The Mysterious Dream Feeding

Let’s Talk About Dream Feeding

Dream feeding is a great way for parents to get a nice long stretch at night before baby wakes up to be fed again. In this article we’ll answer some of the more common questions about dream feeding.

What is Dream Feeding?

Dream feeding is basically feeding your sleeping baby. You pick them up to nurse or bottle feed without waking them up. This is done to “fill their tank” before you go to bed in the hopes baby will sleep for another 3-4 hours before waking up.

When Can You Start Dream Feeding?

It’s recommended to start dream feeds when baby is around 4 weeks old but you can introduce it at anytime. However newborns wake so frequently you won’t get the benefits of a dream feed until baby can sleep longer stretches, roughly 3-4 hours.

How To Do a Dream Feed?

There are two ways to do a dream feed; use the rooting reflex or baby’s lower lip. To activate the rooting reflex, gently touch your breast or bottle to baby’s cheek. This makes them automatically turn their head to look for the nipple. If that doesn’t work, try placing your breast/bottle on baby’s lower lip and baby should latch on instinctively.

If baby is sleeping too deeply to latch, either try again in about 15 minutes as baby comes to the lighter part of their sleep cycle, or gentle rouse to the surface of sleep.

If baby wakes up during a dream feed that’s just fine. Continue feeding then put baby back down to sleep.

How Long to Dream Feed?

Once baby is latched, try to get in a full feed before putting them back down in their sleep space. When baby unlatches and turns her head, you’ll know baby’s full but offer the second side anyways. Bottle-fed babies will usually slow down drinking or stop sucking completely when they’re full.

When To Stop the Dream Feed?

You can continue to dream feed for as long as it’s working for you. However usually babies no longer need it around 6-9 months of age when they can go even longer stretches without feeding. However waking at night to feed is still normal until about 12-18 months. And even toddlers wake up at least once at night well into childhood. If you stop dream feeding and baby wakes up more often to feed then go ahead and reintroduce the dream feed as that’s a sign baby might still want it.

When Should I Dream Feed?

To get the most benefit out of a dream feed, offer it right before you plan to go to bed. That way baby’s stretch of sleep after the feed lines up with you sleeping. But generally speaking, between 9pm and midnight is a good idea.

Again, like every strategy in the baby sleep world, the dream feed might not work for you. The only way you’ll know is to try.

Happy parenting!