Wondering how to do a dream feed? This post will tell you exactly when to do dreamfeeds, how to make sure baby stays awake, and when to wean them.
Oh these little squishy babies…
I remember the first time I heard about a dream feed with my firstborn.
What is it?
Why do you do it?
Who came up with these names for things?
Why, oh why?
I read around and then tried to implement it with my baby girl. It took a while, but eventually we got the hang of it and Oh My Goodness… game changer.
If you don’t currently do this feed then this post will help you for a few reasons.
In This Post...
What is a dream feed, anyway?
A dreamfeed is a feeding you do in the late evening hours before you go to bed. You’ll usually have to rouse baby for this feed.
I’ll get into the details… keep reading.
Why do you do it?
First, let’s tackle why we want to do a dream feed in the first place. Here are the two main reasons dream feeds are a good idea.
Necessary? Of course not! Helpful? Absolutely!
- You get a longer stretch of sleep each night | By feeding baby in the later evening, before midnight, you’ll hopefully get yourself a longer stretch of sleep. Sleep is very important to moms for sanity (lack of sleep is literally like torture), healing, and to help you get back to your normal self in the postpartum fog.
- Baby will eventually do the dream feed then sleep until your desired wake time | It’s hard for a baby to sleep from 7 pm to 7 am. When baby is old enough, adding in a dreamfeed can get baby to sleep from the dream feed until your desired wake time.
The Why, The How, & When To Stop
So let’s dive into it. By the end of this post I hope you’ll have all you need to know about the dream feed and why its so useful.
When to offer this feed
Ideally, you want to dream feed right before you go to sleep, but usually no later than 11:30. Somewhat, the time you feed depends on what time you go to bed.
You want to feed baby right before you go down to sleep. So if you go to bed around 10:00 then feed baby at that time, then lie down to sleep.
Feed baby while keeping him swaddled (how to do that here) and not fully rousing him, then baby will sort of feed in his sleep and “top up” his tummy. Doing a dream feed between 10:00 and 11:30 is usually a safe bet, but any later than that becomes a night feed.
This convertible swaddle will allow you to keep baby’s arms swaddled while you zip up and change diaper at night.
How To Feed When Baby Is Drowsy
Those first early hours after you’ve put baby to bed are often baby’s deepest sleep. This means it can be tricky to rouse baby enough to get them to feed.
We don’t want to force it when it isn’t working. However, often you’ll be able to rouse baby enough to take a feed, even half a feed, and this can help them sleep longer at night.
For those first few weeks, there’s really no need for this feed.
Try these things to wake baby up a bit
It comes in most handy when baby is a bit older and you’re trying to make the stretches between night feedings longer. When baby is drowsy, here are some ways to rouse him enough to give him the feed.
- Unswaddle from the bottom to change his diaper.
- Rub a wet wipe or cloth across his cheek.
- Tickle the bottom of his feet or cheek.
- Put some milk on his lips.
If these don’t work, then put baby gently back down. Then, if you’re still up half an hour later then you can try again briefly. If it still doesn’t work, go to bed.
Next, in a few weeks time it might start to work and that’ll be a sign baby is likely ready to sleep longer stretches.
Here’s a video that may help
Does It Always Work?
Now, I’m a big believer in the dream feed. I know – having had 5 babies – it’s the reason they routinely slept until at least 7 a.m., if not on closer to 8, even as tiny babies.
They were given milk at the dream feed which enabled them to sleep later in the morning.
Next – when they were ready – I dropped the dream feed and they slept all night!
That said, sometimes they can be a bit tricky. When you wake your baby for a dream feed at 11:00 pm and baby wakes at 12:30 am for another feed, then baby might be resistant to that.
It might work out better for baby to simply go to bed at night, sleep a long stretch, and then wake up for that 12:30 am feed. This will mean baby sleeps a long restorative stretch.
You can, with time, add in that dream feed if you want them to sleep later.
Often babies will start sleeping through the night but waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 am and not want to go back down. This is why the dream feed is so helpful. They will feed at 10:30 pm or so and then sleep until 6:30 or 7:00 am instead.
Unless you need baby up that early to leave the house, it’s a more pleasant proposition for baby to sleep later.
When to wean the dream feed – this is important!
Let’s reiterate here that if you only have one feeding per night, it’s very helpful if it’s a dream feed. It should – theoretically – be the last feed you drop.
Here’s the reasoning…
By having a dream feed you are helping baby sleep longer stretches between night feedings. Baby may need a 3:00 am feed and a 5:30 am feed then sleep on until 7 or so.
You’ll eventually drop that 3 am feed and focus on the 5:30 am one. After a while, you’ll work to drop that 5:30 am feed so they are sleeping later in the morning.
How do babies end up sleeping all the way through until morning?
If you haven’t had a dream feed and baby is under 6 months but not yet sleeping through the night, try adding it in.
See if it helps baby sleep later. I always kept the dream feed even though I dropped all the others because that extra time in the morning meant a lot to me.
Need sample routines for babies 6 weeks to 5 years?
By now, you know how to handle the newborn days, but what after? The good news is this: you’ve set your baby up for a foundation of success.
Now all you need to do is continue to find routines that work for you and your baby as they grow up and begin getting bigger and bigger. Sob. After having had 5 babies with 5 different personalities, I know a thing or two about finding a good schedule.
This is why I’ve created a book of sample routines and schedules for babies ages 6 weeks up to 5 years.
The book includes information on how long to let baby stay awake, how much play time is good for each age, what to do with baby when baby is awake but not quite mobile, and even how to manage toddler and baby joint routines.
Chapters covered in Rhythms, Routines & Schedules include:
Section One: Sample Schedules
- 6 Weeks to 3 Months Old
- 3-6 Months Old
- 7-9 Months Old
- 9-12 Months Old
- 12-18 Months Old
- 2-3 Years Old
- 4-5 Years Old
Section Two: Tips and Tricks
- Tips for Managing the Day With Multiple Children
- Daily Rhythms for an Only Child Ages 1-4 Years Old
- Daily Rhythms for Multiple Small Children Ages 0-5
- Sample Bedtime, Mealtime, and Playtime Routines
- Tips for Keeping Kids Busy Throughout the Day
For more sample routines, mom tested and approved schedules for babies ages 6 weeks and up, check out Rhythms, Routines & Schedules right now.
When do you stop dream feeding?
The dream feed is the last feed that you drop. So, you usually drop the dream feed when baby is able to sleep from their bedtime until their morning wake time with only the dream feed.
After you’ve dropped all night feeds and early morning feeds, then you should wait around 2 weeks or so and then try dropping the dream feed. It’s usually a quick wean.
We have an 8 month old who falls asleep by himself between 6:30-7 and sleeps through til about 4-5. Then I breast feed then he goes back to sleep til 6-6:30.
I want to drop that feed. He eats plenty during the day. Can starting to dream feed at maybe 3:30, make things worse or is it worth trying. He overall does really well, I’m just over that last feed.
So, feeding at 3:30 am is not a dream feed, that’s an early morning feed. A dream feed is a feed that’s between 10:00 and 11;30 generally. The goal of the dream feed is that you feed then go to bed and sleep a long time.
In theory, if baby got the dream feed then you’d feed at 7 ish, then feed again at 10:30 pm or so, then baby would sleep until 6:30 am. This way you’re not waking up in the middle of the night to feed, you’re feeding before you go to bed. THEN once he’s sleeping through until the morning at 6:30 am, you’d then drop the dream feed.
Are you nervous to drop it?
We have 13 week old twin boys, I have been dream feeding since 6 weeks and it works a treat, I feed them about 10:30 and they sleep through till 6:30-7am.
When and how do I drop this feed?
You’ll drop the dream feed when baby is sleeping all night long (bedtime to wake up time) except for the dream feed. After that happens, let that go for a few weeks so that baby is regularly sleeping to the morning wake time.
Then, gradually decrease the time you dream feed. So if you did a dream feed for 20 minutes, feed for 10 for a few nights. If he continues to sleep until the morning wake time, then you’ll just eventually drop it totally. It’s usually a very easy drop.
My 5 mo dream feeds around 10:30 pm and still wakes around 4 am. She’ll stay awake unless I feed her (eats for a few minutes then falls back asleep until 7 ish; I wake her to take older son to school).
Trying to figure out how to get her to stay asleep until 6 (which would be an ok start time for our day). FYI – she goes to bed around 7-7:30 and takes 3 naps a day. Any advice?
So the 5 month old month is super tricky, to be honest. Babies are gearing up for solids and are hungry. Often they’ll need more daytime feeds and then by around 6 months when you begin feeding solids, their sleep will even out.
If you go in to feed her at 4:30 am, say, for a quick feed, she might sleep until 7 or so. It’s hard to get babies at 5 months to sleep super well if they’re hungry because they simply need more food.
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