Dream feeding is a valuable technique for moms seeking to maximize both their baby's sleep and their own. It involves offering your baby a feed while they are still asleep or drowsy. Here's a closer look at dream feeding and how you can make it work for you:
What is Dream Feeding?
Dream feeding is when you don’t fully wake your baby to feed them, often at night before you go to bed. The goal is to help your schedule sync with your baby’s, and then hopefully you’ll both be able to get better sleep. While dream feeding is popular and can be useful, it’s not necessary–some babies don’t like to dream feed, and that’s okay too!
How to Dream Feed
Get everything ready
- It can help to have a dream feeding station so that you don’t accidentally wake your baby while setting everything up.
- Keep the lighting soft and dim–harsh lights could fully wake your baby.
- If your baby is sensitive to noise, it can help to have a white noise machine or special music you play while dream feeding. This can help establish routine and soothe your baby back to sleep.
- You may notice some squirming, fluttering eyelids, or little squeaks–this is all part of REM sleep, a state of deep sleep that’s normal and healthy to be in.
Gently touch their cheek
- To initiate the feed, gently stroke your baby's cheek. This can help activate their rooting reflex and help them latch on while they're still in a state of drowsiness.
Offer a brief feed
- Keep the feeding session short, typically around 5-10 minutes. Bottle-fed babies usually eat around 3 ounces, but be sure to confirm with your doctor.
Burp your baby, back to bed
- Be sure to burp your baby after a dream feed, as you would burp your baby after any feed to Help avoid excessive spit-up.
- Then, gently place them back in their crib to continue their slumber.
How old should your baby be when you start dream feeding?
Dream feeding is usually introduced when your baby reaches the age of 2-4 months, but the right time can vary. Always consult your pediatrician for tailored advice.
Dream Feed Pros and Cons
- Helps extend your baby's sleep duration, allowing you to enjoy longer, uninterrupted rest.
- Provides additional nourishment, aiding in your baby's growth and development.
- Fosters a bonding experience between you and your little one.
- Not all babies respond well to dream feeding.
- Establishing a successful dream feeding routine can be challenging, and it's not a guarantee for a full night's sleep.
Should I wake my baby to feed?
You do not have to fully wake your baby to feed them. In fact, the goal of dream feeding is to avoid fully waking your baby so that they can get plenty of sleep. However, if your baby wakes up for the feeding, it’s not necessarily cause for concern–you can try to be gentler so as not to wake them.
Does dream feeding help babies sleep longer?
Some families get more sleep with dream feeding, and others don’t find it useful. If a baby is waking up in the middle of the night, and the reason has nothing to do with hunger, dream feeding might not help. However, dream feeding can become part of a sleep training routine and the practice of feeding babies when they’re not fully awake is what makes so many parents eager to embrace dream feeding.
In theory, your baby gets the same amount of sleep regardless of when you feed them, but if you can avoid waking them during the feeding, and if you shift the longest stretch of sleep between feedings to begin later in the night, YOU can have more time to sleep in.
Safety precautions for dream feeding
- Make sure you are fully awake and alert during dream feeding.
- Keep the feeding brief, and burp your baby after feeding.
- Create a safe sleep environment for your baby.
- Keep your doctor informed of any concerns or unusual behavior. If your baby struggles with sleeping through the night, it’s not always a hunger issue.
When to stop dream feeding
Every baby is different, and while there isn’t a universal recommendation for when to stop dream feeding–it really comes down to what works for your family. Generally speaking, as babies grow, they are able to sleep on their own for longer stretches of time without feeding, and many babies will be able to sleep through the night on their own around the age of 9 months old.
What if my baby doesn’t want to dream feed?
Not all babies take to dream feeding, and that's perfectly normal. You can try different techniques, sticking to a more rigid routine, or give your baby time to grow into more mature sleeping habits on their own. After all, it could be that your little eater is just someone who doesn’t like to miss out on a chance to fully enjoy a meal!
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