After venturing to all ends of the earth… from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the snaking mouth of the Amazon; from the worn steps of the Great Wall to the barren sands of the Outback… I have concluded that all parents really want to know one thing, and one thing only… *drumroll*
How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?
Well, Grasshopper, you have come to the right place. I plan to share what I’ve learned from Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. You may have heard of Ferber, the notorious Cry-It-Out creator who no longer wishes to be known as the CIO guy. He’s kinda like Prince (TAFKAP), but the TAFKACIOG version (the artist formerly known as cry it out guy).
His sleep training is very well known in the parenting world (but often incorrectly applied and therefore misunderstood). However, after having survived this myself, I highly recommend it. If you break into a cold sweat at the thought of having to put your noob down for bed, then you you’ll want to get this book. If you’d rather give birth thrice over sans epidural, instead of having to rock your old lump of coal to bed/nap/and the like for the umpteenth time, then his book is for you.
Does your noob really have a sleep problem?
Little ones (5 months +) who are not able to soothe themselves and fall asleep or fall back to sleep on their own probably have a sleep problem. If you are rocking, nursing, standing upside down with one leg at 35 degrees, or holding your breath until baby is asleep, then this may be for you. And if you find yourself going in to soothe your noob several times a night (so many times you’re actually embarrassed to tell anyone the real number), then I’m afraid to say, you might have some dirty little sleep habits brewing.
When can I start to Ferberize he-who-shall-not-sleep-through-the-night?
TAFKACIOG states that at 3-4 months, most full-term infants should be “settling” in, and you may consider preparing for his Progressive-Waiting Approach (known on the streets as Cry It Out). By 5-6 months, you should probably be taking definite steps to address your baby’s sleep problem.
Keep in mind that sleeping through the night depends on when your baby goes to bed and how old she is. For example, by 5-6 months, babies can go at least 10 hours without a middle of the night feed, if the baby is at a healthy weight (or without special needs).
The Big Warning, Disclosure, and Pep Talk
First, take a couple shots of the hardest liquor you can find – the kind that’ll put some hair on your chest. Spam your neighbors with lengthy letters of apology (include bribe money). Purchase NRA-approved ear muffs for yourself and possibly your neighbors. Then crumple up into fetal position holding onto that bottle of liquor and cry like your baby.
You’re going to hate yourself. You’re going to think you’re an awful, cruel, heartless parent. You’re going to cry Uncle, want to give up after the first 30 minutes, and make up excuses as to why this was a terrible decision. As a Sleep Training Survivor (and there really should be some fancy medal parents can wear after going through this), I know that it’s the hardest thing to hear your adorable, helpless flesh and blood crying … in their crib… all alone. It blows. But… and there’s a big BUT. The rewards are so worth it.
Right after we finished sleep training Noob Baby, we could put her down in the crib and walk away with just a sweet little kiss goodnight. She would babble and talk to herself for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep on her own. We didn’t have to tiptoe around her room like burglars. I was able to get … now wait for it… at least 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Inevitably, someone is going to tell you that you’re a terrible parent for doing this. To them I say, have you read the book and tried it as Ferber recommends … not how you think it should be done? You might hear someone say they left their noob in the room all night to cry without checking on them. Well, that is NOT how the training works. Instead of listening to the misinformed, I suggest you find someone who is going to be supportive and knowledgeable. Make your hubby or wifey be the rock when you feel you’re about to throw the whole thing out the window after day one. Luckily, Noob Daddy was there to encourage and comfort me. I left him with the Ferber book and allowed him to take the reigns when I thought the war had been lost. Trust me, I’m so ridiculously Type A. Allowing anyone to take over was very very difficult.
Just when I thought I had caused some permanent damage to my precious little sleep monster, I’d find her giggling and beaming at me the next morning.
She seemed, dare I say it, happy! There were definitely no hard feelings. After just a few days of sleep training, everyone in the Noob household was already displaying signs of true, restful sleep.
Preparing for the Progressive-Waiting Approach (commonly known as Cry it Out)
- For the first few days, pick a starting bedtime that is no earlier than the usual time your child falls asleep. It’s ok for bedtime to be a little later than his usual bedtime. Moving this start time later will help him fall asleep more quickly, but don’t move back his wake up time.
- Put your child into the crib or bed awake, in the place you want him to be sleeping. No rocking, swinging, etc. He should fall asleep under the same circumstances that he will wake normally during the night.
- When he cries or calls for you at bedtime or upon waking up at night, check him briefly at increasing intervals (see chart below for guidelines, but you can adjust the minutes to your own comfort level). Do not spend more than one or two minutes with him when you check in. Your job is to reassure him, not to help him stop crying or fall asleep. You may replace a fallen blanket or toy, but only once.
Number of Minutes to Wait Before Responding To Your Child
Day 1 - 3 min (1st wait); 5 min (2nd wait); 10 min (3rd wait); 10 min (subsequent waits)
Day 2 – 5 min; 10 min; 12 min; 12 min (subsequent waits)
Day 3 – 10 min; 12 min; 15 min; 15 min (subsequent waits)
Day 4 – 12 min; 15 min; 17 min; 17 min (subsequent waits)
Day 5 – 15 min; 17 min; 20 min; 20 min (subsequent waits)
Day 6 – 17 min; 20 min; 25 min; 25 min (subsequent waits)
Day 7 – 20 min; 25 min; 30 min; 30 min (subsequent waits)
- When you reach the maximum number of minutes to wait for a night, continue to leave the room for the same interval – no longer – until your child falls asleep while you are out of the room.
- I grant you permission at this point to curl into fetal position and curse like a dirty sailor.
- Dr. Ferber says that by the 3rd or 4th day, your child “will most likely be sleeping very well. If further work is necessary, continue following the chart down to day 7.” If there is still improvement after that, continue by adding a minute to each interval on successive days. *If things are not improving or are getting worse, you may have to rethink your approach.* He discusses alternatives in another section.
- If your child wakes during the night, restart the schedule from the first waiting time and work up to the maximum.
- Continue this routine after each waking until a time in the morning (usually 5 or 6 am) after which it is unlikely your child will fall back asleep. Do not let him go right back to sleep in another room. If he’s still asleep at his usual waking time in the morning, wake him up.
- Naptime: Use the same waiting schedule for naps, but if your child hasn’t fallen asleep after half an hour, or if he is awake again and calling or crying vigorously, end the nap. He may fall asleep on his own in another room, which is fine initially, as long as he does it by himself without the associations you are trying to break. However, don’t let the amount of napping time increase to make up for the sleep he lost at night. Also, don’t let naps run so late (past 4 pm) that they will interfere with falling asleep at night.
- Keep a record: Follow your schedule carefully, and chart your child’s sleep patterns in detail. This is a great way for you to visually see the progress when you feel like everything is shit. Seriously.
This was just an excerpt from Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. If you have an older child who sleeps in a bed, or if your baby sleeps with you, refer to the book for more detailed solutions. I hope this brief, but-not-so-brief, guide helps you as you start sleep training your noob.
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