Learning how to dream feed baby is quite simple. Yay! Yet dream feeding is one of those terms that gets tossed around so much that everyone assumes that everyone else knows the exact meaning of the term. When you dig a little deeper, you see that people have WILDLY different definitions of the same exact term!
So What Is a Dream Feed?
Just so everyone is on the same page…
A dream feed is when:
- a parent goes to their sleeping infant,
- picks them up to breastfeed
- or props them up either in their crib, or in a caregiver’s arms, to offer a bottle,
- feeds the child,
- and then puts them back down *asleep* without the baby ever having woken up.
A dream feed is NOT a dream feed if a child:
- opens their eyes at any point in the process,
- or if the feeding is in response to the baby waking up.
Generally speaking, a dream feed is done between the hours of about 9:30pm and 12:00am. Technically, if all other terms are met, but the feed is done outside of these hours, the feeding is still a dream feed.
The Right Age for Dream Feeding
Dream feeds are a great tool from birth (or a few weeks after, when babies are not quite so sleepy), through to when a baby is done being swaddled. It is very challenging to dream feed a baby, even a very young one, without waking them up if they are not swaddled. Generally speaking, it’s wise to stop dream feeding around 14–16 weeks of age. After this age, babies become a lot more awake and aware, and dream feeds tend to disrupt the rest of their overnight sleep.
Benefits of Dream Feeding
Let me first dispel a myth. A dream feed does not necessarily prevent a baby from waking up to eat at night. Although, sometimes it does work. I like dream feeds for young babies because I appreciate the “insurance policy” of extra calories at night. As long as a baby is young enough that the dream feed itself does not wake them, and fracture their remaining nighttime sleep, a dream feed can insure as many calories as possible during each 24-hour period.
A gift to reflux-y babies!
Some babies respond beautifully to a dream feed. Especially those with reflux! From about 7pm on through to about 2 or 3am, the body is flooded with the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for many things. Chief amongst them is making the body feel drowsy, and relaxing the long muscles (abs, legs, and arms). Since the abdominal muscles are relaxed, it’s common for babies with a lot of reflux to tolerate a dream feed without spitting up. And even possibly negate the need to be burped, or held upright afterwards. I can speak to this from personal experience with my own extremely reflux-y, wholly unmedicated daughter. Since the concern for calorie intake is so high with reflux babies, dream feeds can be especially useful for them.
Burping After a Dream Feed
If you feel your sleeping baby needs to be burped, go ahead and attempt to burp them as you normally would during the day. Check in with your pediatrician to ask how long to attempt a burp before giving up and putting baby back to sleep.
The bottom line is that a dream feed done correctly can benefit baby AND parents by offering an extra dose of nutrition, while also possibly helping baby sleep! (Which means YOU can get more sleep too! Win!)
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So remember, to properly dream feed your baby…
- Enter their room (keeping it dark!), and prop baby up either in their crib, or your arms, and immediately start feeding them the breast or bottle.
- Dream feed between 9:30pm-12:30am (or whenever you are heading to bed yourself!)
- Baby should NOT wake up AT ALL during the entire feeding. (Baby should be put back down in bed just as asleep as they were when you starting the feeding.)
- You should stop attempting dream feeds when baby starts to sleep unswaddled. (Or around 14-16 weeks old when these feeds can start to become disruptive to their nighttime sleep.)
If you want to learn everything I know about babies under 16 weeks, check out The Newborn Sleep Program. This program can help set up your newborn (and you) for the best possible sleep! And if your baby is older than 16 weeks old, and you’re looking for affordable, hands-on sleep training support, check out my online training series: The Baby Sleep Trainer Program + Support. Use the code DFbaby for 10% off either program.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]