Dream feeding means exactly that: feeding the baby while they are still dreaming. To ensure that the baby sleeps for the better part of the night, the baby is nudged to slight wakefulness enough to latch and start suckling.
The goal is to ensure the baby gets full without fully waking up.
If the baby falls back asleep and momentarily stops feeding, slightly rubbing the nipple on his face causes enough disturbance for him to instinctively continue feeding.
This is aimed at reducing the number of times the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, extending the sleeping time for both baby and mommy.
When is the right time for dream feeding?
Experts recommend dream feeding your baby between 10-11pm. Most babies will usually be asleep at 7.30 pm.
Since in most cases you have not gone to bed yet at 10pm, or are about to go to bed, that is the best time to dream feed your little one.
Any feeding after 11.30pm is not a dream feed, but a night feed. So, be keen on your timings. When you do it later in the night, you may end up disrupting the baby’s sleep schedule. And worse still, he probably may not fall right back to sleep after feeding.
Why dream feed?
Dream feeding works perfectly for babies who are 6 months and below. It is ideal for newborns as long as you do not wake them fully when breastfeeding them.
Newborns tend to feed 10-12 times within a period of 24 hours. Therefore, by dream feeding your little one, you are putting in an extra feed for the day so that you and the baby sleep longer.
It is also great for the mom with breast milk supply problems and needs to nurse frequently to deal with the issue.
Is dream feeding safe?
Any method of raising a baby should have at its core the safety of the baby. Dream feeding should, therefore, safeguard the child against chocking due to excess milk or air.
It’s hard enough to burp a baby who’s awake, how much harder one who is fast asleep?
Burping a baby after every feed is paramount, whether they are asleep or not. Some babies burp easily while others seem hell-bent on holding onto their precious air and curds.
My first child was the sleepiest baby ever, I had trouble keeping her awake through her feeding time. She would be flat asleep the moment the nipple hit her lips. Burping her was like removing gum from the hair.
I’d rub her back until both of us were sore and irritated. On most instances, I just left her to babble and kick around until the air finally rolled out with a roar and a spurt of white.
One older mother schooled me on a different way to burp the baby. I’d let the child lie face-down on my lap, with her head between my legs for ease of breathing. I’d then gently pat the baby’s back until the air comes out. This always worked.
This method would work best for dream feeding burping since the baby is already asleep. Safeguard yourself from curds by laying a shawl beneath the baby should he spit some milk.
However long it takes, the baby should not be put back to sleep until he has burped sufficiently.
Dream Feeding Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage of dream feeding has to be that it may curb sleep deprivation for both the baby and mommy. The sheer number of times one has to wake up to feed the baby in the night can be exhausting especially if one has to wake up to go to a day job.
Babies are known to wake up at least twice between 10pm and 6AM. While most of them will immediately fall back asleep, others may not regain that sleep back as fast.
Ensuring that the baby is satisfied before putting them back to sleep especially when it’s bedtime for everyone else in the family significantly reduces the nightly wakes and feeds.
I hadn’t known just how sleep deprived I was until I dozed off and almost dropped the baby one night during our midnight feeds.
I resulted in ensuring my husband was present during the feeds just in case sleep overtook me and I ended up dropping the baby.
Sleepy babies are cranky babies. If a baby wakes up fewer times in the night, they will be more rested and less fussy during their awake hours.
Dream feeding pros
- Dream feeding babies helps them have longer hours of uninterrupted after-feed sleep making their awake hours happier and longer.
- You get longer sleep hours because with a dream feed, you will have moved the baby wake hours forward.
- Your partner can help with the dream feed. This is especially great for babies who do not have a problem feeding from a bottle.
- I loved dream feeds with both of my babies because it was a lot easier for me to drop them than the night feeds. Dream feeds are also quick and I did not have to change diapers as I used heavy night diapers before putting them to bed.
Dream feeding cons
- While the dream feeding baby may sleep for longer hours, interrupting their sleep pattern may not be very good for them in the long run. This is true especially if they had to be woken up beyond the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage when their sleep is much deeper.
- A newborn baby needs about 16 hours of sleep with their time divided between sleeping and feeding. Babies cannot be trusted. Therefore, it’s not guaranteed that the baby will peacefully go back to sleep after you’ve rudely interrupted their sleep. Sometimes, the sleep pattern may get messed up entirely leading to more frustration for both you and the baby.
- Dependence on the dream feed may also occur leading to the baby waking up even after they have been weaned off the midnight feeding. Sleep training would have to be done all over again for such a baby.
When to stop dream feeding
Naturally, babies will wake up for night feeds until they are about six months. That their tummies are the size of a fist doesn’t help much either. This means they end up getting hungrier faster and needing feeding more often.
Normally, the baby’s feeding pattern eventually evens out as they grow older and get weaned. Once the baby is weaned, the need for midnight feeds is no longer there. They can comfortably sleep for 8 hours without needing to wake up for a cup of milk or formula.
Once the baby sleeps through the night, there will be little encouragement to wake them up. The day I weaned my little one, he slept so soundly that I got scared he had suffocated in his sleep!
I went to check if he’s still breathing so many times that I forgot to take advantage and compensate for all the sleep I had lost.
Dream feeding is not a one-for-all solution to sleep deprivation and fatigue among new moms. Like all baby nurturing choices, it has to be a personal and not forced.
It’s good to note and accept that it may not work for all babies. Some may still cry for a feed despite being fed earlier in the night. Others may take to it like ducks to water.
Although it’s said that babies don’t come with manuals, they have their own ways of letting us know their preferences.
The most important thing is to understand your baby and what works for both of you and pursue it. Forcing a routine on a baby may leave both mother and child frustrated and discouraged.
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