A new cuddly munchkin addition in the house means adjusting to her sleep time and, while at it, figuring out how you, mommy, could get enough rest while you care for that precious bundle. But if this bundle of joy is past the newborn stage and still waking up to feed more than a few times a night, a dream feed may be of great help.
In her book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Tracy Hogg recommends starting the dream feed as soon as you’d like and eliminating it by 8 months old. Research shows that babies who sleep between 6 and 8 p.m. often wake up out of hunger in the middle of the night, and therefore, sneaking in an extra feed between 10 p.m and midnight usually reduces night wakings, helping babies sleep until reasonable hours of the morning, hence allowing the little ones to develop a regular sleep schedule.
In this article, we cover everything from what a dream feed is to knowing if it is right for you and your baby, as it might just be the solution you have been looking for in getting your baby to sleep through the night.
What is a dream feed?
Exactly what it sounds like. A dream feed is when you feed your baby while she is still asleep by gently rousing her just enough to feed or nurse to reduce middle-of-the-night wakings.
The idea is that if you feed your little one without waking them fully before you lay down, she will be full enough to sleep for a longer stretch at night or until early morning hours. Most parents choose the preferred time for the dream feed based on when they are going to bed themselves and what works best for their baby.
How do I wake my baby for a dream feed?
Newborns have pretty little stomachs, and they need to eat every 2 to 4 hours. Once they start showing signs that they could sleep for longer stretches without a feed, you could give dream feeding a try. It’s possible to start dream feeding infants around 4-6 months too. If you’re lucky, a dream feed might not even be necessary at that stage. Here is how to successfully dream feed your baby.
- Dream feed when your baby is in an active sleep period. Known as REM Sleep, this phase will be fairly noticeable because your baby will move her hands, feet, and fingers, flutter her eyelids, and even change her facial expressions. She is more likely to get a fuller feeding if you can catch her when she is stirring.
- Try to maximize sleep. This allows for a longer stretch of your baby’s sleep to occur when you want to sleep too. You shouldn’t dream feed the baby sooner than 2 or 3 hours after she last fed.
- Dream feed shortly before you go to bed. If you go to bed at 11 p.m, aim to feed your baby at 10:30 p.m so that the baby can sleep longer and give you too plenty of time to rest.
- Gently pick your baby from the crib. If your baby doesn’t start feeding when you pick her up, you can slowly u swaddle her if she is swaddled. You can also try undressing her down to a diaper, flickering the lights a little, holding her upright, gently massaging her, or talking and singing swiftly, or even undressing her down to a diaper.
- Put your nipple or the bottle to the corner of your baby’s mouth. This should stimulate a sucking reflex and a latch so the baby can get in a late-night snack. Make sure the baby is propped up into your arms when you are feeding her.
- Put the baby back in the crib on her back. Whether your baby has fallen asleep during dream feeding or not, put her down on her back in the crib.
- After your baby has had her fill and has settled back to sleep, go to sleep yourself. Hopefully, you won’t hear from that little person for another 3 to 4 hours.
Risks of dream feeding babies
You may want to wake up your baby enough to bottle feed or to breastfeed because it isn’t considered safe to feed a baby who is completely asleep or laying down on her back.
Dream feeding is considered a safe practice as long as you take the baby out of the crib, wake her up enough to eat, and avoid feeding her flat on her back.
While dream feeding is generally safe a few risk factors that come with it including…
- Overfeeding. Your baby may not even be hungry during that dream feed and may not need that extra feed, so there’s a high chance of feeding her too much by adding that dream feed. As a result, you also risk her spitting up and getting fussy.
- Middle ear infection. Bottle-feeding babies on their back allows milk to run into the ear’s Eustachian tubes leading to a possible ear infection. Hold your baby in an upright position with her head cradled into the crook of your arm.
- Choking. There’s a big risk of choking if you feed your baby laying down on her back. Slightly prop up your baby’s head as recommended during dream feeding.
- Gas. Babies tend to swallow air during feeding, and they are usually gassy because their digestive systems are immature. Dream feeds can make them very gassy and bloated, especially if attempts to burp her afterward aren’t effective.
Dream feeding guidelines
- Timing is key. Dream feeds should be between 10- 11 p.m. If your little one has gone past the 4-month sleep regression, try to get her when she is about to enter a new cycle.
- Vary the dream feed times. To prevent your baby from getting used to a specific time, alter her dream feed by half an hour or so.
- Burp wisely. Some babies need to be burped, and some don’t because it will fully wake them.
- Environment. Do not switch on the light. If you must, keep it as low as possible so as not to wake up your baby.
- Swaddle/Unswaddled. Swaddle your baby carefully, but most parents prefer to unswaddle because it arouses babies enough to eat while remaining comfortable.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
Should I burp the baby after dream feeding?
If your baby has been eating while completely asleep, chances are that she did not swallow very much air and burping isn’t necessary but, if you can lift her carefully and burp her without waking her up, then well and good, but it is not certain that it is needed.
Should I change diapers after dream feeding?
Many newborn babies poop every time after feeding especially if they are breastfed, so to avoid diaper rash, you will need to change diapers after a dream feed. If your baby hasn’t pooped, then I would say no, of course, unless the diaper is so heavy that it will not last your baby through the night, and in that case, to avoid waking up your baby, use a baby sleep sack that opens at the bottom for easy diapering.
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Should I leave the baby swaddled for dream feed?
Generally yes. Leave your baby swaddled because you intend to stimulate them as little as possible. The Zen Swaddle will help your baby sleep longer because of its sides that mimics your touch and its gently weighted chest, but if the baby is too drowsy to feed, unswaddling might help wake her up enough.
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Should I dream feed my baby at the same time every night?
The schedule of your dream feed will be based on what is favorable for you and your baby. You can experiment with different times, especially in the beginning, to try and find the best time range for your baby and keep it consistent once you find it.
Dream feeding doesn’t work for every baby, and it isn’t meant to be a permanent solution to your baby’s sleep. Other babies will happily dream feed but still wake up an hour later ready to have another fill, but if your little one is interested in it, it’s ok as it is not required of you or your baby to aid good night’s sleep.
Don’t beat yourself up too much if your little one doesn’t seem to take to dream feeding. Just go ahead and try because the worst that can happen is that it won’t work. If it works, then enjoy that long stretch of sleep before your kiddo wakes up again.
Don’t compare your baby to other babies as there is nothing wrong with you or your baby if your dream feeding method is unsuccessful. Leave us a comment down below and let us know how you and your tiny human aced this dream-feeding riddle.