What is a Dream Feed & How to Dream Feed Your Baby

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June 25, 2024
6 min read

Dream feeds are feeds that are offered in the later hours of the evening (often around 10pm-midnight).  They help you and your baby have a longer stretch of sleep overnight. In this blog we’ll talk about how a dream feed differs from an ordinary feed, how to successfully offer a dream feed, the pros and cons of these feeds… and all the general questions I get on this topic. 

What is a Dream Feed?

It is a feed that requires you to gently rouse your baby, but not fully wake them. We want them to drink in a half dazed state. 

The aim is to keep lights at a minimum and the room completely calm. Because they do not wake completely they go back to sleep very quickly (and so can you!).  Dream feeds are a late night feed and are best offered between 10pm and midnight

Why Would You Dream Feed?

Some families love a dreamfeed as it keeps the late evenings lovely calm and dark.  It speeds up the evening feed when you’re probably at your most fatigued and it also allows non breastfeeding partners to step in so mum can get an early night – see a full list of the pros below.

How Do I Offer a Dream Feed?

This late night dream feed can be offered by both breast and bottle, and if you’re wanting to introduce a bottle into your baby’s routine this is the perfect time to add it (I recommend this after 4-6 when breastmilk supply has been established). 

Step 1: Gently pick up your sleeping baby out of the bassinet or crib

Step 2: Keep your baby swaddled or in their sleeping bag 

Step 3: Position yourself comfortably as you would for any regular feed

Step 4: Gently tease your baby’s mouth with the nipple or bottle teat until they open enough to latch. 

  • If it’s difficult then try stroking their cheek or lips to stimulate their rooting reflex and encourage them to take the nipple. 

Step 5: Give your baby a bottle or breastfeed.

  • Some babies here will only take one side of the breast or a smaller amount than they usually would in a bottle compared to a regular feed, this is normal

Step 6: Make sure your baby is well winded. 

  • Even though it’s a quick feed it’s important not to miss this. This will help stop them waking in the middle of the night from trapped wind and be likely to sleep longer. You can absolutely burp them while they are asleep/half asleep

Step 7: After a quick cuddle, put your drowsy baby back to sleep  in their crib or bassinet. 

Tips for a Successful Dream Feed

Tip 1: Keep the lights dim and stimulation to a minimum. 

  • Try using a hallway light or dim, small night light in the room to help stop them fully waking. 

Tip 2: Only change their nappy if it feels heavy or is soiled 

  • If necessary, change your baby’s nappy before the feed as if they wake slightly they’ll be more likely to go back to sleep while feeding.

Tip 3: If offering a bottle, have it all ready to go so you don’t have to leave the room to prepare it or warm it up. 

Tip 4: Leave the white noise playing during the dream feed to help keep your baby calm and quiet. 

dr golly baby sleep program

At What Age Can I Start Dream Feeding?

A good time to start offering this is from around 6 weeks old – which aligns with starting Dr Golly Sleep Schedule  in the Little Baby Sleep Program, I like babies to roughly around 5-6kg to start these. Very young babies will likely still wake again 1-2 times during the night for more feeds and might not yet be capable of sleeping longer stretches overnight.  If you are offering a bottle for this feed and you’re breastfeeding for all the other feeds it’s important to ensure breast milk has been established – my book and my online courses have lots of information on this.

When Should I Stop Dream Feeding?

Dream feeds are fantastic to keep offering until around 6-7 months old. If it’s working for your family then there is no need to change anything until then. Stopping the dream feed from 7 months old is recommended as around this age older babies’ sleep patterns will be starting to mature, and offering a dream feed past this age can actually encourage more night waking /night feedings as it will disturb their stage of deep sleep until midnight.  All my sleep routines outline your baby’s feeding schedule.   

read our blog when do babies stop napping

Dream Feeding Pros:

  • Uninterrupted night’s sleep for parents and baby
  • More sleep for the breastfeeding mother if non breastfeeding parent is able to do the feed with a bottle
  • Easier to get baby back down to sleep (because they remain drowsy or asleep for the feed)
  • A good time to offer a bottle 
  • Increased bonding time for fathers or non breastfeeding caregivers if they can give a bottle
  • Parents are not waiting for baby to wake and cry and then respond by giving a feed
  • Less sleep deprivation 

Dream Feeding Cons:

  • It may not suit your baby 
  • Your baby may continue to wake fully and then find it more difficult to get baby back to sleep
  • Some parents may wish to go to bed early and sleep at this time, preferring baby to wake on their own for a feed
  • Despite trying, your baby may not open their mouth enough to have a dream feed
  • They may not be able to get the volume of milk in to get them through the night

dad bottle feeding baby mother breastfeeding baby sleepy dad bottle feeding baby

Dream Feed FAQs

Q1. What if my baby wakes up?

If your baby wakes during the changing or feeding then simply continue on with the feed and keep the stimulation to a minimum and lights low. This helps tell your baby that it’s sleep time when you put them back down in their crib. 

Q2. How long should a dream feeding be?

Let your baby feed here for as long as they want to. This might be 5 minutes or 15 minutes at the breast, or 60ml-120ml in a bottle. Sometimes this feed is a bit smaller because your baby is still asleep or quite drowsy so won’t take a full feeding. 

Q3. What if my baby refuses a dream feed?

Refusing a dream feed can happen as it doesn’t suit all babies. Some will continue to wake up completely then find it more difficult to get back to sleep, while others will simply stay asleep or fall asleep and refuse to feed. Listen to your baby and don’t force them to dream feed. It’s good to keep trying for a few nights because sometimes babies will get the hang of it. If it’s not working then you can always try again in a couple of weeks time. 

Q4. Is breastfeeding or bottle feeding best for the dream feed?

Babies can be breastfed or bottle fed with either expressed milk or formula. This can be a great option for mixed or bottle fed babies – it’s a great time for the non-breastfeeding parent to offer one. 

Q5. How do I know if a dream feed is working for my baby?

Dream feeds exist to help babies sleep longer. If this isn’t happening and night wakings are frequent despite trying for a few nights consistently, then it might be best to go back to letting your baby wake naturally for a feed. 

Dream Feeds are terrific if they work and they absolutely can improve your baby’s sleep – but in my experience dream feeds won’t work for every baby and this is ok. 

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