Have you ever heard the term “dream feed” and wondered exactly what it means? Here’s the scoop on what dream feeds are and aren’t and how to determine if they can help your baby (and you) get a better night’s sleep.
What is a dream feed?
A dream feed is a nighttime feeding that is accomplished while your baby is asleep. A true dream feed is successful if your baby stays asleep throughout the entire feed. If you are waking your baby up to eat, or if your baby wakes up during the feeding, the feeding is not really a true dream feed.
Why would I offer my baby a dream feed?
- Dream feeds can help to extend the amount of time that your baby sleeps. A strategically placed dream feed (typically between 10 and 11 p.m. / before midnight) can prevent your baby from waking up hungry later in the night or in the early a.m. Offering a dream feed before you go to bed can be a great way for both you and your baby to get a nice stretch of uninterrupted sleep at the same time.
- Dream feeds are an excellent tool for parents to use when sleep coaching, especially when the goal is to teach your child to fall asleep and back to sleep without the bottle or breast. Dream feeds allow you to meet your child’s nutritional needs without reinforcing the behavior that you’re trying to eliminate.
- Dream feeds are a tear-free way to reduce and eliminate night feeds because the baby is unaware that less food is being offered.
- If your baby hasn’t eaten well during the day and you’re worried that they might wake up hungry at night, a dream feed can alleviate the concern.
How do I offer a dream feed?
If you breastfeed, gently pick your baby up and offer your breast. If your baby doesn’t latch on right away, give some gentle encouragement by rubbing your nipple across their lips. When your baby is done eating, unlatch and place them carefully back in their crib.
If your baby takes a bottle, you don’t need to take them out of the crib for their feed. Lean over the crib, place the nipple between your baby’s lips, and offer a little encouragement until they start eating.
Should I burp my baby after a dream feed?
Babies tend to be very relaxed during dream feeds. They don’t swallow much air, which means that burping is usually unnecessary.
When are dream feeds NOT helpful?
- Dream feeds aren’t helpful if the process wakes your baby up.
- Dream feeds aren’t helpful if your baby doesn’t eat well during the feed.
- If your baby has sleep associations that cause wake-ups, dream feeds will not extend their sleep.
How do I eliminate a dream feed?
If your baby no longer needs a dream feed you can eliminate it by:
- Gradually reducing the amount of milk or formula you offer at the feed until your baby is only nursing for 3 or 4 minutes or only taking 2 ounces from a bottle. At that point, you can stop offering the feeding, knowing that their body has adjusted to receiving less and fewer calories.
- Gradually offering the dream feed earlier and earlier until the feeding is so close to bedtime that your baby isn’t hungry (Try backing up the feed by 15 minutes every other night or so – 11:00 p.m., 10:45 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and so on.) Because your baby isn’t aware that you’ve been feeding them, they’ll never know that you’ve stopped!