says you should be sure that the daytime necessities and living environment (feeding, stress, playtime, and parental attention) are all operating well, as these can all contribute to a baby’s problems falling asleep.

Also, keep in mind that Dr. Ferber only recommends using his method if the baby is six-months or older. Most sleep experts agree.

Have you ever used The Ferber Technique? What are your thoughts on this sleep method?

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


  1. I very much oppose the cry it out method of Dr Feber. Books are fine for advice but you should not raise an infant with a book. I was taught you must cuddle a baby. Human touch is important. I much prefer the parenting children to sleep methods of rocking a baby to sleep. When kids grow up insecure with anxiety I bet 99% were left to cry it out to fall asleep when an infant rather than cuddled.I have a University BS degree and am an experienced nanny and have always been taught that newborns can't be spoiled. Feber's techniques might work with a one year old up only. To allow an infant to cry it out to settle themselves to sleep is neglect and abuse.

  2. Consistency is the key to any issue in raising kids, not which method the parents choose to use. As mentioned in the last newsletter issue I think the nanny should respect the parent's wishes, if you can't follow their instructions find a better suited job.Reyna HorowitzNY NY

  3. What a horrible method. Studies have shown this way of parenting actually leaves a negative impact on a child. It's so hard to hear a child cry. I don't like this method.Nanny & Infant SpecialistJody DonovanBoston MA Suburbs

  4. I dont like people who use the crying it out method. I just find that very selfish.

  5. I read this book and it's horrible. Letting infants cry isn't a good thing. Infants can't manipulate their parents, they're not capable of that. Nannies and parents pick up their babies when they need to be held during the day so why would you stop just because it's dark out?Mary, Lenexa, KS

  6. I strongly disagree with Ferber. I couldn't work for a family that neglected their baby when they cry. It's unnatural to let a baby cry in their crib for more than a minute or two. Teresa MendezNanny 15 yrs experienceLos Angeles, CA

  7. Don't do it! Pick the baby up! Don't make them grow up too fast! Routines and schedules are really great, but neglecting a baby is cruel.

  8. Ferber does NOT recommend his methods until a baby is 6 months old! He agrees you can't spoil a newborn! Read the book before trashing it!Virginia ConteeNanny and HousekeeperWesterville, OH

  9. Nope I couldn't do it. I have helped raise 3 babies and could never do this crying it out method. The parents gave in and then I had to also since we have to be consistent. Too hard to switch from "parenting a kid to sleep" to "crying it out." Colleen Berger, Austin TX

  10. I worked for a family that rocked baby to sleep with a bottle for almost a year then bought the Ferber book and asked me to try it with naps. But, they didn't use it at night (I know I was a live in). I wasted so many hours of crying kid. So I agree with Reyna that as long as care is consistent it really doesn't matter which technique parents choose to use.I really understand both the gentle and strict approaches and don't really think one is better than the other. Parents that use Ferber technique cuddle, feed, hug and play with the child too. They aren't neglecting them. But it's just impossible to use suddenly if you have been rocking and feeding a child to sleep for many months. To suddenly change from parenting a child to sleep to the Ferber technique would be cruel.– Hiedi Schmitt Live In NannyNew Canaan, Connecticut

  11. I think that one of the most important things is for a baby to learn to sleep on his or her own. In our culture adults don't sleep with their children. I hated working with parents that sleep with their children. It makes naptime when I am working impossible. As a nanny naptime is my chance to do laundry or rest but if I have to rock the child or sleep alongside the child I get no down time. Many baby sleep tips involve setting up a strict nighttime routine, and introducing objects such as stuffed animals into the bed with the baby to help them sleep. These are great tips. Imani Okoro, Miami FL

  12. First of all Ferber does NOT suggest you use his methods until the baby is 6 months old! He agrees you can't spoil a newborn!!This method is not as harsh as eveyone thinks. Have you guys actually read the book? I think you misunderstand his methods. He does not condone neglecting a baby or letting a baby cry it out for a long time. Ferber loves babies and wants parents to feed and nurture their babies. Not neglect them.This method does NOT condone endless crying!! Always feed, hug, love the baby. He doesn't condone hours of crying — just 10 to 15 to 20 minutes! I've worked for babies with all different ways to put their kids to sleep and what I am noticing is that if you allow a kid to cry and run to them they will always cry. I rather have a child wake up happy and come to them because they are happily cooing, not screaming. It is difficult the first couple of days, but they get better quickly.

  13. A family I worked for tried it and it's too hard. Very difficult and they were just too tired to pull it off. Easier to rock baby 15 minutes and not cry.Ruth MChaska MN

  14. This is the key thing -Before using this method, Dr. Ferber says you should be sure that the daytime necessities and living environment (feeding, stress, playtime, and parental attention) are all operating well, as these can all contribute to a baby's problems falling asleep. When the baby's needs are met, they are going to be tired and minimize or eliminate that need to CIO.Having that ability to self soothe and comfort themselves, plus being awake and alone then learning to entertain themselves is so important for them mentally too.That said, I know of people who don't keep babies on routines and schedules then they can't figure out why ferbering doesn't work. Well, no, they just aren't doing the method properly.

  15. I do as the parents tell me to do. But this is an awful way to treat a child. They aren't robots, I think if you use this method adjustments can and should be made.

  16. I think you have to put this method in place at the right time- if you start to early- from what I've heard…full blown crying for 10-20 min. on an on-going basis- can cause a young baby to loose oxygen which can't be good for the baby. (I know he does not say to do this- but as you can see many have already mis-interpeted it.)If you do choose this method I think you need to put it in place at the right age and development for your baby.However, if you start with a good bed-time routine early on- I don't see that their would be any need to use this method at all. I am more of a believer in gentle methods and practical parenting. I think parents who use this method are usually at the end of their rope…or want a quick fix- from what I have seen first hand.Just IMO….

  17. It works for me. Lucia Russo, Peachtree City, GA

  18. The family I am currently working for is using this method and it seems to be working perfectly. Babies can develop a habit of crying just because they will be picked up. I think nannies should read it before making judgements. You put the child to bed still awake but sleepy. Then let them cry on the 1st night for just three minutes. Then go in a check on them and then wait five minutes. Then go in and check on them again and then leave the room and wait another ten minutes then go in and check on the baby. Never picking up the baby just checking on them and trying to calm them down and let them know that everything is ok. Then continue until the baby falls asleep. Then on the 2nd night do the same thing put the baby to bed sleepy but still awake, then go in and check on them five minutes, then ten minutes then 15 inutes and continue until baby is asleep. Then on the 3rd night do the same thing, put the baby to bed awake but sleepy, then wait ten minutes, 15 minutes and then 20 minutes until baby is asleep.

  19. I am a parent that uses this method and it does work. Sometimes it's a little heartbreaking to hear your little one cry and I personally don't like to let him cry it out. So I just use the book as a guide, an idea, to improvise when needed. He only has to cry for a little bit. Babies have to learn to sleep on their own. It's very important for them to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. Yes, I agree with the other persons statement about cuddling and enjoying it, absolutely, but do that before bedtime and do it all day long. Checking in and then picking up every ten minutes works for me.

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