Researchers at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, studied 156 mothers and their infants and found that 70 percent of the mothers who used Ferberizing techniques solved their babies' sleep problems after two months, compared with less than half of the women who did not use these techniques. What's more, researchers found that symptoms of postnatal depression among women who Ferberized their infants also improved after two months.
Progressive waiting, devised by sleep specialist Richard Ferber, M.D., director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at ChildrenÕs Hospital in Boston and author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, helps children 5 months or older who have trouble falling asleep on their own at bedtime or in the middle of the night. (A younger baby isn't ready for this.) It's based on the idea that babies make associations with falling asleep. If your child is used to being rocked or fed until she dozes off, she'll rely on these things in order to go to sleep and will want them repeated at bedtime and when she wakes in the middle of the night. Ferberizing encourages babies to develop their own methods of putting themselves to sleep. (See "Ready to Ferberize?" for how it works.)
After several nights, most babies learn to associate their crib with sleep and nod off peacefully on their own. Success, however, depends on two things: consistency in implementing the method and your ability to tolerate your baby's cries -- not an easy task. Of course, the method doesn't work for everyone. Critics say that it's cruel to make a baby cry and that it decreases a child's sense of trust, while supporters say that it saved their sanity. No research, however, has suggested that it can harm babies.
Before trying it, be sure to rule out other reasons for your child's sleep problems: changes in feeding or napping habits, pain, stress, or medication. If you don't see improvement after a week or so of using the technique, try a different approach (see www.babytalk.com for more help), and consult your pediatrician.
If your child is 5 months or older, in good health, and you'd like to give progressive waiting a try, here's how it works: