Ask a Mama: sleep training your infant

What are your thoughts on “sleep training”? My 13-month-old still wakes up a few times each night, although we were down to once a night prior to traveling and teething. My friends tell me I have to “Ferberize” her (let her cry-it-out) as she is too feisty to respond to gentler methods, but the idea breaks my heart. On the other hand, sleep deprivation is killing me!


Dear Mama,

You are not alone! Every mother reading this is nodding her head in empathy. I myself have been in your exact shoes, down to the feisty child who needed to be “Ferberized” and was waking three times a night at 13 months. Sleep issues in infants and young children are million dollar questions that people have made millions trying to solve (ie Dr Ferber).

I have seen both ends of the sleep spectrum: my feisty 3-year-old boy woke up three times a night until he was 2 and is not a reliable sleeper to this day. My 18-month-old has slept through the night since birth (I laughed when the doctors told me to wake her up for feedings). They have wildly different personalities and what works for one does not work for another.

Which is the problem I have had with all the Ferberizing and sleep-solutions: they don’t take into account the nature of the individual child, the chemistry of that particular parent-child relationship or the circumstances that define each of our unique lifestyles. What works for one family may not work for another.

The best advice I have been given, and tried and tested through two children, is to follow your instinct. If you are at your wit’s end and are no longer functioning as a human being (let alone a mother or a wife), you feel on the edge of insanity from sleep deprivation (I have been there, many times), then give yourself permission to Ferberize. Your child is going to gain more from a functioning mama (who is able to maintain her relationship to herself and her partner), than a non-functioning one.

When I was at my most sleep-deprived with my son, somewhere around 15 months, we tried a variety of different sleep solutions across the cry-it-out spectrum and I am reluctant to share that none of them worked for us. However, I know some other families that have had great success with Ferber. Again, follow your instinct and listen to yourself and your child.

But above all else, this too will pass. You will not be sleep deprived forever. There is a day in the not-too-distant future, whether you Ferberize or not, when you will hardly remember how exhausted you are today.

Good Luck, Mama!





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