Richard Ferber's Change of Heart on Co-Sleeping

May 23, 2006

Dr. Richard Ferber, the parenting guru and author of the popular book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, has changed his stance on co-sleeping, according to Newsweek. In his 1985 bestseller, Ferber criticized the practice, stating, “Sleeping alone is an important part of [your child’s] learning to be able to separate from you without anxiety and to see himself as an independent individual.”

Now, in the latest edition of his book due out this week, he has omitted that sentence along with the section on the psychological harm caused by parents who share a bed with their children.

“That’s one sentence I wish I never wrote,” he told NEWSWEEK. “It was describing the general thinking of the time, but it was not describing my own experience or philosophy.”

Solitary sleeping was the norm when Ferber’s first book came out two decades ago. But the number of adults routinely sharing a bed with an infant more than doubled between 1993 and 2000, according to the National Infant Sleep Position Study led by the National Institutes of Health. The 2003 study found that in a two-week period, 45 percent of infants spent some time at night in an adult bed. There’s growing acceptance of co-sleeping among pediatricians as well. “What ever you want to do, whatever you feel comfortable doing, is the right thing to do, as long as it works,” Ferber writes.

As the article correctly pointed out, many cultures such as Indians co-sleep until the children are well into secondary school. My own grandmother — from Cuba — once told me that my dad shared a bed with her until he was 12. What a relief that a prominent childcare provider like Ferber no longer considers them freaks.

Personally, I get a better night’s sleep with my two-year-old son in his own bed. But I am just as guilty as the next parent for bending the rules: He slept with us as a newborn, which made nursing easier. Whenever Markos is gone, he sleeps in bed with me. But the honeymoon usually ends when Markos gets back and “ferberizes” Ari back to sleeping solo.