A dream feed is simply a nighttime feeding that occurs while your baby is still sleeping. The entire process is done while your child is not awake in the slightest. BUT did you know a dream feed isn't always successful or beneficial for every child. To find out if your child would benefit from a dream feed, here are some questions to ask yourself...
Why would you give your baby a dream feed?
The goal behind the dream feed is for two main reasons, for mom and dad to sleep a longer stretch during the night so they don't have to wake to a crying hungry baby right after falling asleep. And the second, to teach your child to not wake before midnight but to sleep (hopefully) until morning. That order might be switched for some, but typically it's in hopes for more sleep for everyone.
What time should you give a dream feed?
We recommend beginning this technique after your baby has settled nicely into a consistent routine. Newborns need to be feeding as often as they wake - sometimes every two to three hours. So we recommend waiting until your baby has a set bedtime, typically around 6-7pm. Once you notice that your baby is waking around 10/11pm or soon after, I would suggest scheduling your dream feed about 45 minutes to an hour prior to the waking. That would mean going in around 9/10pm and feeding. From there, you should see a good stretch from your child - anywhere from 3-4 sometimes even 6 hour stretch!!! If you see this, the dream feed is perfect for your child.
How do you properly go about it?
Start by scheduling the time you think it's best to dream feed your baby. Remember, 45 minutes to an hour from their normal wake time or right before you go to bed (if it's close to 10/11pm) is ideal. You will go in their room, keeping the room dark, and carefully lift your child out of their crib. Do NOT wake them up if you can help it. If you have a bottle, you can immediately feed as you sit down in a chair while still in their room. If you are nursing, simply place your baby on your breast and they will latch. Limit your communication. Keep the room quiet, calm, dark and boring. Once they have completed the bottle or their average feed time is complete, take them off, give them a good burp if needed, and place them back in their cribs. Shhhhh pat them back to sleep if they start to wake. Otherwise, leave the room and shut the door behind you.
What should you be aware of?
Dream feeds don't always work for every child. In my experience, half the time a dream feed is successful. That being said, make sure you try it and see if it works for your child. If they sleep hours longer after a feed, congratulations!!! If your child wakes at the sound of you stepping foot in their room, a dream feed is not right for your baby. If your child continues to wake every hour after the dream feed, a dream feed is not right for your baby. If your child has a difficult time going back to sleep after you have given them a dream feed, then yet again a dream feed is not right for your child.
When should you stop dream feeding your baby?
It really depends on the parents as to when they are ready to stop dream feeding their baby. However, if you find your baby is taking in more solids (typically around 6.5 - 7 months old) during their day or consuming more ounces, you can begin to reduce the dream feed time until it's fully gone. You can easily wean them from a nighttime feeding as you are aware that they won't necessarily be as hungry anymore with all those extra daytime calories.