Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Dream Feeds: When, Why and How?

What is Dream Feed?

A dreamfeed is when you pick your sleeping baby up and offer a breastfeed or bottle feed.

Purpose of Dream Feed

The purpose of this dream feed to baby is to put calories into your child on your schedule and prolong the first stretch of sleep. It is unlikely she will be awake after the feed and you would put her back into the crib semi-awake or asleep.

Should your child happen to cry? Open her eyes when you finish feeding or when you are placing her back in the crib, don’t panic.  Confidently high tail it out of the room!  It is very unlikely your child is actually awake and staying to help soothe her will likely wake her up more.

Leave the room.  Wait and listen.  More than likely your child will settle back into sleep.  I use dream feeds regularly in my sleep training plans with my clients and 99% of the time children go right back to sleep without a peep.

Let’s not get this above scenario confused with the scenario where your child wakes up and fusses and is fed back to sleep.  This is not a dream feed.  Your child was up asking to be fed.  This is an  “I fuss, I get fed” scenario.

Very often co-sleeping parents confuse rolling over to nurse a semi-awake fussing baby back to sleep as a dream feed.  They might consider it a dream feed because the baby was half asleep when fed, but these scenarios are two very different things.

If you have a child who is waking up every 3 hours at night and being fed back to sleep, it is unlikely it is true hunger that is waking her.  It is more likely that she surfaces from a 3 hour night time sleep cycle and looks for the same help which put her to sleep to help her back to sleep. This is a sleep crutch issue also known as a sleep association issue.  Your child relies on something external to help her fall asleep.She would be unable to fall asleep if put in the crib from calm but awake without any feeding, bouncing, or rocking as part of the bedtime routine.

How to Dream Feed

  1. Pick up while asleep, not fussing
  2. Compress breast or offer bottle
  3. Tickle upper lip to latch
  4. Compress breast
  5. Watch for big wide open jaw movements to show your child is drinking
  6. When done drinking, which is evident by small quick jaw movements, compress again to make sure there’s no milk left, de-latch
  7. No nibbling
  8. Don’t be a human pacifier
  9. Burping unlikely

That is a dreamfeed. Feeding your baby on your timeline from when she is asleep, or quietly awake, but not crying out for help.

Dreamfeeds can take a few nights to be effective.  Whenever you are trying something new, you need time to give it a chance to take effect.

I vividly remember the first time I tried a dreamfeed.  My hands were shaking I was so anxious about “waking my baby” to feed.  You’re not really waking your baby but it had taken me so long to get my child to settle into sleep, I was really nervous!   I had nothing to worry about though as it went very easily and was a beautiful experience.  Your child will be peaceful and relaxed during this feed.

When to Implement dream feed?

I coach parents to implement dreamfeeds when they are sleep training.  Dream feeds are a way of ensuring that it is not hunger waking your child at night, and give a parent confidence to use other skills to get their child back to sleep, or be consistent with a sleep training technique on night waking.  You can read more about different sleep training techniques here:

Dreamfeeds are very useful in the newborn months when your child is feeding every 3-4 hours through the night.  If you dream feed just before you go to sleep, you can then have a 3-4 hour stretch before the next feed.

As part of a sleep training plan, we use dream feeds to ensure your child is eating enough through the night. To give a parent confidence that when the baby wakes up 2 hours after a feeding it isn’t hunger waking him but rather his desire to have his sleep crutch help him back to sleep.  When we are changing behaviors and teaching a child self-soothing skills. We need to be 100% consistent with how we respond to night waking.

Want to know more about dreamfeeds and how to implement them?  Grab my  When And How To Dreamfeed Cheat Sheet. So to ease your mind that you’ve got the hang of technique and timing.

If you’re thinking about sleep training. I can teach you everything you need to know in my online sleep class for babies 4 to 24 months.

You’ll be welcomed into my private Facebook Community.

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