I remember the specific night, sitting on the couch, with my husband, asking him if I should start incorporating a dream feed so we could sleep longer after we went to bed. I had read mixed reviews and was not sure if this was a good idea or not. Desperate, I tried the dream feed for a few nights to see if he would give us more than two hour stretches. It did not work and here is why:
The idea behind a dream feed is to give parents and baby a longer stretch of sleep before the next feed. Before parents turn in for the night, they nurse or give their sleeping baby a bottle to fill baby’s belly, so ideally baby sleeps longer and parents can also get a longer stretch of sleep right after they go to bed for the night.
Dream feeds are rarely successful. If your goal is to teach your baby to consolidate nighttime sleep, a dream feed can get in the way. Pulling your baby out of whatever stage of sleep he was in, to bring him to a lighter stage of sleep in order to actually eat, disrupts the natural sleep cycle.
If a dream feed worked for you, consider yourself lucky! But for most, baby and parents don’t really get extra time to sleep. The dream feed also helps contribute to a feed to sleep association. This is something you will want to avoid if you want your baby to be an independent sleeper. A feed to sleep association can cause your baby to wake up more frequently through the night, needing help from the breast or bottle to get him back to sleep each time.
Parents thinking about incorporating a dream feed typically have the goal of longer stretches of sleep for everyone at night. If you want to achieve this goal, teaching your baby to sleep well, prop free, is your best bet to achieving longer stretches of sleep, instead of interrupting their natural sleep cycle to slip in a feed.