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If you haven't heard of the dream feed, then listen up. Dream feeding your infant is exactly what it sounds like: You gently "wake" your baby just enough so he'll drink milk and drift back off to sleep.
Here's the logic.
Say your little one finally fell asleep at around 9 p.m. Since then, you've been finishing up dishes and laundry, or maybe catching up on work or that new Netflix series. Finally, 11 p.m. rolls around and it's time for you to hit the hay. Except, your baby will probably wake up within the hour anyway because he's hungry. For me, it was extremely hard to fall asleep when I knew my newborn was a ticking time bomb. More often than not, my daughter would wake up at around midnight for some milk (right as I was finally asleep,) and then she wanted to party for a few hours after eating.
Here's how to pull the dream feed off.
For the dream feed, a caregiver quietly picks up baby from his crib. Make sure to keep the lights dim and noise level to a minimum; you don't want to fully awaken your baby. The trick is to wake him just enough to take a bottle/nipple, so you can fill his tummy. When he's done feeding, carefully place him back in his crib without burping him. Then use stealth to sneak back out of the room. Voila! You've successfully accomplished the dream feed. Now (fingers crossed) your child should sleep for a few more hours. And hopefully, so should mom and dad.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The dream feed won't work for every child. I attempted it with my oldest, and it backfired spectacularly. He was such a light sleeper that I could never keep him half asleep for the sneaky feeding. Z would startle and then pee in his diaper, so I would end up waking him even more for a diaper change. Then I had to attempt to calm him down and try to feed him. But by that point, he was AWAKE – with no intention of going back to sleep anytime soon. Kind of counterproductive, right?
But, if your baby isn't a light sleeper, the dream feed can be the ultimate secret weapon for getting him to sleep for longer stretches. It worked wonders on our two daughters. Hopefully, it can work for you, too.
Looking for more baby sleep strategies? Click here to read more tips on infant sleep.
This post was originally published in November 2016
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.