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The Dream Feed

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Article by:

Cara Dumaplin

RN, BSN, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Mom offering baby dream feed

If you Google the phrase “dream feed,” you find so many “rules” and opinions. Let me simplify it for you!

What is the dream feed? 

Basically, a dream feeding is the last feeding of the day. It typically happens 2-3 hours after the bedtime feeding and right about the same time that you are going to sleep. In theory, this will shift the last planned feeding of the day and allow him to get a long stretch of sleep at about the same time you are going to sleep. Usually, this feeding happens somewhere between 9:00-10:30pm.

What does this look like? Can you give me an example?

Your baby is 6 weeks old and is sleeping one longer stretch of about 6 hours.

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 6 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, that longer 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.

What if my baby doesn’t have a “long stretch” of sleep at night?

Great question! The dream feed won’t actually lengthen sleep; it simply shifts sleep. If you’re not seeing any longer stretches in the night, I have a class that can help with that! My newborn class will show you how to gently encourage longer stretches in the newborn stage and so much more.

Does it work for every baby?

Unfortunately, the dream feed isn’t always a dream. I encourage you to 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. Here are a few scenarios for when the dream feed might not be the right fit, and I would actually recommend dropping it:

  • This feeding actually interrupts deep sleep and makes it very difficult to go back to sleep. 

  • A baby simply won’t wake up enough to eat well.

  • 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.

So how exactly do I offer a dream feeding?

Your goal is to provide one more feeding before you go to bed. So take him out of the crib or bassinet about 2-3 hours after the bedtime feeding and offer another full feeding. 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: many wake up during the feeding. That’s okay. Keep your lights low and keep the stimulation to a minimum. 

My baby loves the dream feed! How long would you recommend keeping it?

Let’s say you have a baby who is doing incredible with the dream feed. Perfect. Don’t feel pressure to drop it. If it stops working, feel free to stop offering it. Some babies will keep this feeding until baby reaches 9 months; others will drop it sooner. 

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