Sears versus Ferber on Baby Sleep

If you’re a new parent, chances are, you’ve heard of one or both of those famous doctors: Doctors Sears and Ferber. They are the most well known experts on baby sleep in the country. And they couldn’t be more different in their approaches to baby sleep.

Doctor Sears advocates attachment parenting. Among other things, this includes actively parenting your baby to sleep and immediately tending to your baby when she cries, regardless of what time of day or night it is.

In Doctor Sears’ mind, babies cry because they need something, and it’s our role as parents to do our best to try to figure out what that need is and to lovingly provide for it. Some babies simply need to be held more than others, and as parents, we should make it a point to fulfill that very real emotional need that our baby has. That means that if your baby cries at two in the morning, you should get up, pick her up, and immediately try to help baby with whatever she is going through, whether she needs a feeding or just wants to be cuddled.

Doctor Ferber, on the other hand, advocates a program in which you gradually teach your baby to sleep through the night by allowing him to cry it out. While that doesn’t mean that you stand by idly while your baby screams his head off for hours at a time, it does mean allowing baby a few minutes, in increasing increments, to try to soothe herself back to sleep.

Even when you do go tend to your baby, if you are using Ferber’s method, you keep the interaction fairly minimal. Often, parents are encouraged to simply walk over by the crib, pat baby and reassure her that you’re still there without picking her up. Doctor Ferber suggests, an d many parents attest, that this helps babies learn to sleep through the night faster, allowing everyone to enjoy a peaceful night sooner.

So, which doctor is right? We wouldn’t claim to know. Fortunately, babies have lived through both methods and have grown to be healthy, well adjusted, intelligent children who have no trouble at all forming relationships with their parents or others.

Ultimately, it’s up to you as a parent to trust your instincts and pick the method which works best for you and your family. But whichever method you pick, stick with it. Both doctors agree on one thing: consistency is one of the primary keys to promoting healthy baby sleep.

Stick With Your Soothing Strategy


There is a common mistake made by most first time parents when their babies are fussy, especially if baby has colic. It’s not so much a mistake regarding what they do, or what they don’t do as much as it is a mistake regarding how long they try something before giving up and moving on to the next thing.

This is especially true of young parents with a colicky baby. In all fairness, it’s understandable why you would come to the conclusion that nothing you’re trying is working to calm your baby down after she’s been screaming her little head off for two hours. But often the problem isn’t so much what you have or haven’t tried, but that you haven’t stayed the course long enough with any particular soothing method for it to work.

There are many different things you can try to help calm a fussy baby, but all of them require the ingredient of T-I-M-E. Don’t assume that rocking your baby isn’t helping her calm down just because she doesn’t immediately stop crying. It takes time for her little brain to register the idea that she’s starting to feel better now.

The same can be said for just about anything you use to try to calm a crying baby, whether it’s white noise, a rocker, singing to her, or something completely different. Whatever you try, keep at it for at least an hour before switching to something different. Often, the constant switching from one thing to another is exactly what aggravates your baby and makes them cry harder.

Even if you are completely unable to get your baby to stop crying until she has completely worn herself out, don’t take it personally. Your baby isn’t mad at you, and you aren’t a bad parent. Your baby is simply using the only method she has of communicating that something in her little life is unpleasant right now. The time you spend soothing her now will be rewarded by the way she learns to trust you as she grows, even if it isn’t immediately rewarded with a calm baby.

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