Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby, the question of whether to give your baby a dream feed or not is sure to arise. Should you give them a feed before you go to sleep yourself? Or should you leave them and feed them when they wake up naturally?
How do I get my Baby to Sleep through the Night?
When I had my first baby, I was quite clueless about what to do with him (not an unusual phenomena I believe.) Sleep? Routine? Nappies? What were all these things?
I read about a billion books. Well actually, after I got fed up of the baby keeping me up all night I read a billion books searching for "the answer" to getting my cherub to sleep through the night.
Most Baby Books Recommend a 'Dream Feed'.
Most of the books recommended a 'dream feed'. Feed the baby at about 11 o'clock, just before you go to bed, whilst the baby is still asleep so that you can get a few more hours sleep before they wake up again. As I was getting up a couple of hours (or less) after I was going to bed, it seemed like a much better idea than going to bed and having to wake up an hour or two later.
What do you do if Your Baby won't Dream Feed?
Except, my baby was so fast asleep he wouldn't feed. So I'd change his nappy to wake him up a bit. It became known as the "cold water on your balls feed". But it did the trick, he fed and went back to sleep (mostly).
At some stage, (not as soon as I'd hoped) we managed to get him sleeping through the night and dropping the "dream feed" wasn't too difficult.
Does 'Dream Feeding' help Children Sleep through the Night?
When number 2 came along, I gave him a dream feed as that was what we'd done with number 1.
Now I have numbers 3 and 4 but I've changed my mind about dream feeding. I'm not so sure it's a great idea. I've heard midwives say that it reinforces a shorter sleep cycle. When in fact, what you want to be doing is stretching their sleep cycle.
Babies Sleep Cycles
Just a quick note on sleep cycles. We have different types of sleep, broadly divided into REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM (NREM), the later includes deep sleep. We follow a pattern when we go to sleep, starting with NREM (which is divided into further stages). When you watch someone falling asleep you will notice little twitches, that is perfectly normal and part of NREM part 1. During the night you go through the different stages of sleep in cycles (the cycles vary in length but are roughly 90 minutes in an adult.) In some of these stages you are easier to wake up than in others. Babies have much shorter sleep cycles that adults (around 50-60 minutes.)
What about Babies teaching themselves to go back to Sleep?
The theory is that if you leave the baby to sleep, they should stretch their sleep cycle sooner and thus not wake up so frequently.
I'm not sure about that as a theory but I do think that babies need to learn to go back to sleep by themselves. I do wonder whether the dream feed teaches them to wake at that particular time and thus reinforces a sleep habit (like when you always wake up early at the weekend when you wanted to sleep in.)
Anyhow, my babies 3 and 4 decided that they were always going to wake up at that time. It wasn't so much that I introduced a dream feed but rather never managed to drop it. So for the time being I'm stuck with it.
How to Teach Your Baby To Sleep (Free Book)
How to Teach Your Baby to Sleep by Dr Orlena Kerek, mother of 4. Everything you need to know about baby sleep and setting up great sleeping habits. Join my newsletter to receive your copy