Have you ever heard of a dream feed? It is a hot topic of conversation for many new parents as they actively search for ways to achieve longer blocks of sleep at night. If the term "dream feed" is new to you, or you want to understand it a little more, then know that dream feeds are those when parents feed (either breast or bottle) their baby whilst their baby is still asleep and it is typically offered around 10pm, just before the parents go to bed. Many parents opt to do this based on the theory that it will keep their baby sleeping longer, giving the parents a longer block of sleep.
If you are currently offering your baby a dream feed, or you are considering introducing one to help improve their night sleep, the information fond in this blog should help you decide whether a dream feed is right for you and your baby.
Firstly, the most important thing to note is that dream feeds don’t work for every baby. They are really only successful for around 50% of babies, best offered after 12 weeks of age and phased out by 7 months of age. This is because babies under 12 weeks of age have an insufficient and weak suck when they are sleep and won't take in as much milk as they need to achieve the benefits of the dream feed. Dream feeds will not naturally help babies achieve longer blocks of sleep when over the age of 7 months.
Personally and professionally, I’m not a fan of dream feeds as feeding at a consistent time can trigger the circadian rhythm to internalise feeding signals and discourages consolidation. This further encourages your child to naturally wake at that consistent time. The first two-thirds of the night are the most restorative as these are the times when babies will have their deep sleep. Offering a feed will interrupt these blocks of deep sleep, and this is something that you will want to avoid.
In addition to this information, a dream feed shouldn’t be introduced:
After the age of 5 months
If your baby is currently not feeding before midnight but wakes 1 or 2 times after midnight
If your baby is already waking before 12pm
To resolve excessive night time wakes
My recommendations are to just wait for your baby to wake naturally and offer them a feed at that waking. However, it is up to you and your family unit to decide whether you would like to introduce a dream feed.
I hope this information helps you to make a decision that fits you and your baby. If you would like to book in for chat to discuss your child's sleep, please just schedule a free Discovery Call.
Forever bringing sleep to families,
My name is Shereen Nielsen and I am a certified infant and child sleep consult, working with children aged birth to 12 years. I am also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a Sleep Consultant, through my on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.