It takes infants a while before they are able to tell the difference between night and day, and as a parent, waking up at wee hours of the night to soothe a crying baby can often seem like working a graveyard shift. Babies tend to sleep for much longer after they are a few weeks old but they often have difficulty staying asleep – which is where the importance of dream feeding comes in.
Imagine going a long drive with a tank half filled and stopping at a gas station to top it up till the brim just so the car can travel a few extra miles; dream feed is a similar phenomenon – only, in this case, you’re topping off your infant with a bit of extra milk before bedtime to help him stay asleep a few hours longer so that you can catch up on your own sleep. Dream feeding requires an infant to be in a state of slumber while you gently slip milk between his lips without him waking up or noticing!
When is the best time to dream feed?
Since the purpose of dream feed is to help parents sleep for longer without any interruptions, it only makes sense to do the dream feed right before your bedtime. Make sure to put your baby to sleep an hour or two before your bedtime so that he has enough time to travel far off into the land of slumber when you sneak in a dream feed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Dream feed can also be performed at any other time of the day or night as long as other conditions are met.
What is the perfect age for dream feeding?
It is recommended to start dream feeding your baby when he is almost 8 weeks old and slowly alter his sleep cycle so that he wakes up fewer times during the night. You can continue to dream feed until the infant is 4 months old, after which it becomes increasingly difficult to rouse him at night. Infants of the age of 4 months or less tend to have a sleep cycle that can be divided into a deep sleep and shallow sleep.
The first few hours after you put your baby to bed are considered as deep sleep which means that you can easily rouse him enough for a quick feed without waking him up completely. As a child grows older, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so, and dream feeds could slowly turn into a night-time feeding habit which can be hard to drop.
If you are feeding your baby around 7 p.m. and he wakes up every night at 1 a.m. and then at 5 a.m. hungry, a dream feed just before you sleep can help push his first nightly wake time from 1 a.m. to almost 3 a.m. which means that instead of waking up twice to feed him, you may only have to do it once at 3 a.m.
With each passing week, we hope that these nightly wakes slowly push forward from 3 a.m. to 3.30 and so on until the infant is able to rouse at the same time as you in the morning.
How much milk should I give my baby while dream feeding?
The purpose of a dream feed is to not force a child to take milk against his will but to fill him up just so that he can go on for a bit longer without a feed during the night. Since you have already fed your baby before putting him to bed, you may not require performing a full feed at 11 p.m. before sleeping.
If you’re not sure how much milk you should give to your child, stick to the general rule of thumb of 150-200 ml of milk per kilogram of their body weight.