Dream feeds can be a bit mysterious. I mean, what even are they actually? And how do you do one? In my experience many mums have confusion around what they are and why you would even do one.
Or they think that by doing a dream feed it will benefit their baby’s overnight sleep, when in actual fact if done incorrectly it can have the opposite effect.
So let me explain:
A dream feed is where you do a late-night feed, somewhere between 10 – 11 pm at night.
Typically, your baby will actually stay asleep while you are feeding them. Most babies will latch onto the breast or bottle even when asleep by you just touching the nipple or teat to their top lip. Because that sucking instinct is so strong it’s usually not a problem.
The aim is that they will take a lovely big feed, whilst asleep or really drowsy, be popped back into their bassinet and have a nice long sleep from there.
When I get asked by a mum about whether or not she should do a dream feed there are a few factors I want her to know, and I also explain that her personal sleep preferences will play a big part in her decision.
So, if for example you generally go to bed somewhere between 10.00-11.00 pm, then to do a dream feed may suit you. This would mean that you can do the feed, go to bed and know that your baby should have a really good chunk of sleep after that (and ideally you too)!
However, if you are the type of mum that likes to go to bed much earlier (hello, that was me), and the idea of staying up until 10.30 pm to do a dream feed sounds like no fun at all, then it’s probably not for you.
You would be better off going to bed early and having a big chunk of sleep and just waiting for your baby to wake up naturally, say after midnight…….
Right. You’ve decided you’re going to do a dream feed. Here’s the lowdown for you
The ideal age of your baby to start a dream feed is from about 10 -12 weeks. You definitely want them to be at the stage where they are now going to bed around 6.30 – 7.00 pm, because you want them to have had some good sleep before you go into dream feed them.
The dream feed works well between 10.00 – 11.00 pm because this is when babies are in their deepest sleep stage overnight. This really deep sleep stage runs approximately from 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm.
You don’t want to do the dream feed too early, say 9.00 pm. This is too close to the last feed before bed and they just won’t be hungry enough to take a big filling and sustaining feed.
And finally, the ideal time to think about stopping the dream feed is around 6 – 7 months of age. Most babies at this age will be able to sleep through the night after this dream feed. If this is not the case and they have started on solids, I would work on dropping any later in the night feeds.
But once bub is established on two solid meals a day of about ¼ – ½ a cup each time you can safely drop the dream feed.
Babies are incredible little calorie shifters and what calories they drop from milk feeds overnight will be quickly replaced with solids in the day. And this is exactly what we want!
When is a dream feed not working?
Occasionally a mum will decide she would like to do a dream feed but her baby simply will not latch onto the breast or bottle at that time of night. They usually are in too much of a deep sleep.
Or other babies will latch on but only take a very small feed, which is the opposite of what we want (remember we want a big sustaining feed).
Or another common sign that the dream feed is not working is that your baby takes the dream feed but then wakes up a few hours later anyway…..
The whole idea of doing it is so that you and bub can get a big long sleep afterwards.
In this type of situation I would suggest that it would be better to just let your baby sleep through until they naturally wake up around 12/1.00 am.
Ideally you would be getting at least 5 hours sleep after a dream feed once your baby is 12 weeks old. So, if this isn’t happening the dream feed isn’t working.
So, dream feeds can work well for some families and babies and not so well for others. A lot of the decision around whether or not to implement one will be largely based on your own individual sleep preferences. By all means give it a go for at least ten days to see if it is having a positive impact for your family. As you know, parenting a little baby is very tiring indeed so planning a bit more sleep where you can sounds like a smart idea to me!
But if it doesn’t work, don’t sweat it, it’s not a big deal at all. There is definitely no right or wrong when it comes to a dream feed.
If you have any further questions about dream feeds send me a message for a free 15 minute chat at www.babysleepexpert.com.au