All Hail the Dream Feed

November 9, 2018

Thank you so much for baring with me on this post. I know I asked you to send me your questions a couple weeks ago regarding dream feeding…. then life got crazy and I had to travel and film for Total Bellas (which is also exciting). I am back in Phoenix now, so I promise these “real talk” posts will get a lot more smooth and frequent.

I first learned about dream feeding when I took the course, Taking Cara Babies at Modern Milk when Vivienne was a couple weeks old. I stuck to the program, making sure she had scheduled naps and most importantly… allowing her to learn healthy sleep habits by making sure she could put herself to sleep and cope with future developmental leaps. And boy were there leaps. Feel free to read all about my experience from taking Cara’s class with Vivienne here.

Now with Alice, I wasn’t as strict early on with getting her on a schedule due to traveling and trying to accommodate my busy schedule. She was my go with the flow baby, always coming with me to appointments and sleeping in the car seat when she could. After about 6 or 7 weeks, I knew I needed to make a change and get her on a schedule. So, we did.

This is our current schedule based off of the time she wakes in the morning, we try to keep it as consistent as possible and work around missed naps and early wakings.

7am: Feed
7am-8am: Keep her awake
8am-10am: Swaddle, Sound machine, pacifier, and nap in her room with window shades open (to make her realize it is still daytime and just a nap).
10am: If she doesn’t wake up, wake her, and feed.
10am-11am: Keep her awake.
11am-1pm: Swaddle, sound machine, nap in crib. If she wakes up before her nap is over, I attempt to get her back down but soothing her with a pacifier. You can choose to do this or use the CRIES method that Cara describes in her course. We haven’t had to use the CRIES method with Alice so far, as she has been a pretty good sleeper and soothes well with just her pacifier during the day.
1pm: Feed
1pm-2pm: Keep awake
2pm-4pm: Swaddle, sound machine, nap in crib, pacifier if needed
4pm: Feed
4pm-5pm: Keep awake
5pm-7pm: nap
7pm: Feed
7pm-8pm: keep awake
8pm: Bedtime (dark room, sound machine, swaddle, no pacifier)
10pm-10:30pm: Dream feed and then back to bed

So, what exactly is dream-feeding?
A dream feed is the last feed of the day. It typically happens 2-3 hours after the bedtime feeding. Usually, this feeding happens anywhere between 9-10:30pm.

I know there are a lot of opinions and rules for dream feeding. I really liked Cara’s blog post about the topic and feel it’s so true that you know what works best for your baby… so just run with it. For me, Alice has been great at being woken by me for the dream feed as she can easily fall back asleep on her own. There were many times when Vivienne was a baby, where I breastfed her to sleep. So, I get it. It’s hard. You just want them to go to bed. This time, I made it a priority early on to get her to fall asleep on her own, which means putting her to sleep awake. This has been a complete game changer for me as she can self soothe and get back to sleep no problem. Again, you know your baby best… so if he/she will wake up and stay up if you change his or her diaper, then maybe you don’t change his/her diaper when you dream feed. Give it a try and do what’s best for you and your baby.

Here is what I do:
I have done both breast and bottle-feeding for the dream feed and have found the bottle to be a little more of a smooth process for us as I know exactly how much she is getting and she can quickly drink the bottle and go back to sleep. There have been multiple times where Alice has fallen asleep on the boob, which is fine, but then I’ll have to stay up and pump when she goes back down. Not ideal for this sleepy mom who has already stayed up later than desired to DF.

I pump around 930pm and then quietly pick up Alice while she is still in her swaddle and bring her to her room. I un-swaddle (which yes it does wake her), change her diaper, re-swaddle, and feed her 3 oz. of breastmilk (or whatever she will take). I put her on my shoulder to burp and walk back into the bedroom as her sound machine is still on. Hopefully she burps, but if she doesn’t, after a minute I lay her back down in her bassinet next to our bed and she falls asleep on her own. She has had the hiccups a couple of times, but that doesn’t seem to bother her (if it seems like it is keeping your baby awake, you can give a little gripe water and they will quickly go away).

That is a dream feed.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are feeding them while they are asleep, although a lot of people think that’s what it means… but in fact, it is just a “dream” for us parents to get a little extra shut eye after we go to bed. A lot of us do not go to sleep at 7 or 8pm, so if the baby goes down at that time and has a 6 hour stretch, they will wake up at 1am or 2am, leaving you with only a few hours of rest. Unfortunately, not all babies have success with the dream feed and I would suggest reading over Cara’s blog post as she discusses determining that for yourself.

So, when do we plan to drop the dream feed? This is TBD as some babies will keep this feeding for 5-9 months. You can start to eliminate the amount of feeding every 2-3 nights once your baby is sleeping consistently until morning. We aren’t quite there, so I’ll let you know when it’s time to drop it and the progress we have.

What if she poops?
Alice has pooped before. She has also peed all over the place when I was changing her one night, making me have to get her naked and thoroughly wipe her down. Talk about an awake baby after that. I do think the swaddling, cuddling, dim lights, quiet sound and finished with a bottle/breastfeed gets them eager to fall back asleep.

I hope this blog post was helpful to those of you who had no idea what dream feeding was and perhaps something you could implement in your routine to get your little one to give you a little more sleep.