If you’ve ever considered dreamfeeding your baby, or even wonder what this odd word means, you’ve come to the right place. I dreamfed both my babies and will tell you how to make it work, why to do it and also how to eventually stop the dreamfeeding.
Dreamfeeding Your Baby
I’ve heard so many times that moms should dreamfeed their babies to help them sleep longer periods without waking up.
In my view, that’s not the point at all!
Instead, this technique has one very positive benefit; it may improve mom’s sleep! A very good reason indeed! (You can find more sleep tips for tired moms here.)
So what does dreamfeeding a baby really mean?
Well it simply means that your feed your baby while he or she is still asleep. Obviously, it can be done with both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
But it can be a bit hard to make it work at first, so below you’ll find the tips I’ve found useful to make dreamfeeding work.
Why would you dreamfeed a baby? Well, it is only meaningful for babies that wake up a few times at night for feeding.
By dreamfeeding your infant right before you go to bed, chances are that your baby will remain asleep for a few more hours. This way mom gets a few nice hours of undisturbed sleep before she has to attend to the baby the first time that night.
For many moms, having to wake up for feeding only one or two hours after going to bed is pure torture! And the fact that you know that you might have to wake up soon can cause insomnia, making the problem even worse.
So start dreamfeeding and increase your chances of a few first hours of good night sleep.
How to start dreamfeeding?
- You take your baby up in your arms and sit down comfortably somewhere close to your baby’s bed. Make sure that there are no loud noises or bright lights around that can wake your baby up.
- Have your breast or bottle ready.
- Start to poke your baby’s mouth gently with your nipple (or the bottle’s nipple). Sometimes it is easier to get the baby to start eating if you leave a drop of milk on the nipple.
- If your baby doesn’t react, try to carefully open your baby’s mouth a little bit and insert the nipple. You can then move the nipple a little bit inside your infant’s mouth to trigger the suckling reflex.
For babies younger than 4 months or so, it can also be effective to stroke the palm of his hand or foot. Don’t ask me why, but it works!
- If your baby still doesn’t start sucking, try changing your position a bit to disturb the baby’s sleep, although not enough to wake him up. Then offer the breast again or insert the nipple into his mouth.
Unless your baby is in deep sleep, this will work eventually.
If it doesn’t work
If it doesn’t work at all, try again tomorrow and maybe at a slightly different time. Babies, just like other people, have periods of deeper and lighter sleep and dreamfeeding is certainly going to be easier if your baby is not in a period of deep sleep. Try observing your baby. If very still and completely relaxed, chances are he is in deep sleep. If he is moving ever so slightly or making noises, he might be in a lighter sleep and thereby easier to feed, and also easier to wake up, so be careful.
If your baby does wake up, don’t panic. Just feed him as you would usually do when he wakes up at night and he is likely to go back to sleep.
If your baby wakes up every time you try feeding him or if he simply won’t eat while asleep, give it up! Babies are personalities right from the start; some simply won’t accept dreamfeeding. But most will…
How to stop
After a period of dreamfeeding you might begin to wonder if it is really necessary to go on.
Sure, at some point it is time to stop. One reason of course is if you don’t think you really gain any extra sleep from it. Then simply quit.
If you do gain extra sleep, but start believing that your baby might actually continue to sleep even without the extra feeding, then you can try to decrease the time spent dreamfeeding (i.e. give less food and see if your baby continues to sleep well). Or you can also stop slowly by moving the time for the dreamfeed forward and see what happens.
Or go cold-turkey! You can always start the feeding again if needed. So don’t be too scared to experiment a little bit! Only then will you know what works.
Good luck and sweet dreams!