When seeking ways to help baby sleep longer stretches at night, parents commonly hear advice that they must offer baby a “dreamfeed.” But what is a Dreamfeed? And how does it work? Here’s how this scheduled feeding technique works:
What is a Dreamfeed?
Popularized by the widely respected Baby Whisperer newborn advice books, to dreamfeed means to simply bring breast or bottle to baby’s lips in the later evening hour. This is usually around 10pm when baby is still asleep. Babies will instinctually take in what their little bodies need at that time, usually just a few ounces. There is also no need to burp or wake since they will be relaxed enough to go back to sleep after the feed.
In other words, feeding baby before you go to sleep means that you might eliminate one of the middle-of-the-night feeds. Because your baby is full and comfortable in the 10pm hour, they’ll sleep longer while you’re sleeping.
You can do quick diaper change after the feed too just to be sure your infant is comfortable and clean!
Why Does A Dreamfeed Work?
Without a dreamfeed, a baby who typically feeds in the 7 PM hour may awakens naturally from hunger at midnight, 1 AM or 2 AM. Giving a feed in the 10:00 hour allows parents to head off this hunger and may allow baby to sleep longer, usually until 4 AM. By giving a feed at 10 PM, instead of waiting to see when baby naturally wakes to feed, we are shifting baby’s asleep hours to match parents, so parents get a long stretch of sleep themselves.
The addition of these few extra ounces will eliminate the physical need for baby to awaken for the first overnight feed. This is because we’re taking waking from true hunger out of the equation. As your infant gets older and able to physically sleep 10-12 hours without needing to eat (which is only decided on by families and their pediatrician) the dreamfeed provides that final feed of the night to take babies through to their natural wake up time in the morning.
How a typical dreamfeed schedule works:
6:30 or 7:00 PM: Baby’s last feed before baby’s bedtime
10:00 PM: bring bottle/breast to baby while baby is still asleep (dreamfeed)…this is before your bedtime
10:20 PM: quick diaper change and back to sleep
While certainly not a necessity, the dreamfeed is a simple extension of baby’s natural 3 hour feeding cycle. It works whether parents are breastfeeding or formula feeding.
Sleeping through the Night
If you want to gently pave the way to long, independent stretches of sleep overnight, the dreamfeed can help. And if you would like more information on sleeping through the night, these step-by-step instructions may help.
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