Dr. Ferber and the Family Bed

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Q. “I read that Dr. Ferber now supports the family bed for some families.  Is this true?”

A. Yes, twenty years after the publication of his “sleep” book, Richard Ferber has back-pedaled and proclaimed that children can still develop healthy sleep patterns in the family bed. His approach to forcing children to sleep alone has long been rejected by real sleep experts like James McKenna, William Sears and, I’m proud to say, me.

Dr. Harkness sums up a more reasonable and scientifically sound attitude:

“It is clear that children of differing temperaments need different things at night, just as they do during the day,” said Sara Harkness, the director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Health and Human Development at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Harkness, who has conducted cross-cultural research on infant sleep habits in several countries, said no studies have borne out the connection originally drawn by Dr. Ferber and others between teaching babies to sleep alone and their ability to develop autonomy.
“It’s an American myth,” Dr. Harkness said. “It’s fine to think about training children to be independent, but there has been this misguided effort to extend it to an area where it’s really not developmentally appropriate.”