Should I let my baby cry

Sleep problems: can babies cry?

Miss Dr. Ziegler, isn't it really harmful if parents let their child scream when they have trouble sleeping, as the Ferber method recommends?

It depends. The Ferber method does not recommend locking the child in the cellar and leaving them to their own devices. Of course, the parents don't just let it scream for hours. After a few minutes you go into his room, and after a brief calm you go out again. Often the child then screams again immediately. This is usually very stressful for parents and frustrating for the child. That's why I don't recommend this method. If parents decide to carry out such a program, I consider general sleep and development counseling to be very important.

Why is that useful?

Many parents have too little knowledge about the sleep development of children. You should find out how sleep develops in the first few years of life. Children - just like adults, by the way - wake up regularly at night. On the one hand, it is normal for them to seek reinsurance from their parents in the first few years of their lives. On the other hand, children with insomnia have no strategies for falling asleep again. They call for help from their parents - by screaming. Children without sleep disorders can do this on their own.

Before the child is six to eight months old - some experts even say before the age of twelve months - parents should not do a sleep training program. Many parents who come to our counseling center have already tried the Ferber method and couldn't stand their child crying for so long. You don't want to do that anymore. Instead, they want individual support, and many have very specific questions.

How do you proceed in the Munich office hours for baby cribs?

First of all, it is important to determine the child's need for sleep. Because this can vary greatly. At the age of twelve months, "seldom sleepers" only need a total of 11 to 12 hours of sleep, "frequent sleepers" 14 to 15 hours. With the help of a sleep diary, parents record day and night sleep for two weeks and then determine the average sleep requirement. For example, some children spend too much time in bed for their sleep needs; they can no longer sleep. The sleep rhythm, especially the duration of daytime sleep, must then be adapted to the child's overall sleep needs. Usually, these changes already improve the sleep disorder. If not, the sleep situation must be changed in steps. Even if the child screams when waking up at night, this is ultimately mostly a problem returning to sleep: It does not manage to find sleep on its own.

What help then?

It is best for parents to gradually wean the child off the sleep aids. The first step is usually to separate feeding and sleeping. The child should be able to fall asleep without sucking on the breast or bottle. The second step is for the mother to stay asleep, but at most put one hand on the baby's chest. As a third step, the child should learn to fall asleep without physical contact and finally without the parents being present. The steps can also be smaller, depending on how well the parent and child can go along. With the Ferber method, all of this together is a very big step that can overwhelm the parents as well as the child.

Does your method involve less yelling?

Not necessarily. It is important to point this out to parents. For example, if the child is used to falling asleep while drinking a bottle in the mother's arms and this habit changes, they initially have no idea how to fall asleep. Then it screams. Even if parents suddenly stop cuddling while falling asleep, children may be frustrated and crying.

But parents find it easier to persevere when they can be with their children and help them. Because in order to learn to sleep, children need the reassurance of their parents that they are not alone. And the parents need the confidence that the child can learn. And of course they need rules that they adhere to, for example a clear rhythm. In addition, therapeutic support is crucial. Parents and children need good care, especially for children with severe sleep disorders.

So isn't the Ferber method dangerous?

The study has shown that if the parent-child relationship is stable and the Ferber method is used correctly, the child will not be traumatized. However, only a small group was examined. After one year, the children had just as secure a bond with their mother as in the control group. What certainly plays a role in the study is that the parents all received sleep counseling.

When should parents not do or stop using the Ferber Method?

If the child screams for hours, it is important to stop - I would say after 60 minutes at the latest. Even if the parents feel overwhelmed and helpless or even get angry with the child. Or even if the child's sleep problems do not improve significantly after a few days. Because there may be disturbing environmental factors or a disease of the child. This is why it is best for parents to speak to the pediatrician before starting any sleep program. The method is unsuitable and harmful if the relationship with the mother or parents is severely strained or disturbed. Children often get the closeness they need, namely at night. Then it is essential to work on improving the parent-child relationship in therapy.