Looking for new ways to help your little one sleep through the night?
A dream feed may be the answer to your prayers!
Read on to see what it is and if it could be right for you.
What is a dream feed?
A dream feed is a feed you give to your baby once they have fallen asleep, perhaps around 10 or 11pm. Some babies may gently rouse for this feed whilst others may appear to drink their milk whilst still in dreamland!
You may also have heard of dream feeds under different names: Late-Evening Feed or the 10 PM-11 PM Feed.
Why do a dream feed?
The idea of a dream feed is that you can fill up baby’s little belly to help him sleep for longer without waking for further feedings. Your baby should gently fall back to sleep afterwards and then may be less likely to wake again so early in the night.
You may be able to say goodbye to those late-night awakenings and get some much needed shut-eye!
Madeformums.com suggests how a young baby will only have one longer period of deep sleep a night. Wouldn’t it be great if this longer period could be when parents are also sleeping?
So by gently waking your baby from his deep sleep for a feed, he may reset his clock and start his long, deep sleep after 11pm.
Does it work?
Netmums points out that there are many mums who swear by their nightly dream feeds! However, there is currently not a great deal of formal research on how effective they actually are.
The best thing is to try it out for a few nights and see how your baby responds!
Why it might not work
Babysleepsite.com has various reasons as to why you shouldn’t worry if dream feeds don’t work for you.
- It may be difficult to rouse your baby at this time of night.
- Baby may not appreciate being disturbed and may fully awaken in a cranky mood which affects the rest of the night.
- Baby may not be hungry at this time.
- Some babies wake more frequently after the first awakening of the night.
They also suggest the possibility that baby could become used to waking for a dream feeds at the same time each night and we may then miss the window when our baby may otherwise have slept through the night!
Some experts suggest that a dream feed may interfere with your baby’s natural circadian rhythms. These rhythms are based around baby’s different phases of sleep (light and deep) and their understanding of night and day.
Sophie Giordano, author of The Baby Sleep Solution, feels that dream feeds interfere with a baby’s natural sleep rhythms and will therefore not be successful at helping them to sleep through. In effect, it may break the deepest sleep of the night which baby may have already embarked upon…
If you do decide to give it a go…
So there are clearly pros, cons and a whole host of different opinions on trying out dream feeds. If you decide to try them out, here are a few things to consider.
How to dream feed safely.
- Before you begin a dream feed, make sure you have lifted your baby so that their head is slightly elevated. Feeding whilst baby lies flat risks choking.
- Also make sure that your baby is not so deeply asleep that they are unable to drink. Watch for the usual sucking motion of their lips.
- Your baby is less likely to feel windy in a dream feed as he should be more relaxed, but you should still try to gently burp your baby afterwards. Trapped wind will not make for a good night’s sleep! Sit baby up so wind can escape.
What is the best time to do a dreamfeed?
Most experts suggest you do the dreamfeed between 10pm and 11pm, to coincide with when mom and dad are heading to bed themselves. It may take a little trial and error for you to work out what suits your baby best.
Mybabysleepguide.com points out that a too late dream feed can lead to fitful sleep, greater night wakings and an early morning wake up. This could even encourage baby to eat more throughout the night.
Not what we are aiming for!
They also recommend considering how long it has been since baby last ate. The dream feed may be more successful if baby is hungry and can take a full meal with his dream feed.
Dream feeding with a bottle.
This is possibly the easier way to offer a dream feed, as you can wiggle the bottle into baby’s mouth without having to alter his position too much. This will then activate his natural sucking reflex.
Holding the bottle upright will also make milk drip out of the end of the bottle automatically. The taste of the first few drops may encourage baby to start drinking.
Just make sure it is only a few drops until baby starts slurping themselves!
Dream feeding and breastfeeding.
This can be more difficult simply due to having to handle your baby more in order to get them into position. You may risk rousing your baby more than is necessary for a dream feed.
It is also a little more difficult to get baby suckling without the bottle teat to prompt them.
You could try brushing the nipple on baby’s lips, stoking their cheek or even hand expressing a tiny quantity of milk for him to taste or smell. This may get him interested!
Many breast feedings moms choose to express a bottle of milk to use for their dream feed.
Perhaps your partner could even give this feed then, allowing mom to go to bed a little earlier and get some much-needed sleep!
Is it too late to start?
If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, it can always be worth trying a dream feed to see if it helps.
Just remember to persevere with the new routine for about a week before deciding if it has a positive effect or not. One night is too soon to tell if it will work for you, so stick with it!
As baby gets older, you may want to drop the feed as your little one (hopefully!) gets closer to sleeping through the night.
I’ve tried it and baby is still waking at 3am!
If you have tried dream feeding, and baby still wakes through the night, it may be that this just isn’t right for you and your baby.
Remember, every baby is different, so don’t blame yourself or think you are doing something wrong if it doesn’t work for you.
Alternatively, baby may still wake in the early hours out of habit. If they have been used to waking at 3am for a feed, this may continue for a while even with a dream feed at 11pm.
If this happens, try soothing your baby back to sleep when they wake at 3am. Even if they only manage another hour and you feed them again at 4am, gradually this feed may move closer to morning.
To dream feed or not to dream feed?
Ultimately, only you can decide what is right for you and your baby.
Remember that you won’t do any harm by trying it. If it doesn’t work out, drop the dream feed!
The other side of the coin is that you (and baby!) might end up getting a good night’s sleep!
And most of us would try anything for that!