It's true that newborns don't sleep as long as adults do. All parents have found themselves up with a fresh baby in the middle of the night because their little one can't sleep any longer with an empty tummy. Sound familiar? If you, too, have found yourself in this midnight sort of predicament you may have come across dream feeding while looking for a workable solution. Perhaps it was something that came up on a mommy board, or a concerned friend or family member suggested that you look into it. Either way, mastering how to dreamfeed with a baby can help everyone get a good night's sleep each night.
There are two big factors to perfect when it comes to dreamfeeding with a baby: timing and only partially waking up your little one. In case you're not a hundred percent sure about what I'm talking about here, according to The Baby Sleep Site, dreamfeeding is "...where you feed your baby while he or she is still asleep, before you go to bed yourself." Dreamfeeds are designed to be that little food boost your baby needs to make it through the night, so their empty tummy doesn't wake them up. It works best for younger babies. Once they turn 9 months, they often no longer need that influx of energy during the night and may be ready for night weaning instead.
You might be concerned that waking your baby (just slightly) for a dreamfeed late at night will only reinforce to them that if they wake up in the middle of the night and can get your attention, you'll reward them with a feeding. It is possible, but there are some tricks that you can use to prevent that from happening.
According to Dr. Harvey Karp's article for Happiest Baby, it's important to make sure that you're waking them for a dream feed and that they are not waking up, crying, and summoning you. If you are constantly responding to their cries, they will learn that if they cry, you will answer. By anticipating that they'll need the feeding before they realize it, you're able to resolve their hunger solution with them barely realizing what's going on. That's important.
Of course finding the perfect window of opportunity to feed your baby is easier said than done. Luckily there are experts who can weigh on this subject, like Tizzie Hall, baby sleep coach at Save Our Sleep. Hall recommends first putting your baby down at 7:00 p.m. then dreamfeeding around 10:30 p.m. Make sure that, to the best of your ability, you're only slightly waking them so that they don't wake up fully and get cranky. That should allow them to make it through the night to about 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, at which time you'll feed them again.
Be warned: dreamfeeding doesn't always work for all babies. Some babies wake up fully, so this practice can agitate them and interrupt their sleep. Other babies may not take to a feeding when they haven't asked for it and continue to wake in fits and spurts all night long. When it does work, however, it can have a real influence on the amount and quality of rest that you, your partner, and your baby get each night. And while some may tell you that dream feeding is a bad idea because they think it'll encourage a middle of the night wakeup habit, if it working for your family, then you shouldn't feel guilty about it. A tired mama's gotta do what a tired mama's gotta do.
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