Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our point of view regarding the Ferber Method.

This post is divided in two.  My version and my husband's which come down later on.  So here it is.  Our opinion about the Ferber Method.  Thank you Jonas for agreeing to write your thoughts about this subject, but I think it is necessary to have other versions other than the already negative ones around the net. 

Dani writes:
Morning cuddles after a good night sleep.
This is unnecessary, we shouldn't have to defend our decision, but when an article like the one on Dagbladet comes along, demonizing the Ferber method and the parents that chose it, I feel like I want, not only need, to tell our version.
If you have read my blog, you might be aware that Jonas and I chose the Ferber method to help Olivia sleep better during the night.  Every evening after her sleep routine (eat-bath-book-song-nurse) we found ourselves having to rock Olivia to sleep for long periods of time.  She wasn't hungry, or had a dirty diaper, or wanted anything.  She was tired and wanted to sleep.  So she would cry on our shoulder until she did.  After detailed literary research and deep soulsearching, we decided to try Ferber and figured: she cries on our shoulder anyways for a long time, we needed to try putting her in her crib and let her find peace on her own.  It took a week of crying before sleeping, starting with 25 minutes the first day (in intervals, as Ferber suggests, of 3 min, 5min, 7min, 10min, and repeat checking every 10 min until she sleeps).  We would go in an reassure her in between, then she fell asleep until the next morning! We thought it was a miracle, and she woke up so happy and content that we decided to keep on going.  After one week, it took 5 minute to fall asleep, then after a month maybe 1 minute... then, no time at all.  After her last feed, we'd put her on her bed, she would put her thumb in her mouth and fall asleep until the next morning.  So, in fact, Ferber has helped reduce the crying to a bare minimum, allowing her to find peace on her own, and be comfortable on her own.  That is our experience.  Olivia is a confident, happy and cared for baby.   I truly believe we did the best for her.  I don't believe for a minute that she has been traumatized or felt unloved or unprotected for one minute.  But I understand there are people that don't want to apply Ferber and prefer other methods, and I also believe that every family should choose what they think is best for them and their children without being judged.  

Jonas writes:

Olivia & Jonas
 As Dani writes, I don't think it should be necessary to defend our decision to use a "controlled crying"  (a.k.a. cry-it-out/CIO/Ferber/extinction etc.) method to help Olivia fall asleep on her own, but such sloppy use of "science" as many critics of these methods use deserve an answer. If you want to make scientific references in your argumentation, you should at least take a scientific approach yourself; one that is balanced and presents both sides of the story. (I am not going to fill this post with references to papers and books, but for a detailed and easy to read overview of the scientific literature on controlled crying methods, follow this link.)

First of all, as far as I know there is NO SCIENTIFIC STUDY that concludes that cry-it-out methods have any negative effects on babies. Thus, opponents of these methods use two indirect arguments, mainly that crying has been found to increase cortisol levels in the brain, which can be harmful for the baby's development, and that babies that experience traumas may develop smaller brains. One important thing to know, however, is that none of these studies focus on cry-it-out sleeping methods. The traumas mentioned in most of these studies are cases of abuse and neglect, spending some time alone in their crib. And for the crying; the whole point of these sleep training methods is to reduce the crying, and there are plenty of studies that show that babies cry less after the initial week of such sleep training. In other words, if you are worried that the amount of crying may harm your baby, than a controlled crying method is indeed the best you can do for your baby.

Against this there are several studies specifically focusing on these controlled crying methods, and they all conclude that they have positive or no effect on the longer term development of the babies. The most robust results however, are that babies that go through such sleep training sleep more, wake up less during the night and cry less. Whether this have any long term effect on their mental health is of course hard to isolate from other causes, but it is hard to see how it could be bad.

There also do not seem to be any studies that find any significant difference in kids mental health whether they went to a cry-it-out sleep training or not. My advice to other parents is thus to choose a method you feel comfortable with, but if you want to investigate the science behind it, do it right, not believing some self-appointed expert writing in Dagbladet with a very selective usage of sources. To finish with an example: In the mentioned article in Dagbladet, the author refers to the book "The Science of Parenting" by Margot Sunderland which argues that crying-it-out will cause harm in the brain's development (without any direct scientific evidence of course). What the author in Dagbladet does not mention, however, is that Sunderland also claims that all children should sleep with their parents until the age of five...Good luck with that!


  1. hahaha, until they are five. I love you two.

    Both of you hit it on the head - do whatever works for your child and your family. I really think that half of these 'experts' only keep going because first time parents are made to feel terrified, and by that I mean Terrified, that they will do something wrong. Once you have actually had a baby for more than a couple of months you realise that its all a load of bollocks. Your child tells you what they need, and you respond to that - with a little Parental Discretion, of course.

    I actively avoid this kind of nonsense. Lets start an Occupy Our Babies campaign and not let these eejits near them.


  2. Oh George! How we miss you!!!
    Exactly! That is all we are trying to say.
    Big hugs from Norway to South Africa! (wishing we could come sometime soon!)

  3. Amen!
    Man skal gjøre det som føles rett og om andre har problemer med det får de se en annen vei.