Some mums swear by Dream Feeding, a bedtime routine intended to allow tired parents to enjoy a few extra hours of shut eye, but not everyone believes it works.
If you haven’t before heard of a ‘Dream Feed’, it involves feeding your sleeping baby a few hours after their bedtime, around the time you go to bed.
The theory on the practice suggests that having a Dream Feed fills up your child’s little tummy, and they stay happy (and asleep) for longer during the night.
How Does It Actually Work?
Like we said, some parents swear by Dream Feeding, but it will only work if your baby is asleep, which means it might take a few times to get it right.
Say you go to bed at 10pm at night, and your baby usually wakes up around midnight for a feed. You carefully pick up your sleeping baby at 10pm, and either breastfeed or bottle feed them until they are satisfied – whilst they are still asleep. The urge to suck is a natural one, so they can sleep through the whole feed usually without waking. Then once all ‘topped up’, you carefully put bubs back to bed. And hopefully (fingers crossed), your baby will sleep longer than the usual few hours.
Will Dream Feeding Work At Any Age?
Dream Feeding usually works better with smaller babies, from birth to 6 months, although some babies will continue it for longer. Once they’re older than that, they may start to wean off night feeding anyway, and they are more alert. That means they’ll cotton on to what you’re doing, and will open their eyes to engage with whoever is feeding them. Once they’re awake, it can be even harder to get them back to sleep.
Positives Of Dream Feeding
There are a lot of things to love about Dream Feeding. It can mean more sleep for mum and dad, particularly during the newborn stage when everyone is adjusting to those long nights. Also, for breastfeeding mums, Dream Feeding is a great way to encourage milk supply.
Many parents believe that Dream Feeding makes their babies more settled and helps them to sleep for longer. If you’re formula feeding, or pumping, the Dream Feed is also a great time to get your partner involved in the process so you can have an early night and get a really long stretch of shut-eye, just what you need!
Negatives Of Dream Feeding
Of course, the method only works on a certain kind of baby. If your child is particularly alert during the evenings, it’s probably not a good idea to try Dream Feeding because you’ll just end up waking them. Also, Dream Feeding won’t fix persistent sleep problems that arise from anything other than hunger. If your child has problems with staying asleep even when they have a full belly, Dream Feeding isn’t going to be the solution, and you’ll need to look into other issues.
Safely Dream Feeding
There are a few things you need to remember when you’re practising a Dream Feeding routine for the health of your baby. If your child is asleep, their rooting reflex may not be so active, so you’ll need to trigger it to get them to suck. To do this, gently stroke your baby’s cheek with your nipple or the teat of the bottle. If that doesn’t set it off, very gently adjust your position to slowly wake them ever so slightly more, and stroke the bottoms of their feet.
Remember, when feeding your baby, you should always lift them into a position where their head is slightly elevated before starting to feed. Your baby needs to be at a careful midway point between sleeping and waking, but still awake enough that he’s drinking like he does while awake. Don’t ever feed a baby who is lying down, or one who is very deeply asleep, because of the risk you’ll choke them.
After you’ve finished feeding your baby, make sure you sit them upright for a few minutes to encourage wind to escape. You don’t want it to wake them later! However, most of the time, you’ll find that as babies are quite relaxed during a Dream Feed, they don’t gulp so much air and therefore have less wind.
A Real Life Experience
Lisa (28) from Roxby Downs:
“My daughter was a terrible sleeper. She was up every two hours at least. That’s what babies do I suppose – but I was getting really tired especially when she hit the six month mark and I’d heard about dream feeding. The hardest part was picking her up from her cot whilst she was asleep (dead weight – little babies are surprisingly heavy!) – and she did wake up a few times – so it did take a bit of practise. But once I got her to feed, and could get her back to bed without waking up – I got a three hour sleep…. Then slowly a hour hour… So for me – although she didn’t sleep through the night, she certainly slept better – so I’m a big fan.”
For some families, Dream Feeding is a fantastic solution to very early morning wake ups for feeding, while for others, it just doesn’t work. We’d love to know what your own experience was with the routine, and whether it worked or not for you!