What I learned from Netflix today….Dream feeding!? Has anyone heard of this? Well I hadn’t. About 15 minutes in, on episode 2 of Virgin River, my curiosity was immediately piqued hearing the words “dream feeding.” I pressed pause and looked it up to see if it was a real thing. Dream Feeding is a real thing!
Upon arriving at work, the towns only nurse/midwife discovered an abandoned baby at the Clinic door. She attempted a dream feeding technique when other attempts to feed the baby were not successful.
Tracey Hogg, author of the book “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” coined the phrase “dream feeding” and describes it as feeding a young infant while they are sleeping and can feed in this way without waking up, thus encouraging a longer sleep. You initiate a dream feed between 10 and 11 pm by holding your sleeping baby in a feeding position, and stroking their mouth stimulating the rooting reflex by offering the breast or bottle. Tracy suggests dream feeding “tanking up” can be useful up to 6 months old.
The definition of dream feeding varies depending on the practitioner but the common denominator is the concept of getting your baby to take in a big meal before you go to bed, thus maximizing your sleep time potential.
From the reading I’ve done, improving sleep studies include dream feeding as part of the education program but no study has been done to date designed to test dream feeding alone. There is no way to know which tactics were more responsible than another in the improvement of the babies sleep.
A benefit of trying dream feedings are that your baby may sleep longer, giving you an extra half hour or more of needed quality sleep. Dream Feeding may speed up your baby’s development of mature nighttime sleep patterns, in combination with other well supported tactics like re-swaddling, diapering, and walking before a dream feed, plus maximize environmental differences between day and nighttime through avoiding overstimulation, artificial light at night, and creating a bedtime routine. Other helps to assist maturing sleep patterns are pacifiers, white noise and allowing baby time to self-sooth when stirring in the night.
It is important to note that dream feeding is not appropriate for babies who are underweight, or struggling to thrive. Consulting your physician is recommended.
Another interesting fact I learned in my research is about quality of sleep for the parents. The most restorative stage of sleep is deep, slow wave sleep (NREM3) which our brains are designed to prioritize, so the first few hours of parents sleep are crucial. When people are seriously sleep deprived, they are suffering a huge deficit of NREM3. The brain responds by increasing the intensity of short naps. so the adverse effects of sleep deprivation can be counteracted by a couple of 30 minute naps during the day. These are hopeful findings for new parents!
So, encouraging your baby to sleep longer with a dream feed at your bedtime, potentially giving you 4-5 hours consecutive sleep during the night can make your life easier and help to maintain well-being!
The ultimate goal is to help your baby learn skills to sleep through the night. Dream feeding may be one of the stepping stones your baby responds well to on their journey toward this goal combined with the other strategies suggested in this blog. But know that if you find dream feeding hard to implement and it does not seem to be working for you or your baby, it is ok to give it a pass.
Have any of you tried dream feeding? Does anyone have any dream feeding success stories?
For more information on dream feeding and improving sleep studies please refer to the article Dream Feeding: An evidence based guide to helping babies sleep longer. By Gwen Dewar PHD. 2018 from parenting science.com
Blog by Sandra MacKay, RMT, CIMI