Sleep Training Baby
If you have a newborn, you’ve probably noticed the question people most often ask is “how is baby sleeping?”. After that, you’ll get a deluge of advice on how to get your precious sleep back, when to start sleep training, and other stories about sleep and babies.
The good news is you don’t have to listen to all that noise. You can start to set baby up for good sleep habits once he/she has gained their birth weight back. Once established, these good sleep habits will continue into toddlerhood.
Dream Feeding is the key to teaching baby to sleep from dusk ’til dawn by the age of four months.
What is a Dream Feed?
Picture this… your baby is still swaddled in his crib and sound asleep. You pick him up gently. With either your breast or a warm bottle of expressed breast milk (or formula, your decision), ever so lightly, tickle his lips and cheek with the nipple. While still asleep, he’ll latch on and start sucking. It may take a few tries, but if he’s hungry, he’ll start feeding. Continue feeding like normal, but don’t make any effort to wake him up. Allow him to drift in and out of sleep, while his instinctual sucking motion takes over. He will stop sucking when he is full, then put him back down. He’ll likely never truly wake up until morning.
The Dream Feed Method is simple in concept, but it requires pre-planning and a commitment to consistency early on in baby’s life. It’s based on four key steps:
1. Start in the first four months
Somewhere around the end of the fourth month, babies settle into a routine that imprints itself, becoming a baseline pattern that they will naturally gravitate to for the next several years. You want that pattern to be a nice long night’s sleep.
2. Introduce top-up bottles
Babies tend to sleep longer if their belly is full (simple, right?). Yet, commonly mothers’ milk supply drops in the evening hours. So add a bottle of expressed milk or formula after that last feed of the day. Your baby will take only as much as she wants, and it will set her up for a longer stretch of sleep. (Bonus: this is a great way for your partner to get involved in the bedtime routine.)
3. Pre-empt crying with Dream Feed
Shortly before your baby is likely to wake for a feed, you’ll smoothly lift him from his crib and gently tickle his upper lip with the nipple of the bottle (while a little trickier, this can also be done while breastfeeding). He’ll instinctually open his mouth and begin sucking. Many babies can take a full feed while still ‘sleeping,’ which makes the put-down a piece of cake.
4. Dream Feed slightly earlier each night
This is where the magic happens. Instead of simply hoping your baby sleeps a little longer with each feeding until you magically win the “my baby is a great sleeper” lottery, you’re going to actively guide him. You’ll consistently nudge that dream feed earlier and earlier until it folds into the feeding before it.
The Dream Feed Method is based on the approach of Jana Hartzell, a well-known night nurse with a tender and common-sense approach to sleep training. During her career, she successfully helped hundreds of parents get their babies to sleep through the night.
Ready to give it a try? You can order the book on Amazon.
Jason Freedman is co-author of The Dream Feed Method. The Dream Feed Method provides a plan for parents to get their child sleeping from dusk ‘til dawn within the first four months of baby’s life without “crying-it-out”.