The Dream Feed

Cara Dumaplin, Founder

If you Google the phrase “Dream Feed,” you find so many “rules” and opinions. For parents who attend my newborn class, “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” or watch it online, I discuss the Dream Feed.

Basically, a Dream Feeding is the last feeding of the day.  It typically happens 2-3 hours after the bedtime feeding. Usually, this feeding happens somewhere between 9:00-10:30pm.

For example, your baby eats at 7:15pm and is in the bassinet asleep by 7:45pm. Prior to you going to sleep (at let’s say 10:15pm) you do one more feeding.  In theory, this “tanks the baby up” and allows him to get a long stretch of sleep at about the same time you are going to sleep.

Let’s look at how this could potentially go:

Your baby is 6 weeks old and is sleeping about a 6 hour stretch.

6:50pm Bath, Diaper, Mini Massage, and Jammies

7:15pm Feeding

7:45pm Swaddle

7:45pm Put down drowsy, but awake

You feed her at 7:15pm and then she sleeps six hours (start of one feeding to the start of the next feeding). That has her waking at 1:15am.

Now, let’s say you add a dream feeding. She eats at 7:15pm and then before you go to bed, you feed her at 10:15pm. Now, the six hour stretch begins. She now goes from 10:15pm to 4:15am. Ahhhh…. Perfect!

For some babies, the Dream Feed is just that- a DREAM for parents. It helps parents align the baby’s longest stretch of sleep with their own. Because…let’s face it, most of us aren’t ready for bed by 7-8pm.

Unfortunately, the “Dream Feed” isn’t always a “dream.”  For some babies, this feeding actually interrupts their deep sleep and makes it very difficult to go back to sleep. If you are experiencing this scenario (for 4-6 nights in a row), I’d recommend dropping the Dream Feed.

Some babies simply won’t wake up enough to eat. If you are experiencing this for 3-4 nights, I’d recommend dropping it.

For other babies, the Dream Feed doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference. These babies will still awaken at the same time no matter if they had the Dream Feed or not.

For example, I spoke with a new mom last month who had a two month old. This baby slept from 7pm until 2:30am. She learned of the Dream Feed and decided to try it. The thought of the baby doing a 7.5 hour stretch from 10:00pm was so appealing to her. Ideally, this meant the baby would eat at 10:00pm and then sleep until 5:30am. Well, for some it works like that. For her… it didn’t. After trying it for six nights, her baby was still consistently waking at 2:30am (just like before) even though he was just fed 4.5 hours previously. In this case, my advice was to drop the Dream Feed. (To understand how she got the baby to gradually sleep 7-8 hours and beyond, you’ll want to attend “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” or watch it online.)

As I mentioned earlier, the Dream Feed has so many “rules” attached to it. Some will say “don’t unswaddle.” Others say “if bottle feeding, do it in the bassinet.” (No! Do NOT do this! It is not safe!) Still others say, “don’t change their diaper.” Many act as if you need superpowers to feed the baby without awakening him.

Here is my advice: forget the rules. Your goal is to get one more feeding in before you go to bed. It’s that simple. If she needs a diaper change, do it. If he will take a good feeding while still being swaddled, keep him swaddled. If he needs to be unswaddled to eat well, unswaddle him. If he awakens, it’s okay.

No rules. Just feed your baby.

Many wake up during the feeding. That’s okay. Keep your lights low and keep the stimulation to a minimum. Offer a full feeding and see how the night goes.

Remember, you are the expert when it comes to your baby. You know her better than anyone else on this planet. I love to give you tips and my newborn class is life changing for many parents of newborns; however, babies are humans. No two babies are alike.

Try the different tips I offer for the Dream Feed and give it 5-7 nights to see if it is working. Don’t get frustrated…just keep going.

Let’s say you have a baby who is doing incredible with the Dream Feed. Perfect. Don’t feel pressure to drop it. Some babies will keep this feeding for 5-9 months. When your baby is sleeping consistently until morning, feel free to decrease the amount of the feeding every 2-3 nights by 2-3 minutes or 1 ounce until it is eliminated.

May you have sweet dreams with or without the sweet dream feedings!

hey there!

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.