For new, tired, and worn-out parents like yourself, the dream feed method can be a life-saver.
You know how it goes. You put your little one to sleep and manage to snag a few moments of precious alone time. After an hour or so, you yourself drift off to sleep. Not long into your own much-needed doze session comes the loud cries of your baby, hungry for a nighttime meal.
Despite every bone in your body begging you to stay asleep, you get up and feed your fussy newborn. This is a normal part of parenting, but it often leaves many desperately wanting for sleep.
In comes dream feeding, which is reported to help keep your baby asleep for longer. This, in turn, means you get more time to rest yourself.
If dream feeding is a new concept for you, you might be starting to get excited about how it works. After all, what new parent doesn't want to find a way to get a few more hours of shut-eye every night?
What is Dream Feeding?
Dream feeding, or sleep training dream feed, is the practice of feeding your newborn during a sleepy or dreamy state. This is usually done when you are ready to go to bed yourself so that the baby goes back to sleep at the same time you do, and for a longer period of time.
This is very different from how it is normally done. In most instances, the baby is the one who is in control of when feeding happens. With dream feeding, however, you are the one that wakes the baby, and you are the one that stipulates when the feeding happens.
While there isn't one set schedule that works for all infants, dream feeding generally happens roughly 1 to 2 hours after your newborn has been put to bed for the night. There isn't one ideal dream feed time, but you will end up finding a unique schedule that works for your newborn.
Each baby is different, so when you end up dream feeding your baby will depend entirely on their temperament, current sleeping habits, and environment.
How to Start Dream Feeding
Like anything new that you introduce to your baby, you want to make sure it is safe and healthy. Is there an approved age to start dream feeding? Should you wait a set amount of time before introducing this new habit?
Practitioners of dream feeding say you can start at any time. Because this is such a safe habit to practice with your newborn, there are no official rules to dream feeding; but there are general suggestions.
For instance, it is advised that you wait to start doing this until you have a good idea of how long your baby can sleep without being fed. Fully understanding your newborn's habits will make it easier for you to gauge what time you should dream feed for the best results.
Additionally, week-old newborns are more inconsistent than 2-month old babies. They might want food relatively frequently (every hour or so) and they might change when they most often want to be fed. This makes it harder to introduce at such a young age.
So while it is something you can introduce at almost any time, for your convenience (and for any real effect to take place) it is best to wait until your newborn is a couple of months old.
Once your little one has a semi-regular sleeping time, feeding time, and is less fussy about going back to sleep after waking up, you can begin to seriously consider introducing the dream feed method.
How to Dream Feed Safely and Effectively
You might be worried about the consequences of waking your baby from the depths of sleep. You don't want to end up rousing your newborn only to deal with 30 minutes or more of crying. You are doing this to get more sleep, not less.
This is part of the reason why it is important to wait a couple of months until they can easily go back to sleep after being roused. This is a tougher challenge for a week-old baby and it gets easier with age.
There are also certain phases of a baby's sleep schedule that are more optimal for dream feeding than others. REM sleep, for instance, is the active part of sleep that is easy to spot as a watchful parent. During this phase, your newborn's eyelids will flutter, arms and legs may move, and they will generally twitch as their brain falls deep into REM sleep.
This is noted as the best phase during which to wake your newborn as they are more likely to eat a full meal before going back to sleep.
Waking Your Baby Safely
If your baby doesn't wake up right away, try a few different ways to gently rouse them from sleep. Singing, humming, or talking gently might be enough to wake them. If that doesn't work, try turning the lights on and off quickly, or unswaddling them if they are swaddled.
Once your newborn is propped up in your arms and semi-awake, put your breast or bottle on their mouth. They should naturally react by latching on and start feeding without hesitation.
Wait until your baby is completely full and done drinking to gently put them back in the crib. Burping them is a good idea as well to remove any gas that is piled up after the late-night feeding.
Stay near the crib until your little one is completely asleep. You might notice that they fall asleep during the dream feeding as well, which is completely okay.
Does the Sleep Training Dream Feed Work?
There aren't any studies that look specifically at the effects of dream feeding on a newborn's sleeping schedule. Most of what is out there are studies that include the introduction of other healthy sleeping patterns alongside dream feeding. In other words, these studies don't prove whether or not it was dream feeding alone that improved the length of sleeping times.
Testimonies are mixed as well. While quite a few parents can attest to the positive impact of the dream feed method, others say it does nothing at all.
A great deal of this could depend on the temperament of the infant, but it is hard to tell. Until a full, peer-reviewed, randomized study is conducted on the effects of dream feeding, no one can really say whether or not it is truly effective.
Test it Safely on Your Infant
Considering that this hasn't been fully studied or tested, it is best to consider trying it out with your newborn before fully adopting it. It might not work as a stand-alone practice due to a wide variety of factors, and that is okay.
The good news is, whether or not you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, you can give dream feeding a chance. The bottle dream feed has been tried by parents as well, with equally mixed results.
The dream feed method is safe, flexibly implemented, and easy to test. So if you are looking for a way to get a couple of more hours of shut-eye, give dream feeding a shot!
It just might be the cure you are looking for.