A Guide to Dream Feeding Your Baby with Pro and cons for new parents
The idea behind dream feeding your baby is to provide them with a final feeding before you go to bed. Ideally, your baby will then sleep for a longer stretch of time before needing to be fed again.
I started dream feeding my baby before knowing a dream feed was an actual thing. I just did it because I was tired and wanted to go to bed but didn’t want her to wake me up an hour after I fell asleep to eat.
Can dream feeding work for you?
Read on to find out how a dream feed is done as well as the benefits and drawbacks for you and your baby.
Let’s Talk About Infant Sleep
In the first few months, babies will need to eat every 2-3 hours.
Their tiny little tummies can only hold so much milk at one time and they need to eat very frequently.
I wouldn’t recommend starting a dream feed this early as it wouldn’t be very helpful yet.
Around two to four months, most babies will begin to stretch out their night feedings (yay!).
At four months, a healthy full-term baby will be able to sleep a stretch of six hours at night without needing to eat (1).
Around this time (after two months) is when dream feeding could be beneficial for your and your baby.
How To Do A Dream Feed
Dream feeding should typically happen 2-3 hours after the bedtime feeding and, ideally, between 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM.
Gently wake your baby just enough to feed, then put them back down to sleep. If the diaper is wet or dirty, change it before your start feeding them.
Keep the lights off so they stay as sleepy as possible and it’s easy to get them back to bed quickly.
Then, run to your own bed and try to get in a good chunk of sleep before waking up to feed your baby again!
The Benefits Of Dream Feeding
The biggest benefit of giving your baby a dream feed is that it prolongs the length of your sleep!
This can be especially helpful when your baby is around 2-3 months and you are returning to work after maternity leave.
Often, you will need to get up at a certain time to get ready for work which may not coincide with your baby’s wake time.
For example, maybe you need to be up by 6:30am and your baby is feeding every four hours. You feed her before bed at 8:00pm, then you’d expect her to wake to feed again at midnight. If you decide to go to bed around 10:30pm, you’re waking just a few hours later to feed the baby. Then you end up feeding her a few more times during the night and waking up after only a few consecutive hours of sleep to get ready for work.
With dream-feeding, you’re waking your baby before you go to bed at 10:30 PM. Then, you will hopefully get about four hours of uninterrupted sleep before your baby wakes again to eat and minimizing the need for additional middle of the night feedings.
Sample Schedule, No Dream Feed
- 8:00PM – bedtime feed, baby goes to sleep
- 10:30PM – you go to sleep
- 12:00AM – baby wakes up to eat
- 4:00AM – baby wakes up to eat
- 6:30AM – wake up for the day
Sample Schedule, With Dream Feed
- 8:00PM – bedtime feed, baby goes to sleep
- 10:30PM – dream feed, baby goes to sleep, you go to sleep
- 2:30AM – baby wakes up to eat
- 6:30AM – wake up, feed baby, and up for the day
Other Dream Feeding Benefits
If your baby is already sleeping longer stretches at night, dream feeds can still work to your advantage.
If they typically sleep seven hours and go to bed at 7:00 PM, they will most likely wake around 2:00 or 3:00 AM to eat. With a 10:00 PM dream feed, your baby may sleep right through to 5:00 or 6:00 AM, granting you a glorious full night’s sleep.
According to some people, waking your baby to dream feed can also be helpful when sleep training. The thought is that YOU are waking your child to give them an extra feeding before you go to bed. This is opposed to your baby waking on their own and crying to be fed or needing to be fed to fall back asleep. In other words, YOU are the one in control.
The Drawbacks to Dream Feeding
Not everyone is a fan of dream feeding and it may not work the way it’s intended for all babies.
Some babies might be too sleepy to eat when you try to wake them. Similarly, they may just not eat much during the dream feed and will wake up hungry a few hours later.
In this case, you can try to adjust the timing of your feedings.
Push the dream-feed back a little (from 10:30 PM to 11:00 PM, for example). Or, move up your last feed before bedtime (from 8:00 PM to 7:00 PM) to see if that makes a difference.
However, it’s possible dream-feeding may just not work for your little one.
Dream feeding could possibly be setting up a habit of feeding your baby when he isn’t hungry.
Waking your baby from sleep could also disrupt their normal sleep/wake cycle.
Similarly, you could be waking your baby from a deep sleep, thus causing them to have trouble getting back to sleep after the feed is over.
Should I Try a Dream Feed?
If your baby is over two months and has started sleeping longer stretches during the night, but you’re still not getting enough consecutive hours of sleep, try out a dream feed.
In my opinion, dream feeds can be especially helpful for moms who are returning to work after maternity leave.
However, I wouldn’t recommend starting dream feeds in babies older than six months due to some of the drawbacks listed above.
Final Thought on Dream Feeding
Giving your baby a dream feed can be super helpful for allowing you to get more rest. A dream feed may not work as intended for all babies and families. However, if you’re struggling to get enough sleep, it may be worth it to try out a dream feeding and see if it works for you.
Are you thinking of trying dream feeding? Let me know how it works for you!
Related posts on infant and toddler sleep:
- Sleep Training Advice From a Mom Who Tried It All
- How To Prepare Your Baby For Sleep Training
- What You Should Know About Normal Sleep For Infants and Toddlers
- Brown, A. and Fields, D. Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year, 7th edition (2017).