I put together some troubleshooting tips for the dream feed. I hope they are helpful! You may also want to check out the post What is a dreamfeed and how do I give it and How to drop the dreamfeed.
If baby is too sleepy to take the dream feed and you are nursing, look at the suggestions under breastfeeding and the df above. If these don't help, then try pumping and giving baby a bottle. If you are giving a bottle and baby is still to sleepy, try waking baby up a bit for the feed. You can try changing baby's diaper at the beginning of the df or half way through (Just like any other night feed, I never suggest changing baby's diaper at the end of the feed since you want them to be relaxed from the feed and ready for sleep, not revved up from a diaper change). Maybe you will need to unswaddle baby, turn on the light, or even talk to baby for a moment. Just make sure you don't go overboard with these things and certainly make sure to stop doing them as you near the end of baby's feed. Another method to try is moving the dreamfeed a few minutes later when baby may no longer be in as deep of a sleep.
Troubleshooting when baby is too sleepy to take the dream feed:
Troubleshooting when baby won't eat:
He may be too sleepy (see above) or he may not be hungry. If he isn't hungry, he may be getting too much food right before bed. You can try dropping the cluster feeding if you are doing it, moving bedtime a bit earlier (while keeping the df time the same) or decreasing how much you feed baby right before bed. Many baby's don't do well with going to bed without a full feed so what might work better is decreasing the feed amount right before the bedtime feed and while moving the bedtime feed a bit earlier and keeping the dream feed at the same time. So, if baby normally eats at 4 and 7 with a dream feed at 10, try feeding him less than usual at 4, while moving the bedtime feed to 6 and keeping the dream feed at 10.
Can the dreamfeed turn into a habitual feed?
Yes, it can, just like any other night feeds. This doesn't usually happen, but keep a look out just in case. I'd suspect this if your baby is far past the age of needing the df but still wants it or if he wakes for the df but only eats a tiny bit. If you suspect a habitual feed, then work on trying to wean from it.
The dreamfeed used to work, but now doesn't
Sometimes keeping the df too long ends up causing sleep problems with babies. It starts to mess up with their nightly sleep rhythms. Other times, all you need to do is change the timing of the df to fix the issues. You will have to do some trial and error to figure out what is wrong. Oh, and don't forget that babies, like us, have their off days. And they get sick too and go through a bunch of developmental stages that can cause havoc with sleep for a time (remember those Wonder Weeks?). So if one bad day pops up, wait it out a bit before making changes. It may be a fluke.
Do you have any helpful advice about dream feeds? Please share!