I find sleep to be a detrimental thing all mothers are looking for and let’s face it something most, if not all, new Mom’s lack. This was a huge challenge I found myself with as a new Mom. I read a few articles on getting through the rough months of a newborn, and well there is no way of going around the feeding needs of a brand new baby. They all have to eat like clock work.
So, my best tactic was to get in front of it with a schedule. I did not want to be woken up to a crying baby in hunger. I had to be prepared ahead of time and anyway I could because I had to pump my milk out first. See my story on why I could not naturally breast feed and became an exclusively pumping Mother called Not So Easy Liquid Gold. I found it better for myself to know when I would be woken up. I love to be prepared, so when I came across a book and articles about dream feeding, it made a lot of sense to me. I thought this could really work for me and the schedule I am developing. If it didn’t, I can always try and look for something else. I am always looking for new ways to be more productive and efficient in life. For the full details on dream feeding you can read The Dream Feed Method by Bryan Symon M.D. .
The overall consensus of the book and the articles I came across was that my baby could be fed while he was still half-asleep. If I could get into a nice routine and know his feeding schedule, I could prepare for it and allow him to eat while he slept in my arms. This wasn’t a big deal or an issue during the day, a new born sleeps, poops, eats and then sleeps again. It is those rough nights in the beginning months, when every Mom is trying to figure out their newborn baby, while also also looking for a good night’s rest. The first month is all about learning your baby and helping them to adjust from day to night. I was in pure exhaustion the first 2 weeks just trying to produce enough milk, but rest was very important for my milk supply and something I really needed. So I stood up many nights with a wide awake baby reading and researching on all my baby questions, needs, concerns, and how I could manage to get some sleep in.
So, as I mentioned before, the dream feeding method is about learning the babies schedule and being prepared in advance. For a breastfeeding Mom’s it is more about waking yourself up before the baby wakes you up. It’s a learning process and not something that you can start until the first or second month. You will develop this as you are learning about your babies eating needs and getting over the around the clock feedings. This wasn’t such a hard thing for me because I had to constantly be timed for my sleep anyhow, by all my pumping. Sure, at first it didn’t seem natural. But as I progressed through the days, I found myself less tired and less moody. I had to wake up to pump, so really this was not far from my path. Actually, it just added an extra step in the process and I was able to start this routine earlier then the suggested 1-2 month mark because I was already in a routine.
You see, being an exclusive pumping mother, I had to pump just as a mother would breastfeed. I didn’t get the luxury of laying in bed with my child while both of us tried to sleep. No, my pumping had to be fully addressed and me fully awake so that I could pump, feed, and store the left overs. The night time creates so much more milk, so I definitely had leftovers to store away. In any matter, I had to be awake to pump and feed my son. I would always try and wake up before the baby, so I did not have a sad hungry baby crying while I pumped away. I always made sure I had some in the storage ready but I liked to give him what I just pumped out, the freshest milk. This was my normal routine for feeding him. It also made sure my milk supply was being kept up. If you need help on how to trigger more milk, again check out the Not So Easy Liquid Gold post.
Now the step I had to add in was not letting him wake up to be fed but actually picking him up and feeding him while he was semi-asleep. I was already preparing the milk beforehand but I was letting him wake up naturally and tell me he was hungry. What I learned while reading was that I could pick him up, feed him while he was not all the way awake, and then be put right back to bed without him really noticing. He didn’t need to be fully awake to eat and even if he woke up, that’s ok, he didn’t get all worked up from crying and stimulated from all the action. If he could be picked up, fed, and remain sleepy in the process, he was easily comforted back to his sleep. This was allowing him learn to sleep through the night. Of course, most babies would wake up when they had a poopy diaper and that is another thing that is inevitable. This would happen maybe once at night but the baby was getting a more solid long sleep pattern and starting to adjust to a normal day to night schedule.
Simple steps to dream feeding.
1. For all my new Moms, newborn babies need to eat every 2 hours, this will extend throughout the months. It is suggested to start the Dream Feed Method around the 1-2 month mark for breastfeeders or formula fed babies. If you find yourself with breast feeding problems and end up in my situation of exclusively pumping, you could start the process early on. It worked out well for me.
2. Develop a sleep routine. Mine was usually a bath, story, blackout curtains ( teaching baby this is night time), white noise ( drowning out outside noises and getting them acclimated to noises while they sleep), and of course a feeding. I typically put him down around 7 and the last thing he would get was my milk. My bed time was not at 7, I would come in again after my pump to feed him around 10 before I went to sleep. It is something a lot of mother’s notice, babies sleep better and longer on a full tummy.
3. Start to learn your babies routine or start making one for him. I use to time my self all throughout the day on the last time he ate or slept and kept it going like clock work. Start to notice and take note of the hours your baby wakes up at night. Does he go 3 hours and wake up or maybe he or she can go longer. Some babies differentiate at night, most will wake up at least once, while the average is 2 or 3, some may wake up more often.
4. Once you notice a pattern, start timing yourself and wake up about 20 mins ahead for a regular breastfeeding mother, maybe 35-40 minutes for pumping mothers. Don’t let the baby go hungry, get to him before. Please make sure to always pick him up and let him eat on his own, if he is not able to be half-awake and eat then try and gently rub the bottle/breast nipple to see if he will eat or put him back down for a little longer. Eventually, he should be able to start skipping meals and sleep longer. Do not ever try to feed him in the crib or with him laying in the bed.
5. After he is done eating, place him gently back in his crib or bassinet and allow him to go back to sleep as well as yourself.
As he grew older month by month he could eat a little more and required less feedings at night. Which in turn let’s Mom sleep a little longer. Actually the day before my son turned a month old he slept a whole night in his bed without waking up. Now I didn’t say I wasn’t awake pumping and feeding but he was acclimating to my schedule and by the following months he ate more milk in one feeding but went without for longer periods at night. By the second month he was down to 1 or 2 feeding at night and by the third month I only needed to feed him one time and that may just have been me not wanting him to go hungry. My son averaged a 12 hour night time sleep and until this day, he is still a very good sleeper. As many of you may know the babies schedules constantly change and if you need a healthy way to start a schedule you can see my post on 5 Steps to Schedule Your Baby, or you can look some up on credible sites, buy a book going through each stage (I also had these), and/or ask your babies pediatrician. Sleep tight, mommies, we all need that good night’s rest.