How to Stop Dream Feeding & Encourage Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
If you read my baby update posts then you’ll know that Charlie is a monkey when it comes to sleeping!
He is 11 months now & we still have to give him a dream feed at midnight. Unsure if this is ‘normal’ (Sophie slept through at 6 months) & in a bid to get my sleep back, I reached out to an expert sleep advisor, Sarah Cummings of sleepadvisor.org.
Have a read of her super useful guest post below if you’re thinking of dropping the dream feed!
How to Stop Dream Feeding & Encourage Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night by Sarah Cummings, Sleep Advisor
Before beginning sleep training, you must focus your attention on your child’s nightly eating habits. The stopping of dream feeding can be a tricky one for you & baby, but it can be done. With the right guidance, it will be easier than trying to do without.
Your child might actually enjoy having a feed-free night so that they can sleep through, but if they’re used to the habit, then dream feeds might be missed.
The link between dream feeding & sleep interruption
If you were to wake up every single night for months, tuck into a tasty snack that made you really happy & then a few days later you just stopped doing this, you would notice this change & are likely to still wake up hungry.
In simple terms, this analogy is exactly what happens when you cease the dream feeds with your baby. A pattern is learned behaviour, & with this type of reinforcement, you’re likely to see disruptions.
When should the dream feeding stop?
To answer this question correctly for your situation, you need to look at the following & go from there:
a) What’s your baby’s age?
As a usual rule of thumb, when your infant is around the 6-month-old range, bottle fed methods can begin to be weaned off of a nightly routine. For breastfed infants, it typically takes longer & might require around 12 months before a change is made.
b) Are you keen to continue dream feeding?
There’s not strictly a right or wrong with this topic, but it’s important to remember that you are going to have to wean them off of night feeds eventually, so the longer you leave it, the harder it will get for all concerned.
Having said that, lots of parents, many of whom work away from home during the day, feel the true value in the closeness & extra time that dream feeds offer. This is perfectly fine, just as long as you are receiving the right amount of sleep for yourself.
If you can honestly say that you should be sleeping more, it could be time to make the choice between acquiring vital sleep & handling the night feeds.
c) How well is your baby growing?
If your baby is a slow developer, they may well need those additional calories that come from the night feeds. This could be something that you want to check with your paediatrician before making any decisions.
How do you stop the night feeds?
Quite simply, possibly the worst thing that you can do when it comes to stopping night feeds is to go cold turkey. This is like cutting out a main meal during the day; you just wouldn’t do it.
Yes, it’s achievable, but not without bringing about unrequired bouts of confusion, irritability & misery, which is to be expected. The alternative is to plan slow incremental changes over a period of time. By adopting these new routine tweaks, it will make it easier on you & your baby.
You can introduce an extra feed in the evening before bedtime, for example, & then, you can gradually cut out one night feed at a time until they’re off the night feeds altogether,
You may also want to consider making sure your baby gets plenty to eat during the day too. This is because as your baby continues to grow & their activeness rises, they could well not be keen to stop to for a feed & subsequently, they will want to compensate for this by feeding at night.
You can get around this by implementing some loosely scheduled breaks during the day that include a quiet bottle or nursing session. Look to do this away from a place of distraction or stimulation so that they can hone their focus on the task at hand.
Another way is to approach dropping the dream feed is to gradually reduce the amount of milk given at different times. For example, at 11 pm give ¾ of their usual feed for a week. Then, give ½ the usual feed at 10.30pm for a week. Do not change their nappy beforehand – just lift & feed.
A Final Note…
As with any types of dietary or sleep concerns, if you’re not satisfied/sure that your little one is eating or sleeping enough, you should check their growth by arranging a weighing appointment at the doctor’s office.
There you can discuss any sleep-related problems you’re dealing with. However, with the advice provided & your intuition as a loving parent, the chances are that it won’t be long before you are achieving a better nights sleep.
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**How to Stop Dream Feeding is a collaborative post