Dream feeding: How I gently phased out baby's 2AM night feed
From newborn till 3 months old, my #2 would wake up every 3 hours. I nurse her during the day, and my husband would feed her expressed breastmilk (EBM) at night. We tried giving her more EBM at night so she would feel fuller and sleep for longer. But it didn't work for us.
When she was 4 months old, she started sleeping for longer stretches. Instead of waking up every 3 hours, she would sleep for 4-5 hours at a time. And by the time she turned 5 months, we would put her down at 8pm and she would sleep till 2am, followed by a feed and another sleep cycle till 6am.
I started to dream feed her at 11pm with the intention of gently phasing out her 2am feeds.
What is dream feeding?
Dream feeding is feeding your baby (either nursing or bottle-feeding) without fully waking them between 10pm to midnight. The intention is for baby to feel full and have enough calories so baby does not wake up in the middle of the night for a feed.
Do you need to unswaddle, change diaper or burp after?
You do not need to unswaddle or do a diaper change unless baby has taken a poo. The idea is to let them stay asleep, and we don't want to stimulate baby by doing these actions.
Do you burp after a dream feed? Usually, no. When baby is in a dazed sleepy state, they do not suck in as much air, and it's usually fine to put them down after the feed.
But if your baby wakes up gassy and feeling uncomfortable, hold baby upright after the dream feed for 10 to 15 minutes before putting baby down to sleep.
At first, my baby only drank 50ml when I dream feed her at 11pm. And she would still wake up for her 2am feed.
This is expected, after all she's been waking at 2am for some time and it would take a while for her body clock to adjust.
For the next 2 weeks, I started following the below method for the 2am feed.
Reduce the volume of milk by 20-30 ml every second night. For example, if your baby usually drinks 180 ml, you would give 150 ml for two nights, then 120 ml for the next two nights, and so on.
Re-settle your baby after each smaller feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
Once you get down to 60 ml or less in the bottle, stop the feed altogether.
- Raising Children Network
For nursing moms, the website states the following:
Time the length of your baby’s usual night feed. Cut down on the time your baby spends feeding by 2-5 minutes every second night. For example, if your baby usually feeds for 15 minutes, you’d feed for 13 minutes for two nights, then 11 minutes for the next two nights, then 9 minutes for the next two nights, and so on.
Re-settle your baby after each shortened feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
Once your baby is feeding for five minutes or less, stop the feed altogether.
If you choose, you can cut down the time faster – for example, by five minutes every two nights.
- Raising Children Network
Some nights, she wouldn't even drink much at 11pm. She was so sleepy and I felt bad forcing the teat into her mouth. I've tried playing with her hands and feet, tapping her cheek etc to wake her but if baby wants to sleep, she wants to sleep! On those nights, I wouldn't reduce her milk volume at 2am.
The settling techniques that work for us are rocking and cuddling her to sleep before transferring her into her cot. So far, she's been sleeping fine overnight..until the next leap/regression.
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