What is a dream feed?
In short, a dream feed is a ‘proactive’ feed that you offer your baby while they are asleep. It’s a great option if you are down to just that one feed per night and you’re not sure whether or not your baby still needs that top up or not.
To be clear, when your baby wakes and cries, it’s natural and essential to respond with milk, especially in the early weeks. Of course, you must feed a hungry baby but beyond 4, 5 or 6 months, this expectation for milk at every minor waking can lead to an unnecessary reliance on milk to induce sleep.
How does a dream feed work?
The way it works is that you feed your baby the last feed before bedtime, assist them off to sleep afterwards and then visit your baby with a dream feed probably around 10-11p.m.
This time is ideal because it’s likely around 4 hours since the last feed and it’s a good time before many parents will want to settle for a longer stretch of sleep too.
You give the milk (without turning the lights on) and your baby may wake up, feed asleep or wake then doze back off while feeding, it really doesn’t matter.
The point is, your baby has the milk but did not wake up, cry out and have the milk come as a response to the crying.
Why is a dream feed helpful?
When you’re sleep training you need to be consistent with how you respond so if you’re down to the one feed and you can do this as a dream feed, this allows for the absolute consistency that every response to any actual wakings can be the same every time – You’ve taken care of the potential hunger with the dream feed and your baby can trust and rely upon a reassuring response from you any time he or she wakes.
How do I stop dream feeding?
The answer to that one is you just stop! My suggestion is that you experience a run of consecutive nights where your little one has slept well and resettled in the night without any milk beyond the dream feed.
When you then try a night without any dream feed, you will either find it all goes smoothly and any wakings are easily resettled without milk, or you’ll find a very different type of waking occurs perhaps at 3a.m and your little one persists hard when he or she would usually have resettled…this might be a sign of hunger and will tell you that the dream feed was serving a purpose and it is better to keep going with it for a while longer
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