Dream feeding is one of the newest parenting trends, though it’s actually been used for decades as a method to help babies sleep through the night. Many people get it confused with the vivid dreams some moms have of breastfeeding, where the dream was so real they wake up not knowing whether or not they did breastfeed in the night. This isn’t what dream feeding is however.
Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about dream feeding, from what it is to its pros and cons.
What Is Dream Feeding?
Dream feeding basically means feeding your baby while they’re still asleep. It doesn’t matter whether they’re breastfed, or bottle fed, dream feeding can work equally as well for both feeding methods.
It’s also important to note that you’ll purely be feeding baby while they’re asleep, not changing their diaper or providing any other stimulation which could wake them. After they’ve been fed, you’ll carefully place them back down in the crib while they’re still asleep. It’s a natural reflex for baby to suck while they’re still asleep, so dream feeding is seen as a way to get them into a better feed and sleep cycle.
The Pros And Cons
Like any parenting method, dream feeding comes with its pros and cons. So, let’s start with the potential advantages it can deliver. The main benefits include:
- It can encourage baby to sleep longer
- It’s easier than traditional night feeds
- It’s perfect for hungry babies
- It’s ideal when baby is sick or not feeding well during the day
A lot of parents who dream feed their baby claim that it makes them calmer and sleep longer. This in itself is a huge benefit asleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges for new parents. If baby sleeps longer, it means you will too – the ultimate benefit!
Dream feeding is also much easier than traditional night time feeds. As you aren’t waking baby up, you won’t need to worry about getting them back to sleep. You also won’t be woken up in the night by a hungry baby.
Sometimes, babies struggle to eat during the day, whether it’s because of illness or they are just having an off day. Dream feeding can help during these times, ensuring your little one is still getting the nutrients they need without waking up frequently during the night.
So, those are the pros, but what about the cons? There are some potential downsides you need to be aware of including:
- You’ll be disrupting baby’s 24-hour cycle
- Frequent dream feeds can trigger a hard-to-beat habit
- It could cause discomfort for babies who suffer with acid reflux
- There’s no guarantee it will work
Even though you aren’t fully waking baby during the night to dream feed, you are still disturbing their 24-hour body cycle. This can prove counter-productive, leaving baby irritable and fussy the day after.
There’s also the risk they could become dependent upon dream feeds to sleep through the night. If they do become too used to it, you’ll find it’s a habit that’s very difficult to break. If they also suffer from acid reflux, dream feeding can cause them to feel more discomfort when they wake up.
Finally, there’s no guarantee it will work. It can take a while to get the hang of dream feeding; it’s certainly not always as easy as it sounds! So, it’s important to weigh up these pros and cons before deciding whether it’s right for you.
How To Dream Feed
Although technically you can start to dream feed your baby from as early as two weeks old, it’s more successful in older babies. This is because younger babies cannot sleep through the night as much as a slightly older baby can, so there’s more chance you’ll wake them up. Around three months of age is the ideal time to start dream feeding.
When it comes to how to dream feed your little one, the ideal time to do it is between 10pm and 11pm. If you wait until nearly midnight, you may struggle to wake baby up enough to get them to feed. Although you will be feeding them while they’re asleep, if they are in the deep sleep stage, they won’t be able to suck naturally. So, aim for between 10pm and 11pm.
All you need to do is pick them up gently from the crib and feed with either a bottle or your breast as you usually would. Make sure the room is dark and your baby’s head is slightly elevated. You may need to encourage them to feed by gently stroking their cheek or stroking their feet or the palm of their hands.
After feeding, your baby will still need to be burped, especially if they suffer from acid reflux. However, as they are generally a lot more relaxed during dream feeding, they don’t tend to swallow as much air. So, they shouldn’t have too much gas to come out. Once they’ve been fed and burped, place them back into their crib and head to bed yourself.
It’s really important to note that although it’s called dream feeding, you should never attempt to feed baby when they are deeply asleep. This poses a significant choking risk, so you always need to make sure baby is slightly awake.
When Should You Stop Dream Feeding?
There’s no set age as to when dream feeds should stop as each baby is different. However, they should absolutely stop once you’ve weaned your little one onto solids. Provided baby is getting plenty of food during the day, between 6-8 months they should start to sleep all the way through the night, with no dream feeds required.
So, watch out for signs your baby may be ready to stop dream feeding. These include if your baby is more difficult to wake for a dream feed than they used to be, and if they simply stop waking during the night.
As you can see, there’s a lot of benefits that come with dream feeding babies. However, it’s important to take the potential disadvantages into account too. It doesn’t always work, and it does take some practice to get it right. However, many parents swear by the method for helping them get their baby to sleep through the night. So, why not give it a go and see if it’s right for you and your little one?