Most mothers eagerly searching for ways to help their babies sleep through the night will have heard of if not considered the dream feed. But what exactly is it, does it work and why might it not be a good idea?
For those not entirely familiar with the concept, a dream feed is the last feed of the evening, usually given between 10pm and 11pm or just before parents go to bed themselves.
The trick is it’s given to babies while they are asleep, hence the name dream feed. This feed is to pre-empt hunger pangs which might wake babies up later on in the night, filling their tummies and helping them to sleep soundly until morning – or at least give babies and parents a longer stretch of sleep.
How to dream feed
Even as they sleep, on feeling the nipple or teat on their lips the suckling reflex is triggered and baby feeds. If baby is in a deep sleep, he may need a little coaxing by stroking his cheek or bottom lip. As babies are very relaxed during the feed they don’t need to be burped afterwards but can be gently returned to their cots.
It’s best to create as little disturbance as possible so only use low lighting, don’t interact with your baby and only change his nappy if it’s very wet or soiled.
Does it work?
So what’s not to love about the dream feed? Many parents swear by this method, crediting it with helping their babies to learn how to sleep through the night and giving everyone more rest from the early months. But others feel it simply doesn’t work, either because their babies are too sleepy to feed, difficult to settle back to sleep afterwards or still wake in the small hours for more milk.
Some experts have suggested that dream feeding creates a food habit that wasn’t there beforehand and that it disrupts a baby’s natural sleep cycle (which between the hours of 9pm and midnight is at its deepest).
There is also the issue of knowing when to give up dream feeding and the feeling that feeding a baby in its sleep when it hasn’t ‘asked’ for food is disrespectful.
As with so many baby techniques, opinions are divided. If you’re thinking of dream feeding, weight up the pros and cons before making a decision. It could be the solution to sleepless nights you’ve been praying for, but then again you may prefer to let your baby master longer stretches of sleep at night in his own time without this extra feed.
How about you, have you successfully dream fed your baby?