Ferber Method What If Baby Is Hungry

Ferber Method What If Baby Is Hungry


Sleep training is an important process for many parents, as it aims to help a baby fall asleep independently, ensuring better nighttime sleep for both the child and the parents. The Ferber method, a type of graduated extinction sleep training technique, has become popular among many. However, a common concern for parents is how to handle it if the baby wakes in the middle of the night, seemingly hungry.

Understanding the Ferber Sleep Method and Nighttime Feed

The Ferber method, developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, is one of the most well-known sleep training techniques. The core idea is teaching a baby to fall asleep independently by allowing them to cry for increasingly longer periods before the parent checks in. This approach is designed to help a baby self-soothe and go back to sleep without intervention.

However, nighttime feeding is an essential part of a baby’s feeding schedule during their first few months. Breast milk or formula is their primary source of nutrition, and it’s normal for babies to require one or more feeds during the night.

Balancing Sleep Training and Night Feedings

The key is to distinguish between when a baby wakes out of habit or due to genuine hunger. Sleep deprivation can occur if a baby wakes frequently due to sleep associations like being nursed or rocked back to sleep. However, if the baby is genuinely hungry, they should be fed.

Many babies start sleeping through the night when they begin to eat solid foods, around 4-6 months of age. If a baby wakes up during the night after this age, it could be more related to their sleep cycle or sleep associations rather than hunger.

Before starting sleep training, parents should have a clear understanding of their baby’s feeding schedule and patterns. For instance, if a baby typically takes a long stretch of sleep after their first feed of the night, but then wakes frequently, it might be a sign that they’re not genuinely hungry but have come to associate waking up with being fed.

When to Feed During Sleep Training

If the baby cries in the middle of the night, and it’s their usual feeding time, parents should provide the nighttime feed. However, if the baby wakes up outside of their regular feeding times, parents might want to give a few extra minutes to see if the baby falls asleep on their own.

Using the Ferber Method Chart to help Baby Fall Asleep and Night Weaning

A Ferber method chart can be helpful in establishing and maintaining a sleep training routine. It can help parents monitor their baby’s sleep and wake-ups, and gradually increase the time between the baby’s cries and subsequent visits to soothe them.

Night weaning is a process that can be started once a child is eating enough solid foods during the daytime hours to sustain them through the night. It can be incorporated into the Ferber method by gradually reducing the amount given during night feeds.

How a Typical Ferber Method Chart Might Look Like

  • Night 1: Wait 3 minutes before the first check, then 5 minutes before the second check, and then 10 minutes for all subsequent checks.
  • Night 2: Wait 5 minutes before the first check, then 10 minutes before the second check, and then 12 minutes for all subsequent checks.
  • Night 3: Wait 10 minutes before the first check, then 12 minutes before the second check, and then 15 minutes for all subsequent checks.
  • Night 4: Wait 12 minutes before the first check, then 15 minutes before the second check, and then 17 minutes for all subsequent checks.
  • Night 5: Wait 15 minutes before the first check, then 17 minutes before the second check, and then 20 minutes for all subsequent checks.
  • Night 6 and beyond Continue to increase the waiting times based on your child’s progress and comfort.

Remember, these times are guidelines, and you should adjust them based on what feels right for you and your child. The goal is to gradually increase the time you let your child self-soothe before intervening. Please consult a pediatrician or a sleep consultant before implementing any sleep training method.

Alternatives to the Ferber Method for Falling Asleep

If the Ferber method doesn’t seem to work well with your baby, other methods such as more gentle methods may be considered. For example, some babies may respond with better sleep and to a softer approach that involves less crying, such as the “no tears” method or “fading” method. Sleep experts can offer personalized help to address specific child’s sleep problems.

Dealing with Other Nighttime Sleep Disruptions

Infant sleep problems are not always related to hunger. A dirty diaper, for instance, could also cause a baby to wake in the middle of the night. Also, certain pediatric sleep disorders could lead to frequent night wakings.

In conclusion, the Ferber method can be effective in helping a child fall asleep independently, but it’s important to ensure that a baby’s nutritional needs are met during the night

The Role of Sleep Associations in the Ferber Sleep Method

A crucial component of the how Ferber method work is understanding and managing sleep associations. Sleep associations are cues that a baby links to falling asleep. These can include being rocked, nursed, or the presence of a parent. When a baby wakes in the middle of the night, they might struggle to fall asleep independently if these associations aren’t present.

The goal of the Ferber method is to teach a baby to self-soothe, essentially forming new sleep associations that don’t require parental intervention. This can help improve sleep, as it encourages a baby to go back to sleep on their own during night wakings, reducing sleep deprivation for both baby and parents.

However, if a baby cries due to hunger, they should be fed. The trick is distinguishing between cries due to hunger and cries due to broken sleep associations. Typically, if a baby promptly goes back to falling asleep after a few extra minutes without feeding, it’s likely that the wake was more about sleep associations than hunger.

Adjusting Bedtime Routine with Ferber Method

A consistent bedtime routine can also assist in sleep training. The routine might include a bath, a book, a lullaby, and then sleep. Over time, this routine will signal to the baby that it’s time to sleep. The goal is to have the baby fall asleep independently at the end of this routine.

Keep in mind that the bedtime routine should be enjoyable for both baby and parent. If the baby starts crying excessively during the process, it might be necessary to evaluate and adjust the routine or consider other sleep training techniques.

First Night of Ferber Method and Night Feeding

The first night of using the Ferber method might be the most challenging. The baby might wake up several times and start crying due to the change in routine. If the baby is used to being fed back to sleep, they might expect the same. Here, parents need to make a judgment call: if the baby is genuinely hungry, a feed is necessary.

Sometimes, providing an extra feed before starting the bedtime routine can help the baby sleep for a longer stretch initially. If the baby wakes after a significant period post this feed, it might be safe to assume the baby is hungry and needs a night feeding.

Advantages of a Well-rested Baby

When a baby sleeps well, they tend to be happier and more settled during their day. Day sleep can also improve when nighttime sleep is consistent and restful. Moreover, when a baby learns to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, it can contribute to their sense of security and self-confidence.

In Summary

The Ferber method can help many babies to fall asleep independently and reduce unnecessary night wakings. However, it’s important to remember that each baby is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Addressing nighttime feedings during sleep training can be a challenge, but with a good understanding of a baby’s needs and patterns, it can be effectively managed. Consider seeking advice from sleep experts or pediatricians if you face persistent difficulties or if your baby’s sleep problems continue despite your best efforts.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is the Ferber method?

The Ferber method, also known as the “graduated extinction” or “cry it out” method, is a sleep training technique developed by Dr. Richard Ferber. It’s designed to help babies learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. This is achieved by gradually increasing the time a parent waits before responding to their crying baby during the night.

2. When can I start sleep training using the Ferber method?

Most experts recommend starting sleep training when a baby is between 4 and 6 months old. By this age, most babies have started eating solid foods and don’t need to eat as frequently during the night. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician before starting sleep training.

3. Can I feed my baby during the night while using the Ferber method?

Yes, especially if your baby is genuinely hungry. The Ferber method focuses on teaching your baby to self-soothe and go back to sleep on their own, but it doesn’t mean ignoring your baby’s nutritional needs. As a parent, you’ll need to distinguish between cries of hunger and cries due to broken sleep associations.

4. My baby cries a lot when we try the Ferber method. Is this normal?

It’s normal for a baby to resist the changes at first, which can lead to more crying. However, if your baby is crying excessively, it might be too distressing for both of you. In such cases, you may want to try more gentle methods of sleep training or seek advice from a healthcare professional.

5. How long does it usually take for the Ferber method to work?

The timeframe can vary greatly from baby to baby. Some might adjust to the new routine within a few days, while others might take a few weeks. Consistency is key in making this method work. Stick to the plan as closely as possible, but always attend to your baby’s needs.

6. What if the Ferber method isn’t working for my baby?

Not all babies respond to the Ferber method, and that’s okay. There are many other sleep training techniques you can try. If you’re having trouble finding a method that works, you might want to consult with a pediatrician or a sleep consultant for personalized help.

7. What should I do if my baby is sick? Should I still use the Ferber method?

If your baby is sick, it’s best to put any sleep training on hold. When they’re not feeling well, they need extra comfort and care. You can resume sleep training once your baby is feeling better.



This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.