More than 10 years ago when I was pregnant, the only real help, my personal Google--still irreplaceable today--was my mom. And if there were one baby care hack that I learned from her that I plan to pass on to my kids when they become parents themselves, it would be dream feeding.
Now I didn't know then that what my mom taught me was "dream feeding." I only encountered the term when a friend brought it up with me (it was a topic in one of her group chats) recently. In my research, I found that the term "dream feeding" was first used in 2011 in the book The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby by Melinda Blau and Tracy Hogg. But the book came out seven years after my baby was born.
The way my friend described dream feeding was exactly what my mom used to tell me when my son was still a baby: You have to anticipate your baby's hunger. Rouse him gently to breastfeed or bottle-feed late at night so that he wouldn't wake up in the wee hours of the morning to feed.
As a mom, I already know what you're thinking: How do I do it? Does it work? Is it safe?
In my experience, dream feeding doesn't apply to newborns; they usually feed every two hours, which makes for an erratic sleeping pattern. They usually just feed, pee or poo, and then sleep during the first few weeks or a couple of months. At this stage, dream feeding will not save you, new mom, from the round-the-clock waking and feeding your little angel. You really cannot force your newborn to sleep through the night that early.
Dream feeding worked for my son (and his cousins, whom my mom, as with many lolas, also helped care for when they were babies) when he was about three to six months old when he had a more or less regular feeding and sleeping schedule. Take note: I wasn't forcing the schedule on him--I tried to work with his own body clock.
My son went to sleep at around 7 p.m. At around 11 to 12 p.m. (just when I was finishing my mom chores!), I would carefully prop him up on a small pillow so as to prevent him from choking on his milk. I would offer a breast or a bottle, moving ever so gently so he doesn't fully wake him up. There were times when he would take it but not actually suck. When that happens, I would remove the bottle from his mouth and let him sleep. During the times that he would feed, I removed the bottle when he's not sucking anymore, and try to burp him as best I could and then let him sleep in peace. Thankfully, he would usually wake up at around 5 a.m.
Dream feeding certainly helped get my baby on board with the sleep and waking schedule of everyone else in the household. I would have someone else (read: my mom) to help and look after my baby when I need to take a shower or eat. I didn't need to pinch myself to stay awake until he goes back to sleep. When he started sleeping through the night, we also stopped dream feeding altogether. Eventually, he started eating solid food and didn't need the late-night snack.
It was not a complete rosy picture. There were times when he woke up easily after a dream feed. When that happens changing his nappy almost always woke him up, but it was worth the try! But when dream feeding worked, it worked flawlessly. And that little stretch of time that I could sleep straight was a big deal. For a new mom, that restful sleep, albeit still not six or eight hours, could give you quite the energy boost for the next day.
Have you tried dream feeding? Share your exprience with us!