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 do a dream feed?
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 the dream feed then this post will help you for a few reasons.
And if you’re serious about making a few nightly changes, I suggest using a baby log to help clear our head and get it on paper.
What is a dream feed, anyway?
A dream feed 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.
Or rather, baby will be sound asleep typically and you will feed baby while they’re still mostly asleep. Hence the name: dream 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 sleep from after the 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 dream feed can get baby to sleep from the dream feed until your desired wake time.
The Why, The How, & When To Stop This Feed
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 or else it is simply a night feed.
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.
How To Feed When Baby Is Drowsy
Those first early hours after you’ve put baby to bed are often baby’s deepest sleep. The sleep from bedtime to midnight is the deepest most restorative sleep, so babies are usually conked out at this time.
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
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.
Keep trying nightly until baby is used to taking this feed. This helps push the next feed off until later after midnight and gives you a few uninterrupted hours of sleep which is good for mama.
Here’s a video that may help
Use our checklist to use cluster feeding to your advantage without feeding every hour all day every day!
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, mom might be resistant to that.
If you find a dream feed wakes your baby up right after midnight, drop it and see what happens.
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.
Then, they are going from the dream feed all the way until the morning time.
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How do babies end up sleeping all the way through until morning?
If you haven’t had a dream feed and baby is under 5 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.
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
FAQ on dreamfeeds
The dream feed is the last feed that you drop. You usually drop the dream feed when baby sleeps from bedtime until their morning wake time with only the dream feed. This should be dropped by 6 months.
After 6 months dream feeds can trigger more wakings. By 6 months if baby is doing a feed at 10:30 p.m. then waking again at 1 a.m., it could be that the dream feed isn’t working anymore.
Yes, try and give baby a full feed which should last them a few hours before the next waking.
If you have a newborn who wakes frequently, introducing the dream feed may get you a longer stretch of sleep. Try it out for a few days if it triggers more after midnight wakings, just drop it.
If you can easily burp baby without waking him, yes. If not, rub baby’s back on the left side (stomach side) and up the back to get out any air bubbles and simply put baby back down to bed.
Dream feeds should happen while baby is sleeping. If baby will wake up if you put him upright, don’t do it. You can feed enough to satisfy baby and get a good long stretch of sleep without going through great lengths to burp.
Unless baby is leaking, changing the diaper isn’t needed. If baby isn’t unhappy, don’t wake them to change a diaper. If you feel you need to, however, change the diaper before feeding so baby will remain asleep for the feed then be put straight back to bed.
The best time to do a dream feed is between 10 and 11. Much after that is a night feed and much before that is just a regular evening feed.
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