What is a Dream Feed?
A dream feed is the last feed of the night usually given a few hours after you put your baby down for the night and right before you head off to bed yourself.
For a dream feed, it’s the parent that rouses the baby from sleep for a feed, instead of waiting for baby to wake up on their own. The idea is that giving a late-night dream feed will fill baby up enough to extend their longest stretch of sleep.
For example, if you give your baby their last feed and put them to bed around 7:30 pm and they sleep a 6-hour stretch, that means baby will be waking up hungry around 1:30 am.
Now, if you follow your normal routine of feeding baby and putting them to bed around 7:30 pm, but come back in between 10:00 and 11:00 pm to give them a dream feed before you go to bed, that puts them waking up between 4:00 am and 5:00 am – giving you a few extra hours of uninterrupted sleep!
When should you start dream feeding?
Since newborns need to eat at least every two to four hours, a dream feed is best introduced once your baby can start sleeping longer stretches of four to six hours – usually between 2 and 4 months old.
As far as timing goes, it’s best to do the dream feed right before you’re going to bed. That way, you’re maximizing the number of hours of sleep you get. So unless you’re going to bed between 7 pm and 8 pm like your baby, most parents will start the dream feed a few hours later, between 9 pm and 11 pm.
Parents choose the time of the dream feed based on when they are going to bed themselves and what seems to work the best for their baby. The idea is that if you feed your baby (without fully waking them) before you go to bed, they will be full enough to sleep a longer stretch at night and/or until the early morning, which means you could potentially avoid a 2:30 or 3:30 am wake up!
How do I do a dream feed?
Pick up your baby from their crib, rousing them gently. Keep the room dark and quiet. You don’t want to overstimulate them and fully wake them up – just get them alert enough to latch and feed.
If your baby doesn’t wake up at all, you can try unswaddling them or a gentle massage. If your baby still doesn’t wake up enough after a few nights of trying, then the dream feed may not be the best option for your little one.
Once baby is alert enough, put your breast or the bottle to their mouth. Even if they’re not fully awake, this should stimulate the latch and sucking reflex. Feed them for as long as you can – a full feed if possible.
Because baby is so relaxed during this feed, you may not have to burp them during or after the feed.
How long should a dream feed last?
Most of the time you’ll want to aim for a full feed during the dream feed. Some babies might fully wake up during the dream feed, which is okay! Just make sure you keep the lights dim and minimize the amount of stimulation to make sure you can get them back to sleep easily.
Other babies might not stay awake enough for a full-feed, which is also okay! Just try to feed them as much as you can before putting them back down.
Do dream feeds work for all babies?
Dream feeds can be a real “dream” for many parents, but it’s not a solution for everyone. I always suggest giving it a try for a few nights before deciding if it’s the right move for your baby. If after a few nights it’s working like it’s supposed to and you’re getting a few extra hours of sleep, then great! If your baby struggles with any of the following, you may consider dropping the dream feed:
- If your baby won’t wake up enough to eat for the dream feed
- If your baby has an especially difficult time falling back to sleep after the dream feed
- If the dream feed doesn’t seem to make a difference and your baby still wakes up at their normal time without a dream feed
If the dream feed isn’t working for you or you have more questions on how to do it, reach out! Let me help you find a way to get more sleep.