What Is A Dream Feed? The Magical Trick To More Sleep!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 10/22/21 •  8 min read

So, if it’s your dream to have your baby sleep through the night, you’ve probably done hours of research figuring out how you can help baby along… Right?

Well, maybe you’ve heard the magical promises of what a ‘dream feed’ can do from a friend, in one of the many sleep training articles you’ve read, or at your local parenting group… 

But, wherever you were first introduced to this commonly used sleep strategy, I bet you still have some questions!

And I’m glad you’re curious!

As I’m excited to help you FULLY understand dream feeding and how filling up your little one’s tummy before their longest stretch of sleep WILL help everyone get MORE SLEEP!

What Is A Dream Feed And Why Is It Important?

A dream feed is when you feed your baby in the late evening, just before you go to bed and will involve you gently stirring your baby to wake for a feed rather than waiting for them to fully wake for a feed in their own time. 

Parents often do this in order to get a longer period of sleep before their baby wakes for the next feed and for many, it is extremely effective!

After all, who doesn’t want MORE sleep?!

So what time should you be dream feeding at?

What Time Should You Dream Feed Baby At?

Most dream feeds occur around 10pm.

As I mentioned above, a dream feed is taken just before you go to bed to ensure baby sleeps for a full 4-5 hours before their next feed.

If you are going to dream feed your baby, your evening and nighttime feeding schedule will look something like this:

Time Of DayRoutine
6.30pmBedtime feed!
7pmSettle baby to sleep
10pmGently wake baby for dream feeding
10.30pmYour bedtime!
3amBaby wakes for a feed
3.30amBoth baby and you go back to sleep
7.30amBaby wakes to be fed!

Is Dream Feeding Safe?

Dream feeding is perfectly safe as long as it is given while you are holding your baby correctly and that they have been sufficiently aroused to suck enthusiastically.

Never feed your baby in their crib or when they are lying on their back.

At What Age Can You Dream Feed Baby?

You can begin to dream feed when baby is 3 months old.

A newborn baby should NOT be dream fed yet, as it is very important that they feed every 3-4 hours to regain their birth weight and to keep your milk production constant.

Dream feeding can be of huge benefit to maximise nighttime sleep for both you and your baby and some parents use this trick until baby is 9 months of age. 

Having said this, many babies will not need to dream feed from 6 months onwards as they will begin to sleep through the night more regularly.

So with this in mind, what signs do we need to look out for that tell us baby is able to be dream fed?

4 Subtle Signs That Your Baby Can Begin To Dream Feed

Here are 4 signs that your baby (3 months+) is able to begin dream feeding if you wish to do so:

  1. They have an established bedtime routine and bedtime.
  2. They can go for 4-5 hours between feeds.
  3. They are gaining weight well.
  4. They are able to settle back to sleep after being fed easily.

How Do You Wake Your Baby For A Dream Feed?

Sleep is so precious in the early months that it can be quite daunting to wake your baby when they are sleeping peacefully… 

However, getting dream feeding right can gain you an extra precious hour of sleep when you need it most.

So, how do you wake your baby successfully for a dream feed if they are reluctant wakers?

How Much Do You Feed Baby During A Dream Feed?

You don’t need to worry about how much your baby takes at a dream feed. 

Think of it as a late-night snack rather than a full feed!

However, every baby is different so some may even take a full feed at this point. 

My advice… Let your baby take the lead. 

Any milk that you can get them to take at this point will go towards helping them to sleep for longer during the night.

Can You Dream Feed When Baby Is Bottle-Fed?

The good news is that babies can be dream fed regardless of whether they are on the bottle or breast.

In fact, for breastfeeding mothers expressing some milk and getting your partner to do the dream feed is a great way for you to have a little break from feeding and have an early night whilst your partner experiences the wonderful bonding moment of feeding baby.

Do You Burp Baby After A Dream Feed?

The simple answer is YES.

You should burp your baby after dream feeding just as you would after any other night feed. 

Of course, you will know your baby and what they can manage with regards to night time burping.

Some babies will burp after every feed… 

Some babies need a bit of persuasion…

And some little ones won’t burp at all!

If you’d like to learn more about burping baby, take a look at my posts Baby Won’t Burp and Do Babies Need To Burp After Breastfeeding for more information on how to manage night time burping.

4 Pros Of Dream Feeding Baby

It is important to remember that you may need to try dream feeding a few times before you get the hang of it, but when you do, there are 3 amazing positives to introducing a dream feed:

  1. It extends both you and your baby’s night time sleep.
  2. It allows your partner to give the dream feed.
  3. Following on from above, dream feeds can give you an early night.
  4. Dream feeds also help train your baby to sleep longer at night.

3 Cons Of Dream Feeding Baby

Of course, dream feeding will not be for everyone and not all babies or parents will take to ‘messing around’ with their feeding schedule. 

Some cons of dream feeding can be:

  1. It can be difficult to wean your baby off the dream feed.
  2. If your baby suffers from reflux they may not tolerate a dream feed and will be better off being left to wake when they have an empty tummy. Read my post about Colic and Reflux to learn more about how to handle and soothe a baby with reflux.
  3. Some babies may struggle to go back to sleep after a feed (which defeats the whole point of dream feeding!)

When And How To Drop The Dream Feed

You can consider dropping the feed once your baby is regularly sleeping through the night from the dream feed right through till their morning feed at around 6.30-7am.

You may be happy to continue to dream feed for a while but when you are ready to wean baby off a dream feed, you should:

Whatever you decide, your baby should be ready to drop the dream feed once they are having 3 regular meals a day.

Deciding to dream feed and deciding when to drop the feed is, ultimately, a very personal decision. 

It is NOT a must-do for every family, but for many parents, it works brilliantly and is a lifesaver.

When To Consult A Doctor

It is important that your baby has established a healthy weight gain before you introduce a dream feed. 

Until this point, your baby will need regular feeds and should not be sleeping for longer than 4 hours between feeds.

Generally, you do not need to consult a doctor before you try dream feeding. 

However, if you need that little extra assurance then by all means chat to a medical professional before you decide to try dream feeding.

Baby Feeding Further Reading

Here are some articles I highly recommend reading to better understand how best to feed baby:

And of course, if you have any further questions about dream feeding or feeding baby in general, please drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know. 

I love to hear from you and I’m always happy to help!

Also, if you’re looking for products for your little one and you’re not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox.

It is full of all my favourite products which I’ve ensured are all non-toxic, eco-friendly, sustainable and, of course, they’re all baby proof!

So until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.