Many expectant mothers ask lots of questions about expressing breastmilk. Often, their questions have to do with giving their baby dream feeds, using a bottle.
If you’re not sure what a dream feed is, it’s typically when a baby is woken up at night to have an extra feed, in the hope she’ll sleep for a longer period of time afterwards.
The idea of dream feeds come mainly from baby books that advocate specific feeding and sleeping routines for babies.
These baby books lack evidence and show a complete disregard for what normal newborn behaviour and sleep are really like. They often have very little understanding of how lactation works.
Are Dream Feeds Helpful? 5 Things To Know
Often, it’s the partner who gives the dream feed in the hope the breastfeeding mother can get more sleep, and so he can share in the feeding experience.
Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, maybe not….
If you’re thinking about giving your baby a dream feed, here are 5 important things to know:
#1: A Dream Feed Can Mean More Effort
While giving a baby a dream feed might work for some parents, in reality many mothers find the extra effort involved in expressing breastmilk is not worth the possible outcome.
Think about it. A young baby needs to feed frequently, so trying to find extra time to express for a dream feed just adds to the workload.
Even if you manage to squeeze in time to express, on top of all the other breastfeeds, there’s no guarantee the dream feed will make your baby sleep any longer afterwards anyway.
There is no evidence to suggest giving babies a large volume of milk in a bottle at a dream feed will make them sleep any longer.
#2: You Might Wake Up With Sore Breasts
Here’s something else to think about. You’ve put in the extra effort to express, and you have a bottle of breastmilk ready for your partner to give your baby at a dream feed. You eagerly anticipate being able to sleep longer at night.
Then, when the time comes for your baby to have the dream feed, you wake up and your breasts are bursting full of milk. All you want to do is feed your baby!
Suddenly, all the effort of expressing for the dream feed seems like a waste of time as you get up and feed your baby to relieve your breast engorgement. If milk isn’t removed from your breasts at this time, it increases your risk of blocked ducts or mastitis.
#3: Your Supply Might Suffer
In order to establish and then maintain a good milk supply, it’s important for milk to be removed from your breasts well and often.
You can read more in How Does Breastfeeding Work? An Explanation.
Giving your baby a dream feed means milk isn't being removed from your breasts as often. Initially, this can result in your breasts feeling uncomfortably full or engorged.
Over time, any unresolved or prolonged engorgement can reduce the amount milk your breasts make, and lead to a reduction in your milk supply.
If you use formula for the dream feed, this might lead to an even greater reduction of your milk supply.
#4: A Dream Feed Can Interrupt Your Baby’s Natural Sleep Rhythm
Giving your baby a dream feed might interrupt her natural sleep rhythm. It could also cause her to expect the same thing every night.
If you never introduce the dream feed, your baby will gradually have a longer stretch of sleep at night as she gets older anyway.
This point is relevant, even if you decide to give your baby a dream feed by direct breastfeeding.
#5: You End Up Frustrated And Disappointed
You might have built up your hopes that giving your baby a dream feed will mean she’ll sleep longer. If it doesn’t eventuate, you could be left feeling frustrated and disappointed.
This article is designed to give you some points to consider. The most important thing, however, is to do what works best for your individual family.
There is an alternative option to giving your baby a dream feed. You might try simply going to bed earlier, to maximise your precious sleep time.