Dream feeds are one approach to night feeding that can some families find helpful. In this guide we’ll cover:
- What is a dream feed?
- How do you do a dream feed?
- Are dream feeds helpful?
- What age can you dream feed a baby?
What is a dream feed?
A dream feed is a feed you offer to your baby, whether breast or bottle feeding, whilst they are still asleep.
Usually dream feeds are timed around 10 or 11pm, before parents go to bed for the night. The intention of a dream feed is that your baby may then sleep for a longer period afterwards. This may mean you have the opportunity to get some sleep before they wake again for a night feed, or they may even then sleep through until the morning.
How do you do a dream feed?
Put your baby to bed as you usually would, offering the last feed of the day before bedtime. Then at around 10pm/11pm gently pick them up while they are still asleep and just put them to the breast, or put the bottle to their mouth. They have a natural suck reflex, so most babies will take the feed easily whilst staying asleep.
When they have fed, you can gently put them back into their cot asleep and then you can go to bed yourself.
We want this feed to be as quiet and non-stimulating as possible. If you need a light whilst feeding then we’d recommend an amber based light which is the least disruptive to sleep. You can find one in our Amazon shop.
Do you need to wind a baby after a dream feed? Most babies take a dream feed in a very relaxed way whilst asleep and won’t take in much air as they feed. You can try and hold them upright and gently wind them before placing them back to into their cot, but many families find that they can go straight down after a feed without needing to be winded at all.
Do you need to change your baby’s nappy after a dream feed? We would only recommend changing their nappy if they have done a poo or if it is very wet and you feel it may leak during the night.
Are dream feeds helpful?
Some families find that dream feeds work really well for them, whilst others find that the approach doesn’t suit them or their baby.
There are different scenarios where you may decide it is worth trying a dream feed and seeing if it helps you or not.
If you tend to go to bed around 10/11pm and then find that your baby is waking up shortly after for a feed, then offering a dream feed before you go to bed can help you get a longer spell of sleep before they wake again.
If your baby takes a bottle, either expressed breast milk or formula, it can be really helpful for mum to be able to go to bed nice and early after the bedtime feed, then a partner or someone else could feed the baby around 10/11pm.
After a dream feed then you might find that baby doesn’t wake again for another feed until the early hours of the morning or may sleep through the rest of the night.
Does this work for well for all babies? No, unfortunately dream feeds aren’t a guarantee for longer spells of sleep. Some babies find a feed stimulating and might fully wake and need some settling to get back to sleep. Others may still wake not long after the dream feed ready for another feed. It can be trial and error to see if this approach works well for you. It can be worth a try for a few nights to see if it works well for you.
Do you have to dream feed? Not at all. We can all find our own approach to sleep and feeding our babies, this is simply an option that you might want to try. For some of us, it works better to sleep when we can and let our babies naturally wake us when they are ready for a feed.
What age can you dream feed a baby?
Generally speaking you can dream feed from a very early age. Of course newborn babies will need frequent feeds during the night, but if you are ready to head to bed and baby is close to being ready for a feed then you can try a dream feed before you go to sleep yourself.
Each baby will be ready to drop night feeds at different times, so there is no rule for when dream feeds or other night feeds should be stopped. We generally suggest that once your baby is six months old and established on solid food it can be a good time to try removing the dream feed and see how they get on. You can try reducing the length/amount of the feed or simply try removing it completely to see how they respond.
That is really all there is to a dream feed, a simple change to the time you feed your baby that is being led by you.
If it works for you and your baby, then it is a great opportunity for you to get a solid chunk of sleep in the night. If it doesn’t suit your family then there is no need to worry, each baby is different and you can feed them however works best for them.
You are your baby’s expert. When it comes to feeding, trust your instincts. If you have any concerns and require feeding support then reach out to a lactation expert, health visitor or your doctor for specialist advice.
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.