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How to properly dream feed your baby to help them sleep for longer stretches at night.

No one could’ve prepared me for the amount of exhaustion that comes along with having a newborn. 

At times we’d be up every 45 minutes throughout the night until she finally exhausted herself and slept for 3 hours. 

Lack of sleep can set you up for a crappy day and amplify small issues by 1000! 

So when your husband leaves his dirty clothes beside the basket even though you’ve asked him several hundred times to put them in the basket, you have no patience and flip out. 

Your baby can feel that negative energy so we’ve gotta get you more sleep!

Breastfeeding at night is already difficult enough when you’re trying to stay awake without rocking yourself to sleep. 

Here’s a mom hack that will allow you to get a few more crucial hours of shut-eye. 

What is a dream feed 

Before having a baby I’d never heard of a dream feed. I stumbled upon the idea scrolling through Pinterest searching for safe ways to get your baby to sleep longer. 

I was working on being more consistent with a bedtime routine so she would know it’s time to wind down, but I still felt like I could do even more to help us sleep better. 

As I’m scrolling down Pinterest like a madwoman I see something about a dream feed. It piqued my curiosity so I decided to check it out.

A dream feed is when you gently wake up your baby enough to eat without fully waking them up. 

Hence the name dream feed because they’re still sleepy and in dreamland. It’s like waking up for a 2 am snack. 

You walk to the kitchen with one eye open praying you don’t stub your pinky toe on the couch. 

You devour your leftover sushi roll and climb back into bed. And when you wake up in the morning you may not even remember you got out of bed! 

It seems like part of your dream because you weren’t fully awake. 

This is exactly how the dream feed will work for your baby. Except they have the added luxury of you bringing the food to them. 

When to start a dream feed

When your baby is around 2 months is the optimal time to start adding in a dream feed. 

By this time your baby’s tummy has gotten bigger and they may be more developmentally ready for longer periods of sleep. 

The trick for longer sleep is doing a dream feed before you go to bed. 

If you put your baby to sleep at 8 and you want to stay up until 10, that’s when you would do a dream feed. 

Anywhere between 10 pm and midnight is a great time to add in a dream feed. 

Benefits of a dream feed

When a dream feed is done properly it’s a safe and effective way for you to squeeze in a few extra hours of precious sleep. 

Dream feeds are great because they:

  • Reduce the amount of times your baby wakes up
  • Help you be proactive about your baby’s needs by feeding them before they cry
  • Give your baby extra nutrition 
  • Decrease engorgement

Risks of dream feeds

Some sleep experts say that dream feeds are dangerous because your baby could choke if they are still too sleepy. 

Since you will know how to safely do a dream feed this shouldn’t be an issue since babies don’t need to be fully awake to eat (just like anyone else). 

Another issue is that your baby could love the dream feed so much they wake up more often to eat which defeats the purpose.

You are interrupting their natural sleep cycle and if that happens dream feeding may not be a good option for your baby. 

How to do a dream feed 

Doing a dream feed is very simple which is why so many parents love it. 

Rouse your baby without fully waking them

You want to gently pick up your baby and get them in an eating position. 

Never feed your baby lying flat

Have their head slightly elevated to minimize their risk of choking. 

Let them know it’s time to eat

Rub your nipple (or the bottle nipple) against your baby’s cheek near the corner of their mouth so they know it’s time to latch. 

You can also put a few drops of milk on their lips so they will taste the milk and open their mouth to eat. 

If you can’t get your baby to eat try:

  • Rubbing a cool wipe along their hairline 
  • Rubbing the bottom of their feet 
  • Lying them back down and trying again later

You don’t want to risk your baby choking from still being too sleepy or fully waking them up and not being able to get them back to sleep so it’s safer to try again later. 

Fill up the tank

Let your baby eat until they are full. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby so fill ‘er up!

Offer both sides to make sure your little one goes to sleep with a full tummy. 

Burp your baby

Anytime you feed a baby you want to make sure you burp them and get that excess air out of their little belly. 

If your baby doesn’t burp don’t panic! She may have not taken in much air which is good. 

Back to sleep 

When your baby is full and burped, put them back to sleep like you normally would. 

Whether that’s rocking your baby or just lying them in their crib.

How to stop dream feeding

If you notice your baby is waking up out of habit or they seem ready to sleep through the night, it’s time to wean the dream feed. 

We stopped dream feeding around 8 months when my daughter began sleeping through the night. 

A few ways to eliminate the dream feed are by:

  • Moving it closer and closer to bedtime 
  • Stop breastfeeding a few minutes sooner each night
  • Make bottles one ounce less each night 

Swaddle or unswaddle?

To keep your baby drowsy it’s best to leave them swaddled. Trying to unswaddle your baby can fully wake them up which you don’t want! 

If the swaddle is making them too sleepy to eat you can gently unswaddle your baby and reapply the swaddle after the dream feed. 

My baby is fully awake…help!

No worries mama! 

Here are a few ways to get your baby back to sleep: 

  • Dim lights
  • White noise 
  • Be calm
  • Swaddle
  • Rocking 

Keep the environment dark and calming so your baby will know it’s still nighttime. 

Famous last words…

Dream feeds don’t work for every baby. 

Try it for at least a week before deciding it’s not the right option for you and your baby. 

Nighttime waking is normal, but dream feeding will help mama not be as exhausted. 

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