You may also want to check out the posts What is a dreamfeed and how do I give it and Dreamfeed Troubleshooting Tips.
When do I stop the dream feed?
When do I stop the dream feed?
How long you do the df depends a lot on the baby as well as the routine you are following. Some babies can sleep longer stretches at night at an earlier age than others, especially if they are getting adequate food and naps during the day. Some babies take longer to drop the df and are not as consistent of sleepers. Age of solid introduction and solid intake may or not contribute to the situation. I've tried, but I'm not able to come to any conclusion with this yet.
Some signs that baby is ready to drop the df include: baby consistently sleeping through the night, baby stops waking for the df, baby is difficult to wake for the dream feed but used to wake easily, and baby doesn't eat much at the df. Keep in mind that some babies never wake for the df and other babies start to wake habitually for the df.
Do I drop night feeds, the dreamfeed or a daily feed first?
Most experts suggest you drop all night feeds before dropping daily feeds or the df. This is generally what I recommend (although The Baby Sleep Solution, among others, do things differently). I'm not saying it is the only thing that works, it is just what I have the most experience with and what I have found to work well with my kids and others I have talked to.
After the night feeds are dropped and baby is consistently sleeping through the night (as in, baby has been sleeping through the night for several days at least) you have to decide if you are going to drop the dream feed or a daily feed first (also known as extending the routine or, if you are following The Baby Whisperer, moving to a 4 hour routine). Whatever you do, make sure to give your baby time to adjust with each new change. Most people doing Babywise seem to drop the df before extending their daily routine. The Baby Whisperer suggests extending the routine around 4 months before dropping the df to prevent routine problems. I think The Baby Whisperer has a very good point about a need to extend the routine around 4 months. I wouldn't necessarily say you need to move to a 4 hour routine at this time, but certainly around 4-6 months many babies benefit from an extended routine and problems often start to pop up if you keep delaying this just because you have not yet dropped the df. Something to keep in mind.
Average age the dreamfeed is dropped
- The Baby Whisperer suggests dropping the df once solids are firmly established, usually around 7-8 months. Some good sleepers can drop it sooner though.
- Babywise says that most babies drop the df around 3-4 months of age.
- Gina ford says that most babies need the df until 6-7 months of age. One of the reasons she continues it this long is to prevent middle of the night wake ups when growth spurts occur.
- In The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight, West suggests weaning from the dream feed around 5-6 months of age.
Possible problems from dropping the dreamfeed too soon:
There are loads are growth spurts in young babies, especially the first 6 months. With some babies, if you drop the df too soon, they will do fine for a while, but then have a growth spurt and start waking at night to eat again. If you aren't still doing the dream feed, they are going to be more likely to wake in the middle of the night to eat.
How do I drop the dreamfeed?
Whatever method you choose, I suggest gradually increasing food during the day before you drop if done cold turkey, or in conjunction with dropping the df if you are doing a gradual dropping method. You could do this by increasing oz or time nursing at each feed or adding a cluster feed before bed.
- Drop it cold turkey. I like this method. I get restless of moving things along too slowly. Unfortunately dropping things cold turkey really backfires with some kids and they will start waking up at all hours of the night. So beware.
- Decrease how many oz or how long you nurse every few nights.
- Slowly move the dream feed closer to the bedtime feed. Once you get pretty close to it (and baby is likely eaten less too) drop it.
- The Baby Whisperer suggests giving 1 oz less every third night and adding that 1 oz to one of the daily feeds (staring with morning and moving along through the day). At the same time you will move up the dream feed time 30 minutes every third night. Continue until the df time catches up with the bedtime feed.
- Do a combination of the above methods.
The dreamfeed and breastfeeding:
Once you drop the df you will likely be going around 10-12 hours at night without breastfeeding. This is fine for some moms, but for others, they will need to pump before they go to bed to keep up their supply. If your baby is several months old when you drop the dream feed (compared to say, 3) then there is less of a chance you will need to pump. If you are feeding around every four hours during the day then there is more of a chance you will need to pump. Just monitor the situation. It isn't true that you have to nurse at least 5 times a day to keep up your supply (um, I know because I have nursed several months without doing this), but it also isn't true that moms will be fine only nursing 5 times day. Every mom is different. You will have to figure out what works for you.
If you have any tips or personal experience with dropping the dream feed please share it!