What is a dream feed

What is a dream feed?

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There’s a lot to learn about infant sleep! New parents have to navigate a lot of new information, research, and philosophies when learning about infant sleep. One term that’s new for many parents is called a “dream feed.” What is a dream feed? Let’s find out!

Feeding a sleeping baby

Simply put, a “dream feed” is the practice of feeding a sleeping infant with the goal of lengthening nighttime sleep. This is usually done just before a parent wants to go to sleep themselves. So for example, if baby’s bedtime is 7:00pm and their parents’ bedtime is 10:30pm, the feed would happen right around 10:00pm. 

The idea is to nurse or bottle feed the baby without fully waking them, so they have a nice full belly right as the parent goes to bed themselves. Think of it as “tanking up” your baby for a nice long rest. This increases the chance of the parent being able to get a longer chunk of sleep themselves before the baby wakes up again. 

Tips for trying a dream feed

If aligning your baby’s longest stretch of sleep with your own sounds amazing, a dream feed might be for you! Here are some tips for trying a this with your little one:

  • Aim to feed your baby just before you go to bed, and before they would typically wake on their own (i.e. 2-3 hours after bedtime)
  • Keep lights low and white noise going
  • If bottle feeding, have the bottle warmed and ready to go
  • Scoop up your baby and gently offer them the breast or bottle – even in sleep, most babies will readily root around and begin feeding without waking up
  • Skip the diaper change – as long as there’s no poop, it’s okay to skip a diaper change at this point to help maximize sleep for everyone (if you’re worried about rash, be sure to load up on a barrier cream at bedtime)
  • Stay swaddled – if your baby can take a full feeding while swaddled, it’s okay to do so. If your baby is too sleepy, try to gentle unswaddle
  • If your baby wakes up, don’t stress! Continue on with the feeding as usual. In time your baby may get more accustomed to the dream feed and will be able to wake up less
  • If your baby doesn’t take to the dream feed right away, give it a week or so before you decide to drop it. Some babies need a little time to get adjusted. 

Is dream feeding right for your family?

A dream feed might sound too good to be true! The truth is that it works amazing for some babies, and not so great for others. For babies who are waking throughout the night primarily due to hunger, a dream feed is a great solution to promote nighttime sleep. For babies who are waking for other reasons, it can backfire or have a neutral effect. 

A dream feed may also not be right for you if your baby simply doesn’t feed well while asleep. If this is case, the late night feed probably is not worth it, as they won’t be able to really “tank up” their belly. Try it for a week, then reassess. Is your baby sleeping longer after their dream feed than they would otherwise? If the effect is negative or neutral, cut out the dream feed for now. If nighttime sleep has improved, wonderful! It’s okay to keep the dream feed in as long as it works for your family. Some babies are ready to drop it after a few weeks, and others keep it for months as it allows them to otherwise sleep through the night. 

Try a dream feed for better nighttime sleep

Dream feeds work great for lots of families. Try it to see if it can help your whole family rest better! Remember to give it a week or so before making the call to keep or cut the dream feed. The goal is to make your life easier and help your whole family rest better. So if/when that is no longer applicable, drop it! Dream feeding is just one tool to help your baby sleep longer, so don’t lose hope if it doesn’t work for your family.