Why I don’t believe in the ‘dream feed’

why sleep is a mother's biggest challenge

Many baby sleep advisors, health professionals and baby care books advise parents to always wake and feed your baby around 11pm or even not to actually wake them, but feed whilst they are still asleep in the hope that they will then have a longer chunk of sleep afterwards to coincide with the parents usual sleep time.

Personally, I have never believed in following this advice as quite simply, it is designed fit the benefit of parents and it does NOT match the natural sleep rhythms of a baby.

Research has proven that after being asleep for about 90 minutes we fall into really deep sleep which should last for 4 to 6 hours before we move into lighter sleep cycles as morning approaches.

Research has proven that after being asleep for about 90 minutes we fall into really deep sleep which should last for 4 to 6 hours before we move into lighter sleep cycles as morning approaches.

The same is also true for babies and having established a lovely bath and bedtime with your baby around 7pm each evening, settling them to bed and sleep, the advice is to then wake them up and give them food they haven’t even asked asked for!

Granted, in the early weeks a baby, whilst still requiring nighttime feeds, will naturally wake around 10pm or 11pm for a first night feed with one or two further wakings for more feeds.

But very quickly, as the weeks progress, if you don’t wake your baby at 11pm but just let them sleep – by around weeks 4 to 6 they should be sleeping longer and longer and not waking until midnight or beyond before they require the first night feed.

The natural need for this first night feed should continue to stretch through into the early hours and by weeks 6 to 8 baby may well be sleeping through from 7pm to maybe 3 or 4 in the morning before waking for a feed.

This is simply due to allowing the baby’s natural Carcadian sleep rhythms to develop instead of waking them to suit our own needs.

By waking a sleeping baby at 10 or 11pm to feed them, you are simply forcing food into their systems that they don’t need, at a time when their bodies are actually in the deepest and darkest state of sleep.

So even though they may take the milk and then go straight back to sleep, their body is not in a fully restful state as it has to digest the milk and within a matter of weeks this will become a habit instead of allowing the natural sleep pattern to evolve and the baby will start to wake for the usual ‘dream feed’ as his system has become used to the calories at this time of night.

This consistent, late evening feeding also ‘wakes up’ the babies system and soon enough instead of sleeping through until morning, your baby is likely to start waking earlier and earlier as illustrated in the following email which arrived in my inbox this morning from parents who contacted me regarding their 6 month old baby daughter.

Although they had put in place a regular bath & bedtime routine and their daughter had learned to self-settle at bedtime, after waking her at 11pm to give a ‘dream feed’ they were perplexed to understand why, after initially sleeping through until 6am from 2 to 4 months, that things had started to regress.

This culminated in them contacting me at 6 months when their baby was then waking almost every hour after being given the ‘dream feed’. They had originally employed a night nanny for help & advice and used her methods to the letter.

So, we decided to have steely attitudes, take the plunge and not wake her for the usual dream feed. We kept cooled boiled water at the ready, put her to bed after her usual bath and bedtime routine at 7pm – and GUESS WHAT?! ………… Eureka!
She slept right through the night with barely more than a few self settling cries at the start of the evening! I can not believe it!

Without using the ‘dream feed’ most babies will continue to sleep contentedly for longer stretches. Those parents who follow the Sensational Plan Baby as detailed in my book, often find that by 8 to 12 weeks of age, their baby is naturally, comfortably and happily sleeping right through until morning!

Happy Sleeping :-))

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