When And How Should I Drop The Dream Feed
Baby Whisperer author Tracy Hogg, Contented Baby author Gina Ford, Wee Bee Dreaming, and many other practitioners suggest dropping the dream feed when solid foods have been established, usually between six and eight months old. However, others suggest it can be stopped earlier. It may be that your baby starts to take less, and so naturally drops it themselves.
Whatever you decide, Rachel of My Baby Sleep Guide suggests a few possible methods for dropping the dream feed:
– You can stop straight away, although this may result in more night wakings
– You can reduce the amount you give gradually if you are breastfeeding, reduce the time spent and if you are bottle-feeding, reduce the number of ounces
– You can slowly move the time of the dream feed earlier so that eventually it is close enough to the bedtime feed to be dropped
When Should I Start Sleep Feeding My Newborn
Newborns often have their days and nights mixed up so they may be waking every hour or two at first. Once your babe can go longer stretches of three to four hours between nighttime feeds, its time to introduce sleep feeding. For most infants, this ends up being at one to four months of age.
It helps to prepare your baby by establishing a regular bedtime routine and teaching him to fall asleep in different ways. Also, make sure your little one is growing appropriately on breastmilk or formula before encouraging longer stretches at night.
Does It Work For Every Baby
Unfortunately, the dream feed isnt always a dream. I encourage you to try the different tips I offer for the dream feed and give it 5-7 nights to see if it is working. Dont get frustratedjust keep going. Here are a few scenarios for when the dream feed might not be the right fit, and I would actually recommend dropping it:
This feeding actually interrupts deep sleep and makes it very difficult to go back to sleep.
A baby simply wont wake up enough to eat well.
The dream feed doesnt seem to make a bit of difference. These babies will still awaken at the same time no matter if they had the dream feed or not.
For example, I spoke with a new mom last month who had a two-month-old. This baby slept from 7pm until 2:30am. She learned of the dream feed and decided to try it. The thought of the baby doing a 7.5 hour stretch from 10:00pm was so appealing to her. Ideally, this meant the baby would eat at 10:00pm and then sleep until 5:30am. Well, for some it works like that. For herit didnt. After trying it for six nights, her baby was still consistently waking at 2:30am even though he was just fed 4.5 hours previously. In this case, my advice was to drop the dream feed.
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How To Dream Feed Your Baby At Night
What is a Dream Feed?
A dream feed is the last feed of the night usually given a few hours after you put your baby down for the night and right before you head off to bed yourself.
For a dream feed, its the parent that rouses the baby from sleep for a feed, instead of waiting for baby to wake up on their own. The idea is that giving a late-night dream feed will fill baby up enough to extend their longest stretch of sleep.
For example, if you give your baby their last feed and put them to bed around 7:30 pm and they sleep a 6-hour stretch, that means baby will be waking up hungry around 1:30 am.
Now, if you follow your normal routine of feeding baby and putting them to bed around 7:30 pm, but come back in between 10:00 and 11:00 pm to give them a dream feed before you go to bed, that puts them waking up between 4:00 am and 5:00 am giving you a few extra hours of uninterrupted sleep!
When should you start dream feeding?
Since newborns need to eat at least every two to four hours, a dream feed is best introduced once your baby can start sleeping longer stretches of four to six hours usually between 2 and 4 months old.
As far as timing goes, its best to do the dream feed right before youre going to bed. That way, youre maximizing the number of hours of sleep you get. So unless youre going to bed between 7 pm and 8 pm like your baby, most parents will start the dream feed a few hours later, between 9 pm and 11 pm.
How do I do a dream feed?
How Do I Know When To Do A Dream Feed
The first thing youll want to do is look at when your baby is having their first feed of the night after bedtime.
With my own children, their bedtime would always be at 7pm and then their first feed when they were really little newborns was usually around 9.30-10.30pm. Very young babies will often wake for this feed naturally, so thats classed as a normal feed rather than a dream feed. If your baby is waking naturally for a feed before 11pm, we wouldnt advise introducing a dream feed at this stage.
As your newborn gets older though, they will likely stop waking for that feed before you go to bed. Instead, their first feed may not be until around midnight or 1am and then they will likely have a second feed after that as well – usually around 4/5am when it can be tricky to resettle them back to sleep afterwards.
This is where dream feeding can help! By proactively feeding them around 10-11 pm before you go to bed, it can help to push that first feed later to around 3/4 am, which should then be enough to get them through until 7 am. So youre only waking to do one feed overnight rather than two – winning!
For some older babies between 3-6 months, dream feeding between 10-11pm can be enough to see them through until morning without requiring another feed.
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Should I Wake My Baby For A Second Dream Feed
If your baby frequently wakes around 3:30 a.m. in spite of the dream feed and using strong, rumbly white noise, consider setting your alarm to give one more dream feed at 3 a.m. The idea is to pick up and feed your little one before she wakes you, so you’re giving her the nourishment she needs, but not rewarding her for waking and crying.
If you have to do this early-morning dream feed, make sure you give a little less milk than usual. If you’re nursing, just feed on one side for this second dream feed. If you’re bottle-feeding, add double the amount of water the formula directions suggest for a few days.
IMPORTANT: Please note that its dangerous for parents to dilute milk for mealsthat leads to malnutrition. Diluting for this wee-hour feed is totally different. The purpose of the extra water is to fill the stomach with enough ounces, but fewer calories. That can help babies sleep through to morningwhen they will be hungry and ready to eat again.
Remember, your goal is to provide the same amount of calories in a 24-hour cycle but to shift more of the feedings to waking hoursthis adjustment can significantly improve nighttime sleep! Its best not to talk or cuddle too much at 3:30 a.m. You want to be loving when you feed your baby, but not encouraging her to think that it’s time to play.
Dream Feed Step : Wait
Now that baby is more awake, try and wait 5-10 minutes before actually feeding. This further ensures baby is properly awake!
DOs and DONTs while waiting
DONT cuddle baby or let baby get too comfortable those eyes will be closing again in seconds.
DO lie baby on their play mat, play with baby, talk to your baby, walk around the house and show them the pictures on the walls . Anything to stimulate them a little and increase their level of alertness.
The more awake baby is = the bigger/better the Dream Feed = the longer before the first night waking = a longer stretch of sleep for you
Read Also: How To Get Newborn Sleeping Longer At Night
Faq : My Baby Still Wakes In The Early Hours Even If I Dream Feed I Dont Think Its Working
Just like it can take a while to establish the Dream Feed, it can take a while to un-establish the first night waking.
If your baby is now taking a decent Dream Feed, try to settle baby with as little milk as possible at the first waking. If you try this for several nights until eventually you are not actually feeding at all, just settling, then this waking should disappear altogether.
So again, persevere!
If this makes no difference, you may be better off without the Dream Feed. So just try and get into bed a little earlier instead.
Dream Feed Step : Settle And Sleep
Its highly likely that this step wont even involve you doing anything, since your baby will have fallen asleep during the second half of the Dream Feed, or shortly after
If your baby is still awake, use the same method of settling your baby as you normally do. As long as your baby has their days and nights sorted this should be a pretty quick exercise. Otherwise, check out this post on how to switch baby from sleeping all day long to sleeping all night, before starting on the Dream Feed.
As your baby grows and becomes more alert easier and/or is more established at feeding, you can start to drop some of the above steps until youre following the shortened version below.
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Q: How Many Mls Are Appropriate For A Dream Feed
A: Generally, you should aim to have your baby drink as much as they would during a normal feed while dream feeding. The amount that a baby should be eating every feed is based on their age.
Newborns generally drink about 45-90 milliliters every 2-3 hours. At 2 to 3-months-old your little one will be drinking about 120-150 milliliters every 3-4 hours. From 4 to 5-months-old they could reach as much as 180 milliliters per feed. And by 6-months-old most babies are up to about 180-230 milliliters every 4 to 5 hours.
When To Drop The Dream Feed
Different babies will benefit longer than others
If you consistently offer a Dream Feed from when your baby is small, gradually night feeds should drop one by one. Eventually, the Dream Feed will be the only feed your baby has between 7 pm and 7 am. So your baby will be sleeping from the Dream Feed through to 7am. I count that as sleeping through the night.
So you may want to drop the Dream Feed anytime between 3 and 8 months be led by your baby.
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More Information About Baby Sleep
Do I Need To Burp My Baby After Dream Feeding
Every baby is unique and their individual needs will vary. Some take in a lot of air while drinking and are more prone to gas others can nurse from both sides or down an entire bottle and not need to burp at all. One randomized control trial found that burping didnt reduce colic and actually increased the number of spit ups.
Babies tend to take in less air when theyre more relaxed, so they may not even need to burp. If your little one is prone to gas or has colic, you may want to consider some gentle methods for releasing air that wont disrupt sleep. Rubbing the back in circles can help or just gently patting the lower back.
If you feel certain that your little one needs to burp before going back to bed, go ahead and burp him. The worst-case scenario is that he wakes up and you have to soothe him back to sleep.
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How To Dream Feed Babies
With dream feeding, you dont have to fully wake up your baby. A little rousing will do to feed her one more time for the day before turning her in for the night.
Wondering when to start dream feeding baby?
Several studies show the best time to sneak in one more feeding is between 10 in the evening and midnight. To dream feed babies during this two-hour period can effectively reduce the nocturnal wakings for your baby due to a rumbling tummy.
With a full tummy, she wont wake up hungry at night, helping her get extended stretches of sleep.
Would you like to try it with your little one?
Waking Your Baby Up Really
Now many believe that you should never wake a sleeping baby. My mother-in-law in particular just cannot fathom the concept at all! But a fundamental requirement of the Dream Feed is to rouse baby into this semi-awake state, i.e. awake enough to take the feed but not so awake that he or she then takes a long time to settle.
If you wait until your baby wakes up naturally due to hunger he or she will be WIDE awake. Plus you dont know when this will be.
Chances are it will be when you are snoring away and very deeply asleep . Waking early on in the night often feels worse than later on, making you feel groggy and pretty awful. Thats because you are more likely to be coming out of this deep sleep.
There are also other occasions when waking your baby is a GOOD thing, as I have mentioned in these related posts:
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How To Stop Dream Feeding Your Baby
After a period of dream feeding your baby, you might begin to wonder if it is really necessary to go on.
Sure, at some point it is time to stop. One reason, of course, is if you dont think you really gain any extra sleep from it. Then simply quit.
If you do gain extra sleep, but start believing that your baby might actually continue to sleep even without the extra feeding, then you can try to . Or you can also stop slowly by moving the time for the dreamfeeding forward and see what happens.
Or go cold turkey! You can always start dream feeding your baby again if needed. So dont be too scared to experiment a little bit! Only then will you know what works.
Good luck and sweet dreams!