When babies are tiny, little, adorable newborns, they won't have an actual bedtime until they start sleeping through the night. (Hopefully this is between seven and ten weeks old!) Once that happens, start singing hallelujah!! But don't forget...these hallelujah praises are only for a solid eight hours of sleep (and we'd all take that, right?). But don't forget baby still needs one last late night feeding! This is what we call: the dream feed.
Once your baby is sleeping through the night, your first and last feeding of the day will be the same EVERY day. All the other times in the day will vary, but these two times will remain constant.
Let's say that baby wakes up at 7 a.m. You'd feed her, let her play, then put her back to sleep. Then 2.5-4 hours later, feed her again, and do this over and over and over and over and over and over.
Once we get to the last feedings of the day, here's what will happen. Around 8 p.m. (this will differ depending on what happened with your baby's schedule all day), your baby will eat, have a diaper change, maybe a book, and then GO BACK TO SLEEP. The awake time at this "bedtime" time is very minimal. There is no play time, or long wake period. This is technically "bedtime." The reason behind that is, this will eventually be your baby's regular, consistent, bedtime when they drop the last feeding, our dream feed.
Now, I've always told you that your baby should go 2.5 - 4 hours between feedings. This may be an instance where this doesn't apply. If your baby ends up having "bedtime" at 9 p.m., but your last feeding/dream feed should be at 10:30 p.m. (remember first and LAST feedings are consistent once baby sleeps through the night), then you'd obviously wake up baby earlier than the 2.5 hour mark. And it's TOTALLY okay.
However, this feeding is different than ALL other feedings. There is NO awake time after the feeding. So around 10:30 p.m., you'd wake your baby up just enough to eat, probably change his diaper, and put him right back to bed. No books, no nothing. This is just awake enough to eat, and get back to bed. We call this a "dream feed." This dream feed will continue until until baby is about 12 to 15 weeks old and has the capacity to drop this feeding. BUT, some breastfeeding moms may choose to continue this feeding to keep up their milk supply.
So, don't forget about the dream feed. And don't forget that it's feed that baby, then go back to sleep! Baby will get used to this pattern, and then drop the feeding all together.
And once you drop the dream feed, why don't you go sleep a glorious 10-12 hours. Wouldn't that be nice? :)
*Sleep is essential. We need sleep to function, to take care of our children, to keep up on every single task life throws at us, to keep our sanity. Are you getting your eight hours or do you have a baby who is keeping you up? Let’s remedy that! In the “Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas” series of our blog, sleep expert Jackie answers all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series, and a blog will be published just for you!*