How to Dream Feed Your Baby and Get Them Sleeping Longer
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Before I knew how to dream feed my babies I felt as though I’d never get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time.
It is such a shock to the system when you have a newborn, especially for the first time.
You might get 6-8 hours of sleep, but it is broken up into 1-2 hour increments and that just leaves you feeling less than human.
The first time you get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep feels as though you’ve gone on a mini-vacation.
For me, it was dream-feeding my babies that did the trick.
If you want to find out if it might help your baby to sleep longer then keep reading because I’m going to share alllllllll the tips.
What is a Dream Feed?
A dream feed takes place in the late evening hours before you retire for bed yourself. It involves feeding your baby while they are either asleep or drowsy.
You do not wake your baby to feed them but simply rouse them enough to get them to feed.
You can do a dream feed whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed. It works both ways.
An even better idea is to get your spouse to do the dream feed so that you can really get in a good long stretch. That’s what we ended up doing.
Why Should You Dream Feed Your Baby?
So why would you consider adding a dream feed in for your baby?
Well, what it can do is help to extend your baby’s night stretch of sleep. You see, what often happens is that you put the baby down to sleep somewhere between 7-8 PM and that’s when they take their first long stretch of sleep.
The issue is, parents are usually still awake during that time.
Adding in a dream feed can help to reset that long stretch so that it happens while you’re also sleeping. I mean, that’s the dream, right?
So baby goes to sleep between 7-9 PM and then has a dream feed somewhere between 10-11 PM and continue sleeping from there.
It could mean that the baby doesn’t wake until 3-4 AM.
We also found that our children were all able to sleep through the night at a younger age. Instead of having to do a 12-hour stretch, it was more like an 8-9 hour stretch between feeds.
All 3 children were sleeping through the night with a dream feed by 10 weeks of age.
How to Dream Feed Your Baby
Let’s talk about the practical aspects of how to dream feed your baby.
First of all, you’ll want to decide what time you actually want to do the dream feed.
I’ve always done it approximately 3 hours after their last feed and no later than 11 PM.
You may feel afraid of actually having your baby wake all the way up, but if you’re working on establishing independent sleep skills with them, then it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Go into their room, pick them up and feed them.
If they’re in that super sleepy newborn stage then you may need to unswaddle them and rouse them somewhat in order to get them to feed.
With slightly older babies they’ll often just latch onto the breast or the bottle without an issue.
When my babies were very sleepy newborns I would unswaddle and change their diaper just so they would actually feed.
However, once they fed with no issue I’d leave them swaddled and wouldn’t worry about a diaper change.
Just remember to keep the lights low and the environment quiet.
It is okay if your baby wakes somewhat or even wakes fully. Just keep interaction to a minimum and get the job done.
Do your best to burp your baby afterwards.
Once they’ve been fed, re-swaddle (if necessary) and lay them back down, and that’s all there is to it.
Dream Feed Schedule
In the first early weeks, I never do a dream feed with my babies. I’ve found that they were just too sleepy to actually feed and therefore it just wasn’t worth it.
Instead, I did a later bedtime and this is what our schedule looked like without a dream feed:
Once I can get my babies to rouse enough during the evening for a dream feed, this is what the schedule looks like:
Dream Feed Not Working – What to Do
So what do you do if you try the dream feed and it doesn’t work?
Here are a few things to try:
- Try a different time – Some babies are very particular about the time that you do the dream feed. Others will be very flexible. Try different times and keep a record so that you can get a true reflection of what is happening.
- Give it a chance – Sometimes a dream feed won’t work immediately and so my advice would be to give it time. Around 2 weeks is reasonable. If your baby isn’t extending their sleep after that point, you can try something different.
- Wait – Sometimes it can work well once your baby is just a bit older. If your baby is still in that super sleep stage and you can’t get them to rouse enough no matter what you do…stop and try again in a couple of weeks.
Sleep Training Resources
Dream Feed Pros & Cons
As with all parenting tips and methods, there are pros and cons.
Pros of Giving a DreamFeed
- Extended night sleep
- Babies can sleep through the night sooner
- Baby sleep during your hours of sleep
Cons of Giving a DreamFeed
- You have to stay up later
- May not always work
- May disrupt sleep more than help it
When to Stop Dream-Feeding
While a dream feed is a wonderful tool to help your baby sleep through the night at a younger age, there does come a point where it is necessary to wean them.
Although there may be some babies that will happily continue with a dream feed well into the second half of their first year, for many others, their sleep becomes disrupted.
So what should you do? At what age should you stop giving them a dream feed?
From my personal experience, I found that somewhere between 3-5 months was the right time to wean from that feed.
My babies became a lot more alert and the dream feed was a disruption to their sleep instead of helping to extend it.
They also no longer needed it for nutritional purposes.
My first baby dropped his at 5 months, my second baby dropped her at 4 months, and my youngest daughter weaned at 3 months.
If you find that your baby is having a difficult time settling after the dream feed when they previously it wasn’t an issue, it is definitely time to look into weaning from it.
Also, unless your baby has other medical issues, after 6 months there really is no need for a dream feed and you can drop it.
Related: When to Drop the Dream Feed
How to Stop the Dream Feed
Here’s the next step that you’re likely wondering about…how to stop the dream feed?
There are several ways in which you can go about it.
I talk about them in detail in this post about how to drop night feeds.
For my babies, I either went cold turkey or slowly gave them less and less milk over the course of a couple of weeks.
It is entirely up to you as to which approach you choose to take. No one is better than the other.
The worst-case scenario is that your baby doesn’t sleep through without it and you have to add it back in for a while.
If that happens, just go with it and try again in another couple of weeks to a month.
Dream feeds don’t work for every baby, but when they do they are a really helpful way of getting more rest for the whole family.