Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
Babies usually need to eat every few hours, hopefully at increasingly longer intervals. You knew this. For example, your little Garth might eat at 6:30PM right before he “goes to bed” (what does that even mean when you’ll be up again three times??), comes up again at 11PM, 2AM and 5AM. Not a lot of love for mom and dad’s need for sleep there.
To make that schedule less brutal, a lot of people recommended that once Baby’s taking the bottle, Mom can go to bed when Baby does, Dad can take the 11PM feeding and Mom can do the 2AM, which means that theoretically Mom can sleep from 6:30PM – 2AM, which would be a decent stretch.
The flaw here for us was that a.) I can’t fall asleep at 6:30 in the evening no matter how tired I am, and b.) I like Ramon, so sleeping through the one stretch of the day when he was home just wasn’t something I was going to do, no matter how badly I needed sleep.
Enter the dream feed.
Basically, you pick up the baby sometime before her normal late-night feeding and feed her in her sleep. That’s it. It’s that simple. And it buys you another few hours of sleep.
So instead of 6:30/11PM/2AM/5AM, you feed her as usual at 6:30, then pick her up before you go to bed, say, at 9:30, put her on the breast or at the bottle, stroke her cheek a little to help her get started (don’t try to wake her as you usually might: no un-swaddling, diaper changes or burping), she eats peacefully, you put her back in bed and go to bed yourself. She skips her usual 11PM feeding ’cause she just ate, and instead of waking at 2AM to be fed, hopefully the dream feed re-set her long sleep interval to this stretch and she doesn’t get up again until 3-4AM instead.
Worst case: she doesn’t re-set and do that long stretch and she gets up before 2AM because she ate earlier. But you still had the evening together and went to bed at a normal hour.
I know it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but believe me, it is. Then you can start stretching out that schedule on either end until she’s waking up at the halfway decent hour of 6AM. Of course, that stretching process is usually far from ideal or easy, but the dream feed is a great start to getting you guys back to getting some sleep. Try it. You’ll like it.