Newborns do a lot of eating and a lot of sleeping and little else! Most parents remember the first time their little one slept for more than 4 hours at a time – it is the best feeling in the world to suddenly, after how ever long of what feels like constant feeding, experience some solid sleep again!
The quest for these longer periods of sleep often leads parents to the concept of dream feeding, that is to feed a baby during the night without fully waking. They usually take place around the time parents are going to bed in the hope that baby will then sleep for longer before properly waking up again for a feed.
Now before we talk about whether this is a fail-safe option of not, there are some circumstances where feeding at regular intervals is, of course, absolutely necessary. If weight gain is a concern, you would of course follow your GP/Health Visitors advice as to a feeding regime which may or may not include a dream feed. Similarly, if your little one is poorly you would follow any advice from your GP.
However, if seeking longer stretches of sleep is leading you to consider dream feeding, this may not be the answer. Here’s why:
Drowsiness if the first stage of sleep. If you are feeding a baby whilst they are drowsy, it’s likely that this will become something they rely on and lead to more night wakings as your little one may need to feed every time they wake (which after the 4 month regression can be after every sleep cycle) in order to get back to sleep.
We don’t tend to recommend dream feeding (unless for one of the reasons outlines above). Instead, go with your baby’s natural wake ups in terms of night feeds. The trick is to try to ensure your little one doesn’t use feeding as a strategy for getting themselves back to sleep every time they wake up. By keeping them fully awake during and after a night feed, you are ensuring they have the opportunity to settle themselves back to sleep in their cot without relying on the feed.
So, in short, if dream feeding works for you as a family – great! If it’s not leading to more sleep, it’s probably time to stop it and instead wait for them to naturally wake up and then work on their independent sleep skills, which may or may not include a night feed or two depending on your baby.
If you are experiencing any difficulties with your little one’s sleep and would like to talk to us about how we can help – please get in touch!