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What is Dream Feeding and How it May Help You Get a Longer Stretch of Sleep

Normal newborn baby sleep entails many times of eating in the early nights of parenting. Of course being woken in the early hours is no fun. But what can we do? After all their tummies are so small and they are growing at such a fantastic rate it’s no wonder they are hungry by again 2am. I wish my fully grown husband could go 6 hours without a feed!

Well, a practice called ‘dream feeding’ could be the answer you’re looking for.

What is dream feeding I hear you ask? Who exactly is dreaming and who is feeding?

Below we clear up the confusion and take a look at exactly what the practice is and how it may help you get your little one to stay in the land of nod for a longer period.

What is dream feeding?

Dream feeding is quite simply nursing in the night while baby is asleep. Anecdotal evidence indicates that topping up their tank with a little extra mile around midnight will stretch that early morning sleep a bit longer.  The theory is that with an extra dose of milk, your bundle of joy will remain asleep longer before their rumbling tummy wakes for their next feed.

How does it work?

If for instance you nurse your little one down for the night at around 8pm, they may sleep for a few hours before their belly starts to rumble. If cosleeping, snuggle down next to your baby, and nurse while s/he slumbers. If not cosleeping, gently lift baby up to nurse or feed, while still asleep.

Breastfeeding or bottle, both work equally well for dream feeding.

Sounds easy, is it?

Yes and no. The trick to a successful dream feed is to try and not fully wake a baby. This is much more easily achieved in cosleeping situations. Now, of course they will need a little coxing to latch on - a gentle brush of the finger over baby's cheek - but the overall aim is to keep baby in sleep mode.

The skill is rousing them enough to feed, but not enough to mean they won’t drop back immediately to sleep once their little belly is full again.

Fortunately, many babies seem perfectly content to happily suck away while seeming remaining 95% asleep. Hence the name ‘dream feeding.’

It does take practice to successfully latch and nurse while slumbering in the dark, and in the early days it might feel a little counterproductive as you repeatedly wake a perfectly sleeping baby. Once you get the technique down, however, it could change your nights forever. Many mothers swear by the practice. More sleep with a happier baby, and happy mom. Think of all the extra sleep you would get, you may even be tempted to invest in a new bed for yourself and your little one.

Does it work with every baby?

As with everything in parenting, each child, and each sleep situation, will be unique. However, more often than not, when a baby feels safe and secure during night time hours - knowing they will be responded to when hunger or thirst or aloneness strikes - dream feeding becomes commonplace.

Final thoughts

The popularity of dream feeding is a relatively new phenomenon, as a result there have been few formal research studies conducted. The information we have brought you here is mainly based on anecdotal reports by parentals who have tried the practice.

My advice, why try it for a few nights and see how your baby responds? If it doesn’t work and your child still wakes in the early hours then hey, nothing ventured nothing gained.

What’s the worst that can happen? You lose some more sleep!

Join with other parents in the CoSleeping Group. If you're a breastfeeding mom, you are welcome as well in the Breastfeeding Group.

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