What is dreamfeeding?
Dreamfeeding a method of tanking up the baby at night without waking the baby. The dreamfeed is usually conducted between 10 or 11pm, before the parents go to bed. Since the baby is essentially asleep or very drowsy during the dreamfeed, the baby's sleep is uninterrupted and promptly returns into deep sleep after the feed.
The purpose of dreamfeeding is to minimize night wakings and disturbances caused by hunger. Usually young infants have 1 long sleep period at night before waking up again to eat: e.g. 4 to 6 hrs for a 6-week old, 6 to 8hrs for an 12-week old etc. But since babies usually have and need a much earlier bedtime than adults, the baby's longest sleep period often do not coincide with the parents bedtime, hence disturbing their sleep when the baby wakes. By tanking up or dreamfeeding the baby at the parents bedtime, the entire family obtains more rest as the baby's longest sleep period is shifted to match the parents' bedtime.
Who to dreamfeed?
Dreamfeeding is appropriate for babies that need nightfeedings. Many babies need 1 or 2 nightfeeds up to 9 months old (Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child). It's best start dreamfeeding as early as possible, it is easier for babies less than 4 months old. Older babies up to 6 months old, may still benefit from it, but may take longer to adjust as they are more set in their ways.
How to dreamfeed?
Breastfeeding: Gently lift the sleeping baby from the crib and place at the breast. Tickle the baby's lips with nipples to induce the baby to latch and suckle, usually the scent of the mother and milk will encourage the baby to do so. In the beginning, it may take some time for a sleepy baby to latch, particularly the younger ones. If the baby is too sleepy to nurse properly or latch, rouse the baby a little by rubbing her cheeks, lips or chest. When the baby is done, gently place the baby back into the crib. No burping is necessary, as little or no air is taken when the baby is very relaxed. Swaddling helps facilitate moving the baby in and out of the crib, as well as, preventing the Moro reflex from disturbing the baby.
Bottlefeeding: The sleeping baby stays in the crib throughout the dreamfeed. Gently wedge the nipple of the bottle between the baby's lips. This and the taste of milk will usually induce the baby to drink. If the baby is too sleepy, gently rouse the baby a little by rubbing her cheeks or chest etc. Ensure that there is sufficient breastmilk or formula in the bottle, as insufficient milk may frustrate and wake the baby. No burping necessary.
Other info: If you are just starting dreamfeeding, try it out for about a week. It takes time for the baby to get used to it. Initially, it may take some time for the baby to latch/drink. With time, it gets much easier as the baby is conditioned to expect a feed at a particular time. For breastfeeding Moms, this time may be one of the best feeds your baby will have, as the baby is very relax and undistracted. As a nursing Mom, I thoroughly enjoyed dreamfeeding, it was a very satisfying and special time for the both of us. If the baby happens to wake during the dreamfeed, that is rarely a problem as the baby is quickly soothed back to sleep by the dreamfeed. It is important not to dreamfeed the baby too late at night as it may disturb her night sleep and cause nightwakings. Tracy Hogg recommends dreamfeeding no later than 11pm.
When to wean & how?
The baby can be weaned from the dreamfeed around the 7th or 8th month when solids is well-established AND when the baby can consistently last through the night on just the dreamfeed. Weaning is done by moving the dreamfeed 15 to 30 minutes earlier every 3 days or more, hence gradually extending the time between the baby's feeds.
Other sources from the Net:
* What is a dreamfeed?
* Want to Dreamfeed Your Baby?
My Benjamin is now 5mths old and he has been dreamfeeding since 1 month old. Honestly, until I read that post, I don't even know I've been dreamfeeding him all this while... I actually jokingly told hubby that our baby is sleep-suckling (cos I don't know there is such a word for this action! :P)
I breastfeed my baby from the first day and for the first month, it was really tiring having to wake up/being woken up every 2-3 hours to feed him and then one time I just got real tired and I remember breastfeeding my baby right next to me on the bed and I realised he was still sleeping but he is suckling. I am like 'hey... this is weird... I don't have to wake him up for feedings and he's not crying for one yet he's guzzling now...'
So since then, I have peaceful nights. :D