The Ferber Method is also known as the “cry-it-out” method, and I think it has a negative and misunderstood connotation.
I was super anti-cry-it-out. I remember being in my childhood psychology class in college and learning about how soothing your children is important to their attachment development. So when Thea was young, after my husband and I studied the cry-it-out stuff (before we even knew anything about the Ferber Method), we decided that it was important for Thea that we make sure to answer her cries and to hold off on any potential cry-it-out methodology until later. Which I still believe was the right decision.
However, what I thought the cry-it-out thing was about was putting your kid in a crib, shutting the door, and then pretending they didn’t exist until they stopped crying. That might be someone’s method, but that’s not the Ferber Method. The Ferber Method has you leaving your baby for short periods of time (however long you feel comfortable or that your baby can handle) and you going in to comfort them when time is up. You aren’t leaving your baby. I stand outside the door when she’s having a really hard time. I’m right there, but I can’t interfere with her learning environment either.
So we started with 5 minute intervals, but Thea wasn’t doing very well, so we shortened it to 3 minutes. Then, based on if she was doing better or worse, we’d lengthen or shorten the time.
I’ve had the question, what do you do to comfort her? Basically anything except pick her up and hold her. I put my face to her face, I talk to her, I pray with her, I encourage her, tell her I loved her, I try to help her hold onto her stuffed animal, I put her binky in, I stroke her face and her head, make sure the room is dark enough. I would suggest starting with anything you know helped the baby fall asleep before you started the Ferber Method, just without holding them, and then just try stuff. Whatever you do, we found it was important for us to leave the room while she was calm, not still screaming. Also, if we stayed in there too long, she would start to cry again. So I would watch for her to calm down, for her breathing to go back to normal and relaxed, and then I would look for the time to go.
Big thing, I do feel that it was very important for us to wait. I believe the Ferber Method is only for babies around 4 months and older. Main thing we saw was that Thea was cognitively ready to learn to self-soothe. She is a little mobile and is more able to solve problems right now. She can play with her feet, suck on her hands, roll to her side–basically she has tools to help her be on her own and be okay. She also is beginning to understand more, she knows that we are still around even if she can’t see us, etc.
Do I think we could have started before Thea was 5 months? Yes. Do I think it was detrimental to her that we didn’t? No. Would I have wanted to wait longer? No, especially because for us it’s been so smooth, but if it had’t’ve been, maybe we would have waited, but because of the impressions I had, I would have stuck it out and kept trying to see what I might need to do differently to help her succeed.
Let me know if you have other questions I might help with. I’m really no expert, but I can offer experience.