I would say most parents are all struggling through the newborn sleep phase. You might occasionally hear someone say, “my baby is sleeping through the night,” at 6 weeks of age. That is the exception, not the rule. For the most part, all of us are sleep deprived and hoping for an end in sight. If any of you are like me, you heard of this and thought “what is dream feeding?” “Can it help me?” Let’s be honest we would all be willing to do just about anything for a good night’s sleep.
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What is Dream Feeding?
“Dream feeding” has a lot of definitions. The overall consensus is that it is a parent driven last big feeding for your infant before the parents go to bed, with the hope that parents will have a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep. The dream feed is typically around 2-3 hours after the infant is put to bed. This allows the parents to get a longer stretch of sleep (between 4-6 hours) before the baby wakes up again to feed.
Some definitions of this would include keeping the infant asleep during that time, but other versions of this method require you to wake the baby prior to this last feed.
Does Dream Feeding Really Work?
According to a study done in June 2022, a nighttime feed before going to bed was associated with 62 minutes added to the longest nighttime sleep period. This study studied 313 infants and was based upon parent reported behaviors implemented at 1 month of age. Results were determined after 6 months of implementation.
Other studies took into account several parental behaviors that indicated overall sleep improvements for infants. It was difficult to point to dream feeding as one of the main factors for improved overall sleep.
Other parental behaviors have positive impacts on infant sleep patterns. Dream Feeding was one of several behaviors that can lead to better sleep among infants. Do not limit yourself to one method to improve your infant’s sleep.
It is normal for babies to wake up frequently throughout the night for a multitude of reasons. It is not always related to being hungry. Some infants wake up because they are wet, have indigestion, or part of our natural sleep cycle. We as adults also wake up several times a night, but you have learned how to put yourself back to sleep. It is so natural to you that in the morning you don’t even recall waking up.
Pausing before you jump to your infant’s aide every time they cry throughout the night will help them learn to soothe themselves. Give them time. It will be a blessing to you and your baby as you both develop healthy behaviors. If they continue cry you can then address the issue and get both of you back to sleep.
When to Drop the Dream Feed?
Dream feeding may not work for everyone and every baby. Reasons why you may want to drop the dream feed:
- you infant has some health problems and needs to be fed more frequently
- It’s disrupting baby’s sleep and is making it difficult for the infant to go back to sleep
- baby won’t wake up enough to eat
- doesn’t seem to be making a difference
- Seems to be affecting baby’s ability to self soothe
Understanding what dream feeding is, can help you decide if it is right for you. There isn’t a lot of research to support “dream feeding” and what research has been done has not been able to be proven through controlled randomized experiments yet. The studies that have been done do suggest it can help. The decision is left for you to make. Infants are all different and just because your baby isn’t sleeping through the night at 6 weeks doesn’t mean there is an issue. Unfortunately, that is normal. There are other solutions to getting sleep with an infant. Don’t give up and remember this is a phase and just like any phase it will one day come to an end!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.