Since many babies do wake up because they need to eat in the night, it may be possible to shift some of their calorie intake to the daytime which can improve night sleep. Keep in mind that if your baby is used to eating in the night, it doesn’t matter if she has an actual hunger of if it is just a habit, it will still feel like hunger. It is possible to very gently shift feeds, which may in turn give a longer stretch of sleep.
Dreamfeeds can improve sleep when used alone or combined with another sleep coaching method. Using Dreamfeeds is a great way to separate the behavioral issues from feeding. With this method, baby is fed before he wakes and cries.
You can plan to go in and pick you baby up and feed him before his usual wake time and feed times. This helps reduce crying and calling out behaviors in the night and allows for easier and gentler weaning strategies when reducing feeds is appropriate.
It is most important that the baby is not crying before the feed, ideally he is asleep. Most babies at this age will eat well while still asleep of very drowsy. If your baby wakes up during a feed and falls back to sleep, this is never a problem and will not create a bad habit.
This method can be more challenging when implemented without another sleep coaching method especially when the baby is awake at the end of the feed. Some babies will also wake up at the regular feed time anyway. For this reason it is often best to combine Dreamfeeds with another method so if baby is awake at the end of the feed or wakes shortly after being fed, there is a strategy to coach baby back to sleep.
Most babies this age will need 1-3 night feeds. You can do them all as dreamfeeds or just the first feed and then feed your baby when he wakes up for the rest of the night.
Weaning off of Dreamfeeds
When you are ready to reduce your night feeds, you can wean off of dreamfeeds simply by moving the feed earlier 15 minutes every night or every few nights. Eventually the feed gets so close to the previous feed that you can eliminate it all together. You can also combine this technique with gradually reducing the length of feed or if you are bottle feeding, gradually reduce the amount or gradually dilute the bottle so your baby is relying on less calories in the night. Be prepared to feed your baby more frequently in the day while reducing night feeds.