All about Dream Feeds
Hello, and welcome to a new series of video posts, where I will be sharing all kinds of hints and tips to do with babies and sleep.
Today’s video is all about dream feeds – you can watch the video below (with subtitles if you can’t have sound where you are), you can listen to the sound only, if you are busy and can’t stop to look at the screen, or you can read the transcript below:
If you’ve heard about dream feeds but not done one before, it’s something that might be quite scary, the prospect of waking your sleeping baby. Why on earth would you do something like that?
If you haven’t heard of them, let me start by explaining what a dream feed is. While your baby is asleep, you pick them up, feed them, and put them back down to sleep. And I know the prospect is absolutely terrifying, the idea of waking a sleeping baby. However, they don’t always wake, and in the majority of cases dream feeds can work really, well.
So why would you do a dream feed?
One of the best reasons you would use a dream feed is to help you as a parent, get a nice chunk of sleep. So, for example, let’s say your baby’s gone to bed at, seven o’clock and you want to go to bed about 10, 11 o’clock. But your baby might be due a feed about half eleven-ish, and will probably wake you up again just as you are trying to doze off. So, with a dream feed, we pre-empt the wake-up.
Just as you’re going to bed, pick your baby up, put them to the breast, or hold a bottle to their mouth and just let them feed, they have a natural suckle reflex, so it’s completely fine. If they’re in a really, deep sleep, they may not feed, so, what you might want to do is tickle their feet and stroke their nose or something, just to get them out of that really deep sleep. So they will have a feed, they’ll be really relaxed and they won’t take much air in, so you shouldn’t need to wind them. Then you can just pop them back down. Still asleep.
It does work.
What happens then, is you put your baby down, therefore you can go to sleep and you’re going to get a nice chunk of sleep, maybe three or four hours depending on the age of your baby and how often they’re needing feeding. It might even go for the rest of the night.
It’s completely up to you how often you want to do dream feeds. You might put multiples in if your baby is little. You could also decide to take shifts with your partner. So, you might do the dream feed at bedtime your partner might do another feed at two, three in the morning – it might just be a way to help you both get some decent chunks of sleep.
Understanding your baby’s needs
The other thing you can use a dream feed for is if you’re not certain why a wake up is happening. So, if your baby’s in a habit of waking up every hour and they’re feeding a little bit and then feeding a little bit and then they have a really big feed, what you can do is put a dream feed in place. That way, if they’re waking up an hour or two after they’ve had their last feed, you know, that’s actually not a hunger wake up so you can start learning the difference in what they’re telling you.
It might just be that they need comfort, in which case if you don’t want to feed to sleep, you might decide to offer comfort in a different way, whether that be through rocking, holding, singing, through co-sleeping, any way that you think is going to soothe them.
But you will be able to not offer that feed if that’s what you are not wanting to do, because you will be certain that your baby isn’t hungry. And that’s the key.
Dream feeds are great for mum. If you need to get a bit of respite, if you’re wanting to go to bed early, you could always get your partner to do the dream feed. If you’re using a bottle, whether it’s expressed or formula, they could do the dream feed and you can get yourself a nice block of sleep as well.
Dream feeds are absolutely fantastic but they’re not for everybody. Some babies do just wake up and they’re not happy about it. So, they might not be something that you want to do all the time, but you can test the water, do it for a few days. If they’re disturbed on the first night, don’t give up. Give it a try the next night and the one after – then you’ll know if it’s something that’s going to work for them or not. But in the majority of cases, dream feeds can work really well.
Mix it up
One final tip- don’t do a dream feed at the same time every night because you can create habitual hunger. Just to give you an example, if you set your alarm to have a snack every night at midnight, you would eventually start waking up at midnight hungry every night, because you’ve trained your body to be hungry at that time. So, mix the timings up a little bit with baby as well.
If you need more advice on dream feeds or you are struggling with sleep, please take a look at my online sleep plans, for babies from 6-24 months. They go into a lot more detail on dream feeds and night weaning.
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