When To Stop Dream Feed

When To Stop Dream Feed

Babies. They spend most of their time sleeping, don’t they? If only I could rewind time and tell the old version of me how wrong I was. The memo must have got lost in the mail regarding the constant cycle of sleep, eat, poop, repeat. It not only feels like a feeding frenzy those first few weeks, but it also feels like an unending cycle of small naps here and there with nights blending into days. Throw a toddler in the mix and it’s basically a circus. Add a dog…well, you get it. We are all just surviving. As a parent or caregiver, this can leave you feeling exhausted, desperately seeking ways to extend those precious hours of rest for both you and your little one. 

Enter dream feeding – a practice where you feed your baby while they’re still asleep, with the hope of extending their sleep duration and providing the necessary nutrients they need to grow and develop. As beneficial as dream feeding may seem, there comes a time when it’s appropriate to stop. 

when to stop dream feed

When To Stop Dream Feeding

While dream feeding is considered safe and has its advantages, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding its limitations and knowing when to stop can be crucial for your baby’s sleep patterns and overall well-being.

Dream feeding, albeit helpful, isn’t without its drawbacks. Understanding what dream feeding is and how it works can guide you in deciding when it’s time to halt this practice for your baby. Let’s delve deeper into the nuances of dream feeding.

What Is Dream Feeding

Dream feeding is a feeding technique where you offer a bottle or breast to your baby while they are still asleep, typically before your own bedtime. It is usually around 3-4 hours after your child has gone to bed for the night. In following the 3-4 hour rule, most parents rouse their child to dream feed around 10-11 pm to offer a dream feed. It’s often recommended for babies who struggle to sleep through the night or have difficulty gaining weight. Unlike regular feeding sessions, dream feeding aims to provide nourishment without fully waking the baby.

The ultimate goal of a dream feed is to offer one more meal before you go to bed, so that you and your baby’s sleeps are on the same page. Dream feeds are initiated by parents, not by babies, so they really are dependent on your schedule. As the parent, you are waking your baby up enough to feed them, in hopes that they don’t wake you up an hour or two after you go to sleep. 

when to stop dream feed

How Does A Dream Feed Work

Dream feeding operates on the premise that babies can consume milk while in a state of partial arousal, allowing them to get a longer stretch of sleep. Does dream feeding always help babies sleep longer? Not always, but sometimes. Dream feeding works for some babies but not all. 

Babies who enjoy a dream feed will return back to their bassinet or crib without being woken up or startled awake. It should be a seamless effort on your end. If dream feeding is waking your baby up and completely disrupting their sleep, it may be backfiring in the long run. Although the choice to dream feed or not is up to the parent, the decision to follow through with the dream feed is definitely up to your child. 

This practice can offer both parents and babies some respite by potentially extending the hours of sleep between night feedings. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of dream feeds to determine if it’s the right approach for your family’s sleep schedule. 

When To Stop The Dream Feed

So, when should you consider halting the dream feed? The ideal age to stop dream feeding varies for each baby. While some infants naturally outgrow the need for dream feeds as they mature, others may require a more deliberate approach. Pediatric experts generally recommend dropping the dream feed when babies are around four to six months old, as they begin to establish more regular sleep patterns and may no longer require nighttime feedings. However, some babies will keep this feeding until they reach nine months. It’s essential to monitor your baby’s cues and consult with a sleep consultant or pediatrician for personalized advice.

How To Stop The Dream Feed

How To Stop The Dream Feed

If you’ve determined that it’s time to stop dream feeding your baby, here are some tips to help ease the transition and be sure to check out our blog on How to Night Feed During Sleep Training:

Tip 1: Gradually Reduce the Feeding Time:

Start by gradually reducing the amount of milk offered during the dream feed. You can do this whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding. This can help your baby adjust to consuming less milk before bedtime, eventually leading to the elimination of the dream feed altogether.

Tip 2: Increase Daytime Feedings:

Encourage more frequent feedings during the day to ensure your baby is getting enough nourishment to sustain them through the night without the need for a dream feed. If you eliminate breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two from your child’s intake, you have to incorporate it back into their feeding schedule. This will ensure that you are setting your child up for success so that they can connect sleep cycles during the day and at night.

Tip 3: Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine:

Create a soothing bedtime routine that signals to your baby that it’s time for sleep. Consistency is key in helping your little one establish a healthy sleep pattern.

Tip 4: Offer Comfort Instead of Milk:

Everyone wakes up in the middle of the night. Babies wake up in the middle of the night too. Instead of offering milk,  try offering comfort through gentle touch or soothing words instead of immediately offering a feeding. This can help break the association between waking and feeding. Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you may be able to jump right into more formal sleep training at this point. 

By implementing these strategies gradually, you can help your baby transition away from dream feeding and towards more restful nights for both of you.

In the journey of nurturing your baby’s sleep schedule, understanding the nuances of feeding is crucial. From clustering feeding newborns to mastering how to night feed during sleep training, every step plays a role in shaping your little one’s sleep patterns and overall well-being.

Remember, every baby is unique, so what works for one may not work for another. Some babies will start dream feeding and after a week or two, it seems to do more harm than good. Trust your instincts, monitor your baby’s cues, and don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a pediatric expert or sleep consultant if you’re unsure. We would love to help you navigate this journey and answer any questions that you may have. Please don’t hesitate to set up a FREE 15 minute consultation call with one of our amazing sleep consultants to discuss any questions or concerns. 

Ultimately, the goal is to foster healthy sleep habits that support your baby’s growth and development while ensuring you get the rest you need to be the best parent you can be. It’s always good to remember to be present in the moment with your child as well. Keep your expectations reasonable, especially when you are first working towards a sleep goal. As you navigate the world of feeding schedules and sleep patterns, keep in mind that the journey towards a good night’s sleep is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sleep Shore Sleep Consulting

Ready to work with expert sleep consultants to get your baby sleeping in their own sleep space? Want to get your newborn, infant, toddler, or school-age child sleeping in until a normal time? Maybe your goal is to get your child to sleep through the night. Whatever it is, Sleep Shore is here to end the exhaustion and help your whole family sleep better! 

Click here to learn more about my sleep coaching programs and which sleep training program is right for you. It’s time to get the sleep you deserve to finally feel well-rested in the morning (yes, it’s possible). See what this mama had to say about our sleep coaching: 

“Hiring Molly was hands down one of the best decisions we’ve made. Before working with Molly, our daughter did not nap unless we held her and her schedule was all over the place which did not lead to restful nights! I was overwhelmed with reading about wake windows on the internet and my husband & I were exhausted. We hired a sleep coach to help and after two weeks things were worse than ever. Enter Molly, the sleep genie, who granted our wishes of better sleep. Molly was a pleasure to work with from day one. She really takes the time for her clients and gets to know your child’s sleep patterns and behaviors, which is what we needed. She was extremely responsive, knowledgeable, and helpful. My daughter is now a great napper and sleeps through the night, we could not have done it without Molly!”


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