First of all, Dr. Ferber is famous for the so-called “cry-it-out” method of sleep training. Well, unless you have a baby who is calm, able to fall asleep relatively easily on his or her own, or you are a really super awesome parent who can time everything perfectly and catch all your baby’s cues, then there will likely be some crying when teaching the baby to sleep on his or her own. Now, for the review:
The book is broken into four parts. In the preface, Dr. Ferber indicates how the reader should use the book. This is very helpful and will make using the book more effective.
It is important to read the first section: it tells the reader how to tell if your child has a sleep problem, how sleep works, and how to help your child develop good sleep practices.
The second section is where Ferber creates his legacy. This section introduces “sleep associations” and how they impact the child’s ability to sleep. The reason a child cannot go to sleep on his or her own is because he or she associates rocking, nursing / bottles, holding, cuddling, etc. with falling asleep. The child is unable to go to sleep or go back to sleep without the assist of the parent. Ferber calls his method for solving this problem the “progressive-waiting approach.” This method requires the parent to put the child down awake (and sleepy) and wait progressively longer before going in to check on the child.
Ferber provides a detailed, step-by-step approach for using this method. He considers the fact that many parents will have a hard time listening to their child cry and is quite open about how the whole situation will happen in reality. It is not necessarily smooth sailing after a few nights of doing this. Other issues may be involved, such as the procedure itself, scheduling, anxiety, or medical issues. The author does a good job for addressing the “but my child is like this” stance and really provides solutions for almost any imaginable situation. Along with sleep associations, Ferber goes into setting limits, night feeding, nighttime fears, and colic and other medical causes that impede sleep.
The third section goes into schedules and sleep rhythm disturbances. The author discusses biological sleep rhythms and schedule “disorders.” Sleep phases refer to the typical times of day or night that sleep or sleepiness happens. Solutions are offered for correcting unhealthy or irregular sleep phases in all ages. Sleep phase issues are further discussed to include problems such as waking too early, long middle-of-the-night wakings, and nap problems. This section is very helpful for seeing how sleep fits in the big picture and how one thing affects another.
Parts 4 and 5:
The fourth and fifth sections address interruptions during sleep such as nightmares, bedwetting, head banging, partial waking, snoring, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. This section only useful for these specific problems and can come in handy should they arise.
My take on the book:
For our first child, this book was a life-saver. We had tried several different approaches (Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution, Dr. Sears’ sleeping advice, and Tracy Hogg’s approach) to no avail. Our daughter was around 9 months when we “broke down” and used the progressive-waiting approach. We made a chart for timing that spanned over a seven-day period. It took about four or five days to our daughter to learn to go to sleep on her own. More on this process in another post. Thanks to this book, our 2 ½ year-old is a fantastic sleeper. Naps didn’t work out so well until she was over 2 years old, but at least we had our evenings back. That made everyone happier.
What I really like about this book is that it is pretty straight-forward. Ferber presents the method and gives loads of background information so that the reader can make informed choices regarding this approach. He also gives a few options for modifying the technique to meet the parent’s needs. He gives practical advice concerning parenting issues around sleep. It is not a strict “do it this way or your child will fail” book. This approach also fits nicely with other non-sleep issue parenting approaches. For example, if you only have an issue getting the baby to bed and to sleep on his or her own, then you only need to use the progressive-waiting approach (unlike the 12-hour-sleep approaches that require the baby be on a specific schedule).
The part on colic is not helpful at all. If you have a colicky baby, I highly recommend Your Fussy Baby.
If you are a responsible and loving parent, I do not find this approach to be cruel my any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t soft and fluffy. As with any sleep training approach, it really depends on the child and the parents and the relationship. All involved parties need to be “ready.” There will be crying, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it is controlled and your baby’s needs are met (fed, dry, comfortable, etc.).