The goal of a tired mama of a new baby is to get more sleep.
Those first few months can pass by in a blur of sleepless nights, tons of feedings, and sometimes crying nights of consolation.
I have been there.
The dream feed saved me.
As a breastfeeding mom, it is common to question milk supply.
It is a constant struggle not to worry about “how much” or “is my baby hungry?”
You just cannot measure the amount of milk a breastfed baby is receiving.
In comes the dream feed.
What is a dream feed?
You feed your baby right before you go to sleep.
Even if your baby is sleeping (which would be ideal, but not always the case), you pick the sleeping baby up and feed the baby in its sleep.
Things to Remember with a Dream Feed
#1: No talking. You do not want your baby to think this is play time. It is only a feeding to make the baby last longer through the night (and get you some more sleep!)
#2: No lights on. Keep the room dim with just a small nightlight. No stimulation.
#3: I preferred to change my baby’s diaper if he or she was too tired to take the feeding. This work the baby up just enough for a full feeding and then baby goes to bed with a clean diaper.
#4: If you have a hard time getting baby to breastfeed, try using a pacifier to start the sucking reflex. Once initiated, you can replace the pacifier with the breast.
An Alternative to Dream Feed for Breastfeeding Moms
This is a routine that worked well for my husband and me.
I have a hard time staying up late, and he is a night owl.
Once I gave my baby the last night feeding, I would drink a lot of water and wait 2 hours. I would then pump a bottle for my husband to give at the dream feed.
I did not pump a lot nor did I have a milk stock.
I would pump the bottle and leave it out. It was the perfect temperature for baby when my husband gave it to him around 10 or 11 p.m. depending on how tired he was.
What time is the right time for a dream feed?
Anytime between 10 pm – 11 pm.
You do not want the dream feed to start any later than 11 pm because then it becomes a middle of the night feeding, and the goal is to cut out the middle of the night feedings.
If you add a dream feed into your baby’s routine, I recommend that you give it time. Do not give up because it did not work the first or two nights. Stick with it for at least a week.
Hang in there because the dream feed is the secret to getting more sleep.
The Importance of a Dream Feed
I know that a dream feed seems like a lot of work, but it makes a lot of sense.
If you feed your baby at 7 or 7:30, they will probably wake to eat about the time you go to sleep.
Instead, you feed the baby before you go to sleep.
This gives both you and baby more sleep. A win-win situation.
When and how do I stop the dream feed?
Most of my babies continued with a dream feed until at least six months.
Sometimes I would pump the bottle and sometimes I would nurse the baby.
It just depended on the kind of day or night I had.
The most important thing is the consistency of the time.
Stopping the dream feed is simple.
Once your baby has slept through the night for several nights in a row, AND you do not feel like the baby is taking a full feeding at the dream feed, it is time to cut the feed out.
Do not try to cut the feed out cold turkey.
It needs to be a gradual weaning.
I also recommend carefully monitoring the amount of time your baby is breastfeeding. Try to make up for that last feeding by being sure your baby is getting full feedings throughout the day.
This is the process I have used:
Give the dream feed a half hour earlier. (If it was at 11:00, now move it to 10:00).
Give the dream feed still at 10:00 (or the same time you have been doing for days 1-3), but cut the feed short (to about 10 minutes shorter)
Move the dream feed another half hour earlier. (If was at 10:00, not do the dream feed at 9:30). Still keep the feed short.
At this point, it is up to you. If the transition has been fairly smooth, you could try cutting out the dream feed at this point.
If you have a difficult sleeper or a high-maintenance baby, I would continue moving the dream feed back by 30 minutes until you get to the last feeding of the day.
I was always able to cut the dream feed out after day 10, but just in case, I wanted to give you the option.
One More Component of the Dream Feed: Cluster Feeding
Cluster feeding is another way to tank your baby up before night time. It is highly effective with breastfeeding moms.
A cluster feed is two feeds closer together than normal.
For example, in my schedule for the first six weeks: the cluster feeds are at 6 and 8 pm.
Personally, I cluster feed my baby from Day 4 to at least eight weeks.
I am mentioning the cluster feed here because it might be helpful to cluster feed while weaning your baby from a dream feed. If you are worried about dropping a feed, a cluster feed is a great way to add another feeding into the schedule.
A cluster feed is normally down at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. These are often baby’s fussiest times so having two feeds close together is ideal.
From Day 4 to 8 weeks, I do both the cluster feed and the dream feed.
After eight weeks, I add back in the cluster feed when I have an extra fussy baby, or I feel like the baby is going through a growth spurt.