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Decades later, sleep doctor clarifies his theory

Just when you thought you found the best advice for putting your child to sleep, the expert has new advice. Confused? NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

NEW YORK — Susan Guzman says her baby, 7-and-a-half-week-old Amanda, sleeps just fine during the day — it's nighttime that drives them both to distraction.

“It's very confusing,” Guzman says. “We try everything, every method, just hoping to find one thing that helps her to sleep through the night.”

Like thousands of parents, Guzman also tried the famous — or infamous — method, depending on whom you ask, invented more than 20 years ago by Dr. Richard Ferber. The idea, for babies six months of age and older, is to put her in her crib and let her cry. Check on her if you must, but otherwise leave her be — in order to teach her to sleep alone through the night. Ferber's system is so widespread that his name has become a verb and part of the popular culture.

“Now remember, Greg, we're 'Ferberizing' him, so unless it's an emergency, under no circumstances, should you pick him up or coddle him in any way when he cries,” says Robert DeNiro's character to his son-in-law (played by Ben Stiller) in the movie “Meet the Fockers.”

But “Ferberizing” has lots of critics who maintain that leaving a child to cry can cause insecurity and other emotional problems. So it will come as a surprise to a lot of parents that Dr. Ferber himself has decided to clarify his theory.

“Different problems call for different solutions,” he says. “And the same problem can be solved in different ways.”

Ferber will explain in a revised edition of his book that if you rock your baby to sleep, you don't have to stop cold turkey, that it isn't even appropriate to do so if your child has night terrors.

In other words, Ferber will echo the many pediatricians who tell parents there is no magic solution to getting a child to sleep.

“You have to feel that what you're doing works best for you,” says Dr. Herb Lazarus.

Susan Guzman says she'll keep trying anything she can.