Ferber Method for Naps and Bedtime

Updated on October 10, 2009
L.D. asks from Austin, TX
11 answers

My son will turn 6 months old soon and my husband and I are going to use the Ferber Method to help him learn to sleep on his own. He is showing more and more signs of self soothing (thumb sucking, enjoying his lovee, sometimes falling back to sleep on his own) and so we believe he will be ready soon.

Currently, my son sleeps from 9pm-6/7am and just recently gave up his last nighttime feeding. In addition, he's already sleeping in his crib. He has trouble going to sleep on his own, but is improving on his ability to put himself back to sleep if he wakes up at night. Not all the time, but many times.

However, my husband and I have held in for pretty much all naps since he was born. He's a pretty intense and high energy baby, and without regular naps, he's SUPER cranky. So we kind of just dealt with the holding him. But, as he gets older, we realize that is not the best habit and it really encumbers us. I work and my hubby stays home. We've tried putting him in his crib after he falls asleep for naps, but he wakes after about 20 minutes PISSED. He then usually stays miserable for the rest of the day.

So, my questions are:

1) Have you used Ferber? If so for both nighttimes and naps? What was your success?
2) Do you have any suggestions for success using Ferber at naptime? I read the book and understand how he suggests to use the method. But I'm wondering what the heck do I do with a cranky baby who won't nap?
3) My son has a scheduled that's really currently controlled by us - since we hold him for naps - so I don't really know how long I can expect him to nap. Any thoughts?
4) Do you all think 9pm is too late of a bedtime for a 5/6 month old? All the books say 7pm to 8pm, but I know that every baby is different.

If you have any other advice or suggestion, specifically for naps, please let me know. I'd like to explore them before we begin this journey several weeks from now.

I know this is a controversial subject and I appreciate that others feel differently than I do. I do not begrudge you for using any No Cry Sleep methods. But I'm looking for help on a decision that's already been made.


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So What Happened?

We started Crying it out for bedtime and naptime about 5 nights ago. Apparently, he was ready to do this on his own, because we haven't gone in there at all at night time. He goes to bed awake after his bedtime ritual and then sleeps until the morning. If he wakes up, he puts himself back to sleep. We are amazed.

Naps have been a little more difficult, but I'm happy to say that we are seeing a lot of progress. The first few days we tried to keep him on his old nap schedule - when we used to hold him - and that wasn't working that great. He would only sleep for 30 minutes at a time and then be up for several hours trying to get on "the schedule" for the next nap. Even during that time, we saw the crying for naps go from 20 minutes to 6 minutes to no crying at all. We won't let it go for more than 30 minutes before we end the naptime. Today, we chilled out and went with his flow. He took a 30 minute nap this morning, a 50 minute nap 2 hours later, 2 hours after being awake, he slept for 90 minutes (I woke him up to feed him) and now he's taking his last catnap of the day.

One thing I learned is you have to stick with it, but be flexible enough to observe what's best for your child.

Thanks for all the advice.

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answers from Houston on

Hello L.,

i am not really familiar with the Ferber method but we used Dr. Marc Weissbluth's book "Healthy Sleep habits, Happy child" and my son is now 7.5 months and has been sleeping from 6:30 to 7:30 most nights since he was 3mo. He sooths himself and goes back to sleep at night if he wakes up unless he is sick or has leaked through his diaper. This book talks a about several differnt ways to help children sleep from letting them cry it out to several types of soothing methods. I think every family needs to find the way that works best for them. THis worked for us maybe it will help you too. Good luck!

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answers from San Antonio on

I totally bought into the don't let your child "cry-it-out" method with my first child and he is a horrible sleeper to this day...he is almost five. Dr. Ferber's wonderful book helped him more than anything...I just waited way too long to read it and use it.

I used it with my daughter as soon as it was age appropriate and she is a great sleeper. Turn out the lights, turn on her music, into the crib, pray and walkout the door and she is out (bedtime and naps). (If she does cry...I will go check on her, diaper issue, fever, lovey falling out of crib, etc...but then she is "tucked" back in and I leave).

It has been a while sense I read the book...but I just followed his guidelines for bedtime and naps as well. I cannot rave enough about Dr. Ferber...LOVE him.

As the parents you can choose the bedtime, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm...as long as it works with your schedule.

It is a tough subject, but Ferber is a sleep specialist with years and years of training and science to back him up. Sending you a great big hug!!



answers from Houston on

We put our babies to sleep around 9 (we have three children) and that was when we went to bed as well--husband got up at 5:30 for work and had no problem. A book can be a guideline. It is not a hard and fast rule because every baby is individual just like you are. I am not judging, but the CIO method did NOT work for us because no one got any sleep! None of our babies would "soothe" themselves to sleep--it just deprived us of sleep! Since your baby is probably flipping and sitting up by now, I suggest you try putting your baby to sleep on his tummy. Babies digest better and sleep better on their tummy. At 5-6 months, your baby still thinks you and he are one person. You are correct in not continue holding him while he naps. He may wake up because when he stirs, and you are not holding him, there is a void. Consider putting your baby in his crib when he shows signs of being tired (yawning, rubbing eyes, pulling on ear)and gently rub his back. Be careful about the CIO method. Crying is a baby's only means of communication. One time when I tried to let our first baby CIO (unsuccessfully), I went to check on her and her leg was caught inbetween the crib slats and another time she spit up and her crib was covered in urp. That was only after 10 minutes. Good luck. Enjoy your little blessing.


answers from Austin on

I think the ferber method would be harder during the day rather than it would be at night. We never used it.
But it would seem like during the day there is just so many distractions. The light, the daytime sounds.

Have you tried letting him fall asleep in a swing? That may sooth him.

To recreate the evening, you could get block out curtains or at least some darker curtains to get rid of the light. Also remember it takes a child twice as long to calm down as it did to get him riled up. Make sure your husband isn't playing really active or really excited and then trying to give him a naptime bottle. Have you husband not make any facial expressions or talk or ask the baby questions while he gets his naptime bottle. This will make the baby bored and drowsy.



answers from Houston on

I did not use Ferber, I used The No Cry Sleep Solution, and it worked very well for us. However, I did want to say that yes, I think 9pm might be a bit late for bedtime. Very often, over-tired babies do not sleep well at night OR nap well during the day. You may find if you put him down a bit earlier at night, you get better naps during the day. My 5 year old STILL follows the pattern of: the later you put me to bed, the earlier I'll be getting you up in the morning! She doesn't nap anymore but when she did her naps were always affected if she'd gone to bed late the night before. And it is probably going to take a while and some hard work to get him out of the habit of napping in your arms. Good luck!



answers from College Station on

I can't say that I have used the Ferber Method. It may be the term put on the method Dr Sears promotes but I don't know.

I hope this helps. Review what you do for naptime as compared to bedtime. For naptime, are the lights turned off or down low? are the blinds closed and it is darkish in the room? is all sound quieted? or can you put on the same music at naptime that you do at bedtime? (supposing that you do play some music, I've heard that nature / white noise sounds are best.)

If naptime is a _very_ different situation than bedtime, maybe starting to use some bedtime routines at naptime will help. Maybe.

Sorry that I had more questions than answers!



answers from El Paso on

Hi, L.,

My husband and I used the Ferber method on our son when he was about six months as well, and we're so glad that we did. We've used it several times since the initial training--after trips and after a move--and it works every time. It is HEARTBREAKING to hear them cry--even for the 3 or 5 or 7 minutes--but we told ourselves it was for the physical and emotional health of our whole family. And it literally took three nights the first time--and each time was better (shorter crying bouts and less stress).

Anyway, about naps: I used the method on naps while my husband was at work, but naps were a lot harder than nighttime in my opinion. In your situation, the first thing I would do is observe him for a few days, notice the times when he is most sleepy and try to gauge how many naps he'll need--and how long you expect them to last on a "normal" day. After that, develop a naptime routine that is a shortened version of what you already do at nighttime. It might help to read the same story, play the same music, darken the room as much as possible, give him his lovey, etc. Then, start the training. Go through the routine and put him down at the pre-decided time. The thing about naps is that you can't just let them cry all day. You have to set a "get up" time even if he's not asleep. We did 30 minutes, but you could do 45 or an hour I think. This was the frustrating part: because what do you do when he doesn't go to sleep? I couldn't tell you how many times my son fell asleep at 27 minutes after screaming for that long (he never really calmed down when it was ME doing the comforting), but if he didn't fall asleep, I would try very hard to deal with his being grumpy until the next nap period (or as close to it as my sanity would allow). Then, I would start the process over--usually with much quicker results. Even if he doesn't nap during the morning those first few days, he should start to realize that that is a specified time for him to rest, and he'll calm down.

Hope that helps! Best wishes!



answers from Austin on

We did Ferber for both naps and bedtime. This is long. Sorry about that.

We did similar routines for nap- and bedtime. We always do a story, toothbrushing, hugs, tuck-in. There might be slight variations between nap and bed routine, but the bare bones are always the same.

(We started later than you, though, about 10 months. Not because we felt we should, but because we didn't think to try before then! But because we started later, DD had already given up her morning nap, so I don't have any experience to give you with doing this with two naps - I'm assuming that's what you're still getting? Though our routine has worked for about 2 1/12 years now.)

There's nothing wrong w/ a 9 pm bedtime. As long as little one is getting the sleep he needs. We have always had an 8:30 or 9 pm bedtime; we enjoy taking our DD to grandmother's house and then going out to dinner, and this way, we can do it w/out disrupting her regular bedtime! Some folks we know, though, do the earlier bedtime so they can watch whatever they've got on Tivo after baby is asleep. But their kids get up a 5:30 or 6 in the morning. Whatever works for your family.

For my daughter, I'd expect about a 2 hour nap. You probably can, too - according to Baby 411, babies between 6 and 9 months sleep about 14 hours, and you're getting about 10/night. On days our daughter hasn't napped, she's gotten her "quiet, alone" time. The crib, and then her room in general, was a safe place for her to be, and if she played instead of slept, that was always fine with me - she and I still got our apart time. In the crib, she had a water bottle (sports bottle with a straw), a book and her favorite stuffed toy; in her little bed, she still has books, her water, and now a whole room full of toys.

Do not give up snuggle time! You both still need it. Cuddle together to read stories, lay on the couch together to sing songs, have tickle battles on the living room floor, rock together in the rocking chair just for snuggle time, but don't make either one of you give up together time. It'll make the non-cuddling sleeping times easier, if the cuddles aren't given up, but just moved.

Finally, don't try to do this alone. It's hard to listen to your baby cry, even if you know it's going to help him become a good sleeper, and will be best in the long run. Do this on a weekend, when you are both home.

Good luck, mama! Send me a messgae if there's any more help I can give you. Been there.



answers from Austin on

Naps took a lot longer for us than bedtime.I would say that we Frebered her for about 2 days with bedtime and two weeks with naps. I would suggest giving yourself a time, like two weeks, that you won't give up until. It can be hard and confusing but if you have that "I will attempt this for two weeks" mentality it is not as tempting to give up. Good luck!



answers from Austin on

Crying for you is your baby's way of communicating with you, getting reassurance that his needs are going to be met and that he is loved and cared for by you. Please read the following article that cites research completed at Yale University, Harvard Medical School, Duke University and Baylor University to name a few, regarding the very harmful physical and mental effects of cry it out methods.


For kinder ways to assist napping and bedtime that promote healthy development for your baby, see this link for the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution ~ Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
By Elizabeth Pantley:

Here's a link to an excerpt from the book. It has a lot of good information that you could try right away.

You soon will find yourself longing for the days when you could hold him in your arms while he slept peacefully. It goes so fast.

I hope this information helps you. I wonder if you tried wrapping your little one in an article of clothing that you or your husband have worn at the start of his nap would help keep him asleep in the crib for his naps?



answers from San Antonio on

I tried the cry it out or Ferber method with my first and I have to say that emotionally it is not worth it for the parent or child. Go ahead and try it if you must, but be aware that Dr. Ferber himself has said that it is not for every baby or every family. It is essentially behavioral conditioning rather than the infant actually reasoning in his/her mind: "Crying won't get me what I want". I've also heard it can create trust issues. I'm sorry I don't have any other advice to offer on the method you've chosen. I also want to say that my oldest is not as good or as sound a sleeper as my other four children where I have used the No-Cry method.

You may want to check out sleepingturtles.com The product helps reduce the startle reflex that causes babies to wake themselves up. Your baby will feel more secure and maybe you won't have to hold him for naps. Good luck!

Next question: Crying It Out - the Journey Is About to Begin