My opinion on dream feeds by a Baby Sleep Consultant.
Dream feeds - are they a good idea? Personally, I don't recommend them. Please read on to find out why.
Note: Before you read on I will say for some dream feeds tend to work well. If you are at a point where a dream feed is the only feed your LO has during the night and they sleep well otherwise, please continue to do whats working. There are many babies who don't respond well to dream feeds so below are the reasons I believe why that is.
Non - REM Sleep and your baby's development
The first 4-5 hours of our sleep at night we enter greater periods of Non - REM sleep. This is our deeper sleep state. There are so many important functions that happen during this time.
- It is during deep sleep that Human Growth Hormones are released - this plays a crucial role in the development of your little one.
- Built up waste is flushed, tissues are repaired and re grown.
- Bones and muscles are built especially in children and the immune system is strengthened.
- During the first period of the night that many will actually get more sleep.
I believe that physiologically your baby should sleep better. Dream feeds only disrupt so many important functions their little body is doing at that time.
Exacerbate feed to sleep dependencies
In my opinion dream feeds often strengthen and exacerbate feed to sleep dependencies. If feeds continuously fall before sleep for your babe, they become a strong cue for your little one. This then can become what they associate with needing to fall asleep. If you then wake them in the night, even partially to re do this, you are only re affirming to them this feed = sleep link.
Expect another feed shortly after.
Little ones who dream feed may often wake within 3 hours later to expect another feed. Have you ever noticed the earlier your little ones feeds in the night the rougher the night? You are setting the scene. The earlier you feed in the evening the sooner you trigger this cyclic waking and needing to feed back to sleep.
Rest and digest.
Babies are generally feeding a lot throughout the day, what we fail to see importance of is the need for their tummies to have time to rest and digest. This is especially important for little ones who tend to suffer from reflux and colic. By waking babies from the sleep they need can put more wind in their tummies and potentially trigger a period of reflux until the milk digests.
What I recommend instead
What I recommend instead is letting your little one sleep until they naturally wake for a feed. Above 4 months I would normally only see babies who have a great ability to self settle wake once per night in the second half of the night for a feed and then straight back to bed again.
Tara Mitchell - The Gentle Sleep Specialist
As a Paediatric Nurse, Mother and Qualified infant and toddler Sleep Consultant I work with families to resolve sleep issues and create positive routines within the home. Sleep is a pillar of health and effects the entire family’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. Contact me to get your little one sleeping well and follow my Facebook page for regular hints & tips.