So I've decided it's about time to stop the dream feed. If you're not familiar with the dream feed it's the 10 or 11pm feed (either bottle or breastfeeding) that some people offer their babies to help them sleep through the night.
But how do you know when it's time to eliminate the dream feed and exactly how do you stop the dream feed when you decide it is time to phase it out? I couldn't remember when my daughter stopped the dream feed so I checked the trusty blog and it turns out she was about 5 months....which is about the same age my son is now.
But how exactly do I go from giving him a 5 or 6 ounce bottle or nursing on both sides to nothing and expect him to sleep 3 more hours? Here's the thing I nurse him at 7pm and then usually the dream feed at 10...then he doesn't get up again until 7am to eat. So as you can see cutting out the dream feed is expecting him to sleep 3 additional hours without eating. But I think he's ready because he's been eating solids for a good solid two weeks and he's getting plenty of calories during the day.
The last thing I wanted was for him to wake up at 3 or 4am hungry and demanding to be fed b/c that would likely start his middle of the night wakings again. So instead of stopping the dream feed cold turkey I decided I'd gradually wean him. Instead of nursing him on both sides at 10pm last night - I just nursed him on one side. I picked the left side where I always get less milk when I pump.
Then there it was 4:30 I woke up..but not because of him crying for food but because my boobs - specifically my right one - was so engorged. Nothing like laying on two leaking rocks while trying to get some zzzs. I couldn't take it much longer so I did pump just enough to get some relief...but I was careful not to pump too much because I didn't want my body to think my little man needs more milk overnight.
Then at 6:30, with my son still sleeping soundly, I got up to get a shower and I gave a little press...I think I could have put out a 4 alarm fire. Ouch! But at least he slept fine until 7am like normal.
Tonight, I will not nurse him at all and instead skip the dream feed...double ouch. But I won't dare pump at 10 and hopefully not at 4:30... because my body needs to reajust to my son's new milk demands.
Quick update for you....since my son slept through the night after nursing on just one side I decided to attempt cutting out the dream feed altogether. I did it last night and although I was a little nervous going to bed without freedom I'm happy to report he slept through the night 7pm to 7am!
Also, I wanted to point out - if you're giving your baby a bottle instead of nursing (which is what I did with my first child) - you can gradually lessen the amount of milk or formula in the bottle. So if you're giving 5 oz at the dream feed cut it back to 3 then 2 then 1 and eventually skip it altogether.
Here are my main takeaways for knowing when a baby is ready to eliminate the dream feed:
-They're consistently sleeping through the night with the dreemfeed
-Solids have been firmly established
-Baby is eating 2-3 solid meals a day along with regular breastfeeding
-Doctor says baby should be able to sleep up to 10 hours without eating