Every night at 12:48am, like clockwork, my daughter would wake up crying to be fed. Even though she had fallen asleep soundly at 8:30pm, those 12:48am feedings were becoming way too routine. I was desperate to find a way to help her (and me!) sleep through the night. That’s when a friend introduced me to the idea of a dream feed.
Dream feeding was a new concept for me. I hadn’t heard the term before, but was definitely open to trying new tactics to promote sleep. The idea and theory behind it made a lot of sense and, after about a week of doing it consistently, those 12:48am feedings soon subsided and we were both waking around 6am. For us, dream feeding was a lifesaver!
Let me break it down for you in case you’d like to try it with your infant.
What Is a Dream Feed?
Dream feeding is a term used to describe the practice of slightly waking your infant to feed before you turn in for bed at night. While you’re not trying to wake your child up completely, most parents find it necessary to gently nudge their babies from sleep to take a bottle or breastfeed. I found that once she had started to eat, she would eventually drift off to sleep again.
A review of evidence of a 2008 study by NCT Policy Researcher, Amy Semple, found that a significantly higher number of babies (100% in the test group compared to 23% in the control group) were able to sleep for five or more hours at night when parents did a dream feed before going to bed. As a sleep-deprived parent, those numbers were enticing!
How to Do a Dream Feed.
To dream feed, get yourself ready for bed about an hour earlier than normal. So, if you try to turn in at 11pm, start getting ready at 10. Before you climb under the covers, gently pick up your child so that he or she can feed one more time before you head off to sleep.
If you’re nursing, try about 7 minutes on each side. Not only will it ease some of your nighttime engorgement discomfort, it will refill any nutrients that your baby has gone through since he went to sleep.
If bottle feeding just give your baby what they will take before nodding back to sleep.
Some tips to keep your baby sleepy and ready to go right back to sleep:
- Keep the room dark and quiet.
- If your baby is swaddled, keep them swaddled.
- Don’t change their diaper unless it is soiled.
- Try not to make eye contact.
After feeding, place him or her back in their bassinette, crib or where ever they sleep.
Some babies will continue to wake up in the middle of the night – especially when you first start dream feeding – but, with consistency, you may find that your child is sleeping through the night.
Keep in mind that all babies are different. You may find it easy to dream feed like I did, or you may find it to be more of a struggle. Whatever your experience, it’s okay! What works for some people doesn’t work for others.
Why Dream Feeding May Help
The theory behind dream feeding is that you’re structuring your child’s feedings to provide the bulk of his nutrients during daytime hours. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, likens it to “topping off the gas tank of your car by filling it to the brim.” In this case, you’re filling your little one up with nutrients to help keep her belly full throughout the night.
Not only does dream feeding put you in control of the feeding, it also keeps your little one “topped off” throughout the night. When her belly is full during those early morning hours, she’s less likely to wake crying and hungry. That means that you might both get a good night’s rest.
When to stop Dream Feeding
When my daughter got to be about five months old, dream feeding stopped working as effectively for us as it used to. As she was getting older, her need for additional nutrients was increasing at a faster pace than our dream feeding time could account for. That time frame is consistent with advice from experts like Tracy Hogg of The Baby Whisperer and Pediatrician Robert Buckman and Gary Ezzo from On Becoming Babywise. The four to six month period is one of transition. It’s during that time that parents begin to wean off of dream feeding and transition into other routines and habits.
Will Dream Feeding Work for My Baby?
There’s a good chance that consistent dream feeding will help your baby sleep for longer stretches of time at night. Just remember to keep in mind that your child is uniquely made and his or her needs and patterns may not be exactly like others’. If you’re intrigued by dream feeding and want to give it a try, I encourage you to try it. I hope it works for you as well as it did for us!
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