Ferber Ain't No Friend of Mine
This article (that I recently wrote) was first published on Kveller.com and appears here with permission.
Who hasn’t heard of Ferberizing a baby? As an acclaimed doctor and leader of a child sleep disorder clinic in Boston, Richard Ferber has become so well-known that his name even has a verb.
Many parents contact me who feel hesitant to leave their babies crying alone, and as a mother of a brood myself, I can’t argue with them.
Dr. Ferber’s method uses a controlled crying approach that enables many parents to quickly teach their babies how to sleep while still going in for “checks” to ensure that their baby is safe.
His entire philosophy is based on a concept called “Induced Helplessness,” which was a theory he researched in great depth during his college years. His idea began as an initial scientific hypothesis that directly correlated with the Darwinian idea of survival of the fittest. His theory was that if babies are left on their own to cry, they will eventually learn how to fall asleep because they simply “give up” the idea that someone will come to their aid and help them.
Does this method work? Technically yes. But the problem is that the quality of the sleep is actually less restorative as babies tend to wake more frequently due to distressed sleeping patterns. Basically, they are in “shock mode.”
Our bodies are set up in such a way that when we are on guard, nervous, or uptight, we are unable to have a deep, restful sleep. This goes back to our primitive instincts for survival when we needed to be on guard when danger approached.
A recent study at Harvard University even concluded that leaving children to cry alone for extended periods causes trauma to their nervous system and brain development. It is so important to ensure our babies feel emotionally secure at all times!
I’m not saying that your baby can never cry, and of course when teaching your baby to learn proper sleep skills there are some tears involved. Crying is still one of your baby’s strongest forms of communication. But next time you’re considering leaving your baby to scream alone because you feel it’s the only way to help him sleep, think about alternate methods out there to ensure you still offer him emotional security.