What is a dream feed and should I do it?

August 01, 2022

Dream feed nursing breastfeeding baby

When you have a newborn it may feel like all you do is feed. Sometimes as soon as you’re finished feeding, you get the baby changed and you’re back at it again. They eat a lot -- day and night. And for some little ones, nighttime feedings could continue for up to a year or more if you’re breastfeeding. 

As your baby grows, they will go longer between feedings. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns eat every 2 to 3 hours (or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours). At about 2 months, that increases to usually 4 to 5 ounces a feeding every 3 to 4 hours. At 4 months, babies usually take 4 to 6 ounces. At 6 months, a baby takes up to 8 ounces every 4 to 5 hours. 

Since we’re exhausted and longing for more sleep, a dream feed could get you a few more hours, and who doesn’t love the sound of that?

What Is A Dream Feed?

A dream feed is when you feed your baby one more time before you go to sleep. You don’t completely wake them up, just wake them enough to eat. Research shows that having that extra feeding between 10:00 p.m. and midnight will reduce the chances your baby wakes up hungry in the middle of the night.

The term “dream feed” was first coined by author and baby expert, Tracy Hogg. She wrote the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and changed the way parents communicated with their babies. Since she first wrote about it, the method hasn’t changed much. There have also been studies to look at this kind of sleep pattern in infants. While there are studies and books and blogs about the topic, the best way to really know if it works, is to give it a try! 

How To Dream Feed 

You know the old adage, "Never wake a sleeping baby", so let’s stick to that! You won’t need to completely wake your baby for this. The idea is to make sure your baby doesn’t have a hungry belly and gets into a sleep pattern with you. 

Begin by putting your baby to bed as you normally would. Then a few hours later, when you are getting ready to go to bed, take them out of their bassinet or crib. The ideal time for this is during REM sleep. This is when you’ll notice their eyes fluttering or they’re making soft noises. There’s no need to take them out of their swaddle if they're in one. 

Gently place your breast or the bottle near the baby’s lips. You could start with their cheek. Don’t force it, and wait for them to latch. Feed them until they are finished. Try for 5 to 10 minutes on each side, or three ounces if they’re bottle-fed. 

When they’re finished, burp your baby as you normally would and then head to bed. 

How Long Should You Dream Feed? 

There’s no specific age recommendation to stop dream feeding. You’ll have to gauge that based on how your baby is responding. This isn’t meant to be a permanent solution to your baby’s sleep schedule. You may only use it for a few weeks until your baby naturally sleeps for longer stretches. 

If it’s working for you, continue as long as you want. By 4 to 6 months, babies are able to sleep more than 3 to 4 hours at a time without eating. So at that point, you could begin to skip the dream feed to see if your baby will naturally sleep a longer stretch without it. 

Do What’s Best For Your Baby

All babies are different so do what works for you. If you try dream feeding a couple of times and it doesn’t seem to be what your baby needs, it’s okay. Always consult with your pediatrician if you have questions about how much sleep or food your baby is getting. They may not need that feeding and can sleep soundly without it. Or maybe you need to increase how much they’re getting during the day. Having these conversations with your pediatrician will get you on a schedule that works for you. You know your baby better than anyone, so you’ll know what’s best for them!

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