How to Dream Feed: Better than a Lullaby
Dream feeding isn’t unlimited fine cuisine but a technique for feeding babies. The flipside is this tactic helps infants and sleep-deprived parents get more shuteye. If you aren’t familiar with the term, dream feeding consists of feeding your infant while they are partially awake. Instead of a baby waking you to eat, you are the one initiating the feeding. The best time to do this is an hour or two after your baby has been put to bed and shortly before you turn in. The idea is to fill your tot’s tank before you go to sleep in the hopes they will sleep for a longer duration. By feeding your baby while you’re still awake, it is not only more convenient but could also let parents get more sleep.
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Happy & healthy babies need proper nutrition. As babies grow, their nutritional needs change, as does the amount of food they need. An easy way to ensure your baby is getting the optimal amount of food is to use a feeding chart. No two babies are the same, which means feeding requirements change from child to child.
Most newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours which breaks down to eight meals a day. During this time, a baby will consume 1-2 ounces per feeding. Around two months, babies will consume 4-5 ounces every four hours. At six months, babies will eat about 8 ounces every 5 hours. A good rule of thumb is for a baby to eat an additional ounce every month until they reach 8 ounces per feeding. At six months old, an infant can begin to eat solid foods.
When to Dream Feed
It is critical to get your baby on a consistent feeding schedule. Babies fall into a pattern as they consume more formula or breast milk at once. This happens around 2-4 months and it gives parents the chance to set a convenient schedule. While solid foods can be introduced at four months, but never before, formula and breast milk should be the main source of nutrition for the first year. By taking all of these factors into consideration, dream feeding can be a big help.
There are no set rules when it comes to dream feeding. You can start this as soon as you feel like your baby is ready. Look for signs in infants around two months old like a semi-regular bedtime and night feeding schedule, growing well on formula or breast milk, and your baby going back to sleep easily after waking up.
Related: Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?
The Hows of Dream Feeding
Since there are no formal rules in dream feeding, parents can taper it to their schedule and lifestyle. Here are the basics. Put your baby to sleep at its usual bedtime. This is an ideal time for feeding. A few hours later, before you go to bed, check if your infant is in a dreamlike state. Signs are your baby stirring but not entirely awake. If you see the tot’s eyes moving under the lids, this is a sign of the REM sleep stage. Even if your baby is totally asleep rather than half awake, it will more than likely be happy to dream feed.
Just place the bottle (or breast) near the baby’s mouth and wait for it to latch on. Don’t force-feed, it will happen naturally. Feed until your baby is done then burp if this is the norm. Let your baby drift back off and get some sleep yourself.
Unsure of when to switch your little one from a crib to a toddler bed? Read up on the milestone here.
Parents know that babies eat a lot, especially at night. According to experts, newborns eat roughly every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times in 24 hours. Even at 6 months old, babies need to eat every 4-5 hours. If you are working on sleep training with your baby, dream feeding doesn’t interfere with a nighttime dining schedule, it just modifies it a bit. The biggest upside of dream feeding is it helps infants and parents get on a more in-synch sleep schedule.
Plusses for Parents
Parents, especially, rookie parents, know all about sleep deprivation. Its physical tolls include disrupted hormonal balance, altered metabolism, and decreased functionality of the immune system. There is also an increased risk of anxiety and depression. While dream feeding offers more sleep, it will not decrease milk supply due to skipped feedings.
All babies are different, therefore dream feeding will not work for all babies. Or it might not work consistently. One cannot accurately predict what will happen when you try this technique. Some babies can barely wake up, eat their fill, then fall back asleep and sleep longer thanks to a full stomach. Other babies might not want to eat when you try to wake them up or they fully wake up and won’t go back to sleep. Another possibility is your infant will gladly dream feed but is ready to eat again just an hour or two later.
Trying to figure out a dream feed schedule? Here are some scenarios based on a baby that wakes up every 4-5 hours. For those not dream feeding, start a baby bedtime routine between 6-7. Put your infant to sleep with a full stomach then go to sleep at 10 PM. Be prepared for another feeding at 11 PM, after you catch an hour-long nap. After you begin this technique, keep the bedtime routine between 6-7 PM. Dream feed your little one around 9:30-10 PM and enjoy 5 hours of sleep as your baby probably won’t need to eat until 3 AM.
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