Dream Feed A Baby: What It Is, How To Do It, And When To Stop

How To Dream Feed Your Baby — And Why It Might Mean More Sleep For You

November 24, 2020 Updated March 18, 2021

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There’s a reason the exhausted new parent trope exists — because it isn’t just a trope. It’s the truth! Having a newborn baby means adjusting to a schedule that includes waking up at all hours of the night to nurse or bottle-feed your little one. Just when you’re about to hit that sweet REM cycle sleep, BAM… your baby reminds you (with a wail) that it’s time to fill their tummy again. While your hungry child should start picking up more zzz’s between feedings after the newborn stage, this isn’t always the case. If that sounds familiar and you’re looking for any way to eke out a few more hours of sleep, learning to dream feed might be for you.

RELATED: Breastfeeding Positions For A Comfier Feed — Plus Tips, Because The Breastfeeding Struggle Is Real

Don’t worry, tired Mama. We’re here to help. Keep reading to discover what a dream feed is, how you do it, when you should do it, and why it could be beneficial.

What is a dream feed?

Dream feeding is, well, pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s the act of gently rousing your baby — without actually waking them up — to feed them one more time before you go to bed. You “top them off” while they’re still sleeping in the hopes that it’ll keep them fuller longer, allowing you to get a little more sleep.

When should you dream feed?

The gist of dream feeding is that you want to squeeze in one more feed before you hit the sack as a sort of preemptive strike against night-feedings. After all, babies who go to sleep between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. often wake up during the night due to hunger. So, typically, a dream feed takes place around two to three hours after you put baby down to bed for the night. For many moms, this means making time for a dream feed between 10 p.m. and midnight.

Is a dream feed a full feed?

Since your baby will be snoozing through this feed, it goes without saying that they’re going to be sleepy. In fact, they may be too sleepy to even make it through a full feed. As long as they at least get a snack, though, a dream feed can still be effective.

How do you dream feed?

Sometime between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. (or whatever time makes sense with your typical sleep schedule for baby), take your baby out of their crib or bassinet. Gently place your nipple or a bottle against your baby’s lower lip to prompt feeding. If you’re breastfeeding, aim to feed 5 to 10 minutes on each side.

Do you burp during a dream feed?

Yes! Just as you would with a regular feeding, you want to do your best to burp your baby following a dream feed. You’re trying to eke out a few more hours of sleep, right? That won’t happen if baby wakes up due to discomfort from gas. Granted, your little one will still be sleeping when you go to burp them, but they don’t have to be awake to let out a solid belch.

What happens if your baby wakes up?

Despite your best efforts not to wake your little one, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you happen to jostle them awake during a dream feed, try your typical tricks and techniques to get them back to sleep. A few tried-and-true options? Swaddling (as long as baby isn’t rolling over yet), rocking or swinging, and walking baby around in your arms.

How else is dream feeding beneficial?

We already know why dream feeding rules: If you feed your baby while they’re sleeping, you can avoid dealing with hunger cries in the middle of the night. Ideally, both you and baby can get a full night’s rest if you give them their sleepy midnight snack. Besides helping baby (and, more pointedly, you) get a little more sleep at night, dream feeding can help in other ways, too.

  • If your baby’s pediatrician wants them to consume more calories, dream feeding is an ideal sort of no-fuss way to accomplish that. Also, baby will wake up hungrier. That should kick off a day of robust daytime feedings, which could keep baby fuller through the night.
  • Another reason to jump on the dream feed ferry is if your little one is underweight. Dream feeding can help fill in those gaps and get them back on a healthy track.
  • Another reason to dream feed is to strengthen your bond with your baby. Cuddling with your newborn is more than a sweet experience. Sneaking in more snuggles is beneficial to their growth and social development.

What are the cons of dream feeding?

However, there are few hangups when it comes to dream feeding. Even if you do dream feed, your baby may still wake up in the middle of the night for other reasons, like if they’re cold or rolled into a weird position. You may also accidentally awaken the sleeping dragon. It’s not always easy putting your little one to sleep and dream feeding could create a whole new problem. 

Also, if your baby wakes up during dream feeding, they may learn to associate feeding with sleeping, which may mess up their sleep schedule.

What are tips to get your newborn to sleep at night?

A sleeping baby is key to dream feeding. But, if putting your baby to bed is a struggle, it can be hard to make it happen. To help make bedtime a breeze, check out our tips below. 

  • Swaddle your newborn. This is not only handy if your baby wakes up, but an effective way to start their bedtime routine. Babies like to feel secure when they’re being put to sleep and swaddling provides that reassurance and support. When your baby is comfortable and feels protected, they’re less likely to wake themselves up. This helps them sleep longer.
  • Keep naps to a minimum. Your baby should take naps during the day, but overdoing them can make bedtime hard. Don’t let your baby sleep too long in the afternoon and try not to schedule naps too close to bedtime.