Why Dream Feeds Just Don't Work
It’s easy to see why a dream feed is popular. Offer a feeding before you go to bed, in hopes that baby sleeps a longer stretch?! Sign me up! But it’s the idea of the dream feed that is popular...not the actual results.
What is a dream feed?
At bedtime routine you will offer baby a full feed as usual. They’ll go to sleep, and then hours later when Mom/Dad are ready to go to sleep (9-11PM), they’ll prepare a bottle or get ready to nurse. The goal is to keep baby asleep (where you get the ‘dream’ in dream feed) and offer the feed to ‘fill baby’s belly’ but keep the baby totally asleep. *Hopefully* this allows baby to sleep later in the night, and avoid a midnight feeding and just possibly have an early morning feed.
The appeal of a dream feed is supposed to help parents get just a few extra hours of sleep between your head hitting the pillow and baby waking for another night feed.
I get that it SOUNDS reasonable. But it’s actually the opposite of what we should be teaching baby!!
What’s wrong with a dream feed?
Food is for nourishment, not for sleep. Therefore, by offering any feed where baby is sleeping is actually reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to snooze on food.
The brain to tummy connection.
Similar to dream feeds, when adults sleep walk and end up sleep eating, they have little to NO idea what’s happening. (SOURCE) Because they are totally asleep! It’s essentially empty calories going into their body as the brain is not at all registering the action of eating...but obviously the calories are entering!
Same with the dream feed! The offering of a bottle or nursing session at night when baby is asleep is not actually registering. So it has nothing to do with the tummy being empty, but the missed connection between EATING and ALERTNESS.
When we are aware of what we eat, we fully enjoy the benefits and feel satisfied.
Ever watched a show while eating? Only to look down and wonder, “Where did it go? Did I even eat that?”
Same with the dream feed!
Let’s raise children who are fully aware of their food intake. Who can appreciate the connection between brain and tummy, and ENJOY their food. Even at a young age!
How to stop the dream feed
...you just stop offering it!
Seriously! But here’s the thing. It’s easy to SAY just stop it, but it’s another thing to actually do that!
Let’s look at age expectations for a moment so we can get a clear plan:
Newborns: NO expectation of sleep training, and having multiple night feeds. These can still happen *awake* and not asleep
4-5 Months: You’re ready to sleep train! Starting at 4 months old (16 weeks) from due date we can teach your baby to sleep 11-12 hours each night, with 1 possible night feed *AWAKE!*
6 Months+: Time to sleep all night! Unless medically advised by your child’s Pediatrician, most children at this age are ready (and eager!) for a solid 11-12 hours of night sleep every single night!
Now that we’re clear on the expectations, you have a decision to make!
I know making change is scary...especially when you’ve been doing one thing one way for so long! It’s my greatest hope to teach parents that we don’t have to be TIRED. We can be well-rested families...who teach their babies to EAT WELL!
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant