Dream Feeding Baby: How To Get More Sleep With A Newborn
6 minute read
Sleepless nights…Days that blend together. After enduring a few weeks of disrupted sleep, you may be wondering what you can do to get more quality ZZZ’s with a newborn.
The most common reason babies wake up in the middle of the night? A hungry tummy!
But there’s a magical trick called the “dream feed” that will help “top off” your little one’s tank so that they don’t wake up in the middle of the night. Apart from creating a safe sleep environment, giving your baby a dream feed is the KEY to helping you and your little one get a little more shut eye at night.
Let’s take a look at why dream feeding baby may be the perfect solution to helping your whole family to sleep more soundly.
How Dream Feeding Baby Helps You Get More Quality Sleep
Each baby has a different sleep pattern. But some will start to sleep “through the night” — usually for 5–6 hours at a time— by 3–4 months of age. Sleeping longer stretches at night is a huge milestone for your baby!
But the challenge is…your baby will most likely sleep their longest stretch at the beginning of the night. This can be problematic if their last feeding of the night doesn’t align with when you want to go to bed…
Let me give you an example.
If your baby’s last feeding is at 7 p.m. and they are as snug as a bug in a rug by 7:45 p.m… This could mean that they’re asleep from 7:45 p.m. to 1 a.m. (if they sleep for 6 hours). Woohoo! Your baby slept for 6 hours!
But…If your normal bedtime is around 11 p.m… That means you have to be awake again 2 hours later! Not ideal if you’re wanting to get a good stretch of quality sleep at night.
The key to more quality sleep with a newborn? Align your baby’s sleep schedule with your sleep schedule.
But how do you do this? Let me introduce you to the dream feed.
What Is Dream Feeding Baby?
Babies that go to sleep between 6-8 p.m. usually wake up in the middle of the night with a hungry tummy! A dream feed can help shift your baby’s schedule so that you both get quality sleep at night.
And it’s really simple! A dream feeding is simply the final feeding your little one will get that day. It typically happens between 9 — 11 p.m. Or around 2-3 hours after their last feeding.
So now, let’s take a look at how your baby’s schedule shifts if you add a dream feed after their last feeding from the schedule we looked at earlier.
Sample Baby Dream Feeding Schedule:
7 p.m. Evening feeding
7:30 p.m. Evening routine, bath, etc.
7:45 p.m. Down for bed
10:15 p.m. Dream feed
10:35 p.m. Back to bed
4:30 a.m. Night-time feeding
See! Now your baby’s 6-hour stretch at night is from 10:35 p.m. — 4:30 a.m.! This means that you and your baby both get a nice long stretch of sleep through most of the night. I told you the dream feed was magical!
Now you probably have tons of questions. When can you start offering a dream feed? Will it work? Is a dream feed a good idea?
For some people, a dream feed will be a Godsend. For others, it may not be a good fit. Let’s explore further!
At What Age Do You Begin Dream Feeding Baby?
There really is no “right” time to start a dream feed for your baby. Once your baby starts showing signs that he can sleep for longer stretches without needing a feeding every 3 hours, then you could give dream feeding a try.
Around 6 weeks of age is a great time to add a dream feed to your baby’s routine. But a lot of parents start a dream feed around 2-3 months old.
Babies won’t need a dream feed forever. By the time your baby is sleeping longer stretches at night on their own— usually 10-12 hours — they won’t need a dream feed. Some babies will keep this feeding until they are 6 months old…others will want it up until their first birthday.
How to Offer A Dream Feed To Your Baby
Ready to give it a shot? It’s super easy and I’ll walk you through it!
The ultimate goal is to provide one more feeding before you go to bed. So around 2-3 hours after their last feeding…
Step 1: Gently wake your baby by taking them out of their crib/bassinet.
Step 2: Offer another feeding by placing your nipple or the bottle on your baby’s lower lip.
Step 3: Encourage nursing for 5-10 minutes on each side.
Step 4: Burp your baby.
Step 5: Lay them back down to sleep.
The key is to keep the lights low and the stimulation to a minimum.
If your baby needs a diaper change — then do it right before you feed them! If they usually eat better when they’re unswaddled, then remove the swaddle. You know your baby best!
Pro Tips if Your Baby Won’t Wake: Try changing their diaper, tickling their toes, or using a cold washcloth on their feet to help rouse your little one from their slumber.
Yes! For many babies, the dream feed is just that – a DREAM for parents.
By giving a dream feed around 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep yourself, you will gain precious hours of sleep instead of having to wake up for another nighttime feeding.
Does A Dream Feed Help Your Baby Sleep Longer?
The dream feed won’t actually lengthen how much time your baby sleeps. It simply shifts when they sleep.
But, a dream feed will help your little one get better quality sleep. And it also promotes healthy sleep habits! When your baby eats less during the night they will be hungrier in the morning, which will boost their daytime eating and lead to a healthier night sleep!
If your baby isn’t sleeping for a longer stretch at night, you’ll want to focus on getting your baby on a regular schedule throughout the day. This will help to improve their nighttime sleep.
Is It Safe To Dream Feed Baby?
Offering a dream feed is considered to be a safe practice as long as:
You take your baby out of the crib.
Wake them up enough to eat — your baby shouldn’t be asleep, just drowsy!
Avoid feeding them flat on their back — especially if you’re giving them a bottle.
You do not fall asleep while holding them.
As long as you keep the room nice and dark and quiet…Your baby should be able to fall back asleep fairly quickly after their “midnight snack!”
Is a Dream Feed Right For Your Baby?
A dream feed can be a great solution for many families. But it may not be the right solution for all.
So how do you know if it’s right for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a dream feed:
Pros of a Dream Feed:
Encourages a longer stretch of sleep in the middle of the night (instead of early in the night).
Will help you and your partner to get more sleep and feel more rested.
Helps protect your milk supply.
Helps your baby to get more calories.
Promotes a more predictable schedule for you and your baby.
Cons of a Dream Feed:
Your baby may not wake up enough to eat well.
Your baby may wake up fully and need more help going back to sleep.
Your preferred bedtime may not align with the timing of a dream feed.
Adding a dream feed takes planning ahead and a little extra scheduling.
A dream feed may not make a difference for your baby. They may still wake up in the middle of the night.
If you think a dream feed may be right for you, give it a try for 5-7 nights to see if it’s working. Try not to get frustrated after the first night or two, just stick with it for a few days!
But if you find that you’re experiencing more of the “cons” listed above after adding a dream feed, it may not be right for your little one. And that’s ok! There is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping your newborn sleep throughout the night.
Final Thoughts on the Dream Feed
Dream feeding may not work for every baby, but if your little one enjoys getting a midnight snack, this handy trick may be just what the doctor ordered! A dream feed can be the key to your whole family getting more sweet dreams…
Hopefully you now have the tools you need to help your bundle of joy drift off into dreamland!