If you’re a new or seasoned mom, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “dream feeds.” Dream feeding is the idea that, before you (the parent) go to bed at night, you get your baby up while he is sleeping and keep him sleeping while you feed him. The hope is that the dream feed will keep baby from waking shortly after your head hits the pillow, giving you all some extra sleep!
Does dream feeding actually work? Well, it certainly gets some milk into baby’s belly. Does it help baby sleep longer? In the short term, it certainly might, but it might not.
My goal is to teach babies and children good sleep habits, so here’s why, as a sleep consultant, I say no to dream feeding:
- If you’re baby is asleep while “feeding,” he’s not going to get a full feeding. Babies need to be AWAKE for a nice, full feeding. If baby isn’t getting a full feeding, he will certainly be up again for another feed. We also want him to be aware of when he is eating so he can feel the satisfaction of being full, connecting what’s happening in his little tummy to his brain.
- The idea of dream feeding is to keep your babe asleep, but if you accidentally wake your baby in the middle of a sleep cycle, you’re going to have a cranky babe and you will have to work really hard to help him back to sleep (hello, sleep props!).
- By waking baby up, you could be unnecessarily teaching him to wake up at that time, when in fact, he does not need to wake up. You could actually be causing future night wakings out of habit rather than need!
- Most importantly, if you’re offering dream feeds, you are teaching your baby that food is for sleep. However, one of the most common taglines you’ll hear from sleep consultants is that FOOD IS FOR NOURISHMENT, NOT FOR SLEEP! Anytime you feed your baby, you want to actively keep him awake. One, so he can get a full feeding, and two, so nursing or bottle feeding does not become necessary in order to fall asleep.
It’s important to note, however, that some doctors recommend waking babies up a few times a night to feed them, due to weight or other health issues. If your doctor says to wake your baby at certain intervals, absolutely listen! Your baby’s health is of utmost important.
However, if you need to have a specific feeding schedule at night, make sure baby is actually awake. Additionally, make sure you keep following up with your doctor at each visit, asking if you should continue to wake your baby for feeds; many doctors forget to mention it and we forget to ask, resulting in parents waking baby every few hours for weeks or months on end when it’s not necessary!