Ah baby sleep. Bedtime routines, sleep schedules, night feeds... This very topic will no doubt haunt your conversations from the day you give birth. While some babies will sleep through the night, a lot won't, instead waking you in the middle of the night for some milk.
One way some parents choose to get through this is by giving their baby what is called a 'dream feed.' But what is it? And how can you take advantage?
What is a dream feed?
"A dream feed is when you wake your baby before you go to bed, usually at around 10.30pm/11pm for a feed." says Norland Nanny and maternity nurse Louenna Hood. The idea is that it tops babies up and helps them sleep longer." It may go against your instinct to wake a sleeping baby but the benefits could serve you well.
How do I do it?
If you're looking to give dream feeding a whirl, here is what you have to do:
- Delicately rouse your baby by picking them up from their cot or bassinet between 10-12pm, e.g around when you would usually be going to bed.
- Using either your breast or bottle, place this on your little one's lower lip. This will encourage them to latch on. Your baby should start feeding, even if they are not fully awake.
- Give them a full feed and wind them properly before settling them to fall asleep in their cot.
- Tiptoe to bed for a (hopefully!) restful night's sleep.
Do they work?
"For some babies, they work brilliantly as they will then have a longer stretch of sleep into the morning," explains Louenna. "For other babies it can disrupt their natural sleep pattern and you find they wake anyway. It’s trial and error and every baby is different.
If you are waking your baby for a dream feed and they aren't taking a proper feed, it's a good idea to let them wake on their own accord so they are ready to take a proper feed."
What age can I dream feed?
You can dream feed your baby right from birth.
Should I burp my baby after?
"Yes absolutely," says Louenna. "You must wind your baby after every feed - whether they are breast or bottle-fed - or they will be uncomfortable and not be able to sleep properly."
What are the benefits of dream feeding?
- Helps you and your baby sleep for longer uninterrupted.
- Your baby will hopefully sleep until later in the morning, so you won’t have such an early start.
- You could be up in early hours for a shorter amount of time.
- You can feed your baby when it is convenient for you - not when you've just sat down for a cup of tea.
What are the negatives of dream feeding?
- You may have to stay up later than you would like to offer the dream feed.
- if your baby is taking the feed but still waking several times in the night it could be that the dream feed is stimulating your baby’s digestive system and you'll need to stop.
When should I stop?
Ultimately, all babies are different so there is no specific age recommendation to stop giving a dream feed. "Stop the dream feed when your baby isn't hungry when waking in the morning or when they're not hungry for the dream feed bottle," explains Louenna. "I reduce the dream feed over the period of a week by decreasing the amount of milk given."
The Nanny Louenna app is available to download from the App Store and Google Play with subscriptions starting from £4.99 a month.