Should You Dream Feed?

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Dream FeedSince some babies won’t sleep through the night without a feeding until some time after 9 months or longer, some parents swear by something called a “dream feed”, where you feed your baby while he or she is still asleep, before you go off to bed. Some parents breastfeed and others can give a bottle without even picking up the baby. The theory is that you will get a longer stretch of sleep, yourself. The question is, will this work and should you do it?

For some people, a dream feed will be a Godsend. This is how it works: Baby goes to sleep around 7 p.m., you dream feed (feed the baby when he is asleep) around 10 p.m. before you go to bed, and baby might sleep until 4 or 6 a.m. or later, giving you a glorious 6 to 8 hours of sleep straight. Go to bed early and have your partner/spouse give the dream feed and you can get even more sleep! When it works, a dream feed is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, they don’t always work.

As I explained how we sleep at 4 months old, the first part of the night is the deepest sleep of the night for all babies and children over 4 months (approximately). Therefore, it might be very difficult to rouse your baby enough to feed any old time you want to. Some babies will awaken just enough to eat and stay asleep, but others might not wake up enough and others will wake up too much and be somewhat cranky that you woke them up (especially if they aren’t hungry!). Another way sometimes a dream feed doesn’t work is that even if you can successfully feed your baby, even when she didn’t ask for a feeding, is that she might also wake up at 2 a.m. (or whenever) anyway. Some babies also tend to wake up more frequently after waking up the first time of the night.

I generally don’t recommend dream feeds as a solution. Of course, I personally am not against dream feeding, philosophically (some people believe it goes against the idea of demand-feeding and is not respecting the baby to force a meal on him), and I don’t think it hurts to try it (though it might take a week or two to get back to where you were if things go crazy), but, in general, I think they can be problematic. Dream feeds can make a night-waking habit that otherwise might not be there and it is difficult to know just when to stop dream feeding and your baby is fully capable of sleeping all night without that feed. After all, some babies start sleeping all the way through the night as early as 3 or 4 months. Given how hard it was to get my son to sleep, I generally would not risk waking him up just for my sake. I did try it exactly one time, he was too sleepy to eat, and I felt guilty for even trying, so I didn’t try it again. LOL

Of course, I know all too well how difficult it is to wake up to feed a baby once or twice a night for months on-end, so I certainly know why people do it. Even waking just once when you reach the 7th, 8th, or 9th month, is downright brutal. That, to me, is just part of having a new baby and something I just had to live with (even beyond 9 months for my boys). Their tummies are small and as I always say, there are many adults that can’t go 11-12 hours without a feeding, so I am not sure why we expect our babies to. Instead, I typically recommend, night-weaning down to just two night breast feedings or zero to one formula/bottle feeding around 6 months old and one breast feeding or no bottle feedings by 9-12 months old, if baby hasn’t done it on their own by then.

Did you dream feed? Did it work for you? If so, share your tips

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37 Responses to Should You Dream Feed?

  1. Wendy says:

    Hi Nicole,
    The dream feed seemed to work with my first child, but my second child who is now 11 weeks old wakes up all the time regardless if we fed him at 10. Now he is actually waking himself up before 10 and he seems hungry so we feed him. I guess it might work for some babies, but now for my 11 week old, he wakes almost every hour sometimes or every 2-3 hours at night. We have stopped the dream feed for the last week now.

  2. Aruni says:

    I am certainly guilty of dream feeding…mostly our son because he seemed to wake up more often. I would occasionally due it with my daughter. However, often when I was breastfeeding both of my babies would fall asleep half way through. :-)

    Arunis last blog post..Liz Carpenter on Success

  3. Nicole says:

    @Wendy Just goes to show all babies are indeed different! Thanks for sharing.

    @Aruni No need to feed “guilty”. :D If it works, it works!

  4. Gina says:

    I am a huge advocate of the dream-feed! I didn’t even know that it didn’t work for some babies! I tell everyone about the dream-feed hoping they too can have their babies sleeping completely through the night by 4 months.

    In my case I had to dream-feed both my boys because they go to bed at 5pm and do not wake up until 7am. My oldest one slept from 5-7 from 4 months to 16 months. For being so little I needed to feed them some how. After 12 months I stopped the dream-feed and my oldest still slept that long, my little one is still 9 months…

  5. Emma says:

    I tried the dream-feed, but it was a disaster. My daughter is 4 months old. She was sleeping from 9pm to 5am (continuously, without waking up). Then she would have a feed at 5am and sleep again until 8:30 am. That was fine for us, but a friend of mine told me about the dream-feed so I decided to try it (it sounded so good).

    I followed the recomendation: put the baby to bed at 7pm, give the dream-feed at 11pm, and feed again at 7am. Well, my daughter started sleeping worse! I would give her the dream-feed at 11pm, and at 3am she would wake up… I would make her sleep again using a dummy, but at 4am she would wake up again…. And the same at 5am and 6am… This happened for several days, until I gave up and went back to our old routine. Now she is sleeping well, without interruptions. My impression is that the dream-feed was actually disrupting her sleep cycle. This is why she was waking up so many times during the night.

    Anyway, it didn’t work for her. I think the dream-feed doesn’t work for all babies. It might be a difference in sleep cycles.

  6. Nicole says:

    @Gina Thanks for sharing your story. I have heard many times how it’s a God-send for many families. I’m glad it worked for you!

  7. Nicole says:

    @Emma Having my second child, I think it’s also the baby’s ability to slip back into sleep mode and how they sleep. My 2nd son can be playing super happy and hard and then sleep soundly 5 minutes later. My first needs 30+ minutes of down time before he can really slip into sleep mode, so disruptions for him are just that much “bigger”. I agree with you that the dream feed works great for some and not others just because of their uniqueness. Thanks for commenting!

  8. wasen says:

    Hi all

    I tried the dream feed over a week and I had the same result as Emma above wrote!
    Think it disrupted his sleep and now I’m stuck! How long will it take to get back to his past sleep cycle?

  9. Nicole says:

    @wasen Some people do get stuck for quite awhile, but I think on average it takes about a week or two. Good luck!

  10. Meghan says:

    I was just recommended to dream sleep by a friend. I’m going to try it, my 3 month old wakes up every 2-3 hours during the night. I’m hoping dreamfeeding may elongate her sleep so that I can get some rest, I’ll let you know how it goes!

  11. Nicole says:

    @Meghan Let us know how it goes! Good luck!

  12. Claire says:

    I am doing dream feeding slightly differently and it seems to be working. My 6 week old daughter began to wake at 4 every morning and it was taking me 2 hours to get her back down.

    Instead of making the last feed before bed a dream feed, i am getting up quickly as soon as i hear her stir at around 4am and giving her a dream feed. It means that instead of a 2 hour ordeal, its only taking me 25 minutes or so and i can get back to bed quickly.

  13. Jason says:

    Here’s one for the masses. My wife and I have a 13month old daughter who will only take a bottle when sleeping period. She will only pick at solids and will not take a bottle awake at all. Milk in a sippy no way put water in yes. A doctor told us only feed her when she’s awake.4 day’s 6oz a day and a fight to get that. has anyone heard of this.

  14. Nicole says:

    @Claire Sounds like it’s working for you. That’s great! Good luck!

  15. Nicole says:

    @Jason I have heard other parents with this particular issue before. I don’t think it will be as simple as not feeding her except at daytime. That sounds like it will be a lot of tears at night!! I would try something more gradual, but would try to get her more on milk during the day (in a sippie). Good luck!

  16. lisha says:

    Hi,
    I did dream feed with my eldest who is now 4 yrs and she used to sleep through the night from when she was 4 months old. I gradually stopped it around 7 months when she had established solids. My second one who is now 5 months old, doesn’t drink much milk during the day or night. She seems to be in deep sleep for her dream feed at 10Pm and drinks little. . She now sleeps through the night. However when I tried to stop the dream feed, she would wake up at erratic times during the night hungry. So I guess for my kids they seem to help.

  17. Nicole says:

    @Lisha Thank you for sharing your dream-feed story! All kids are truly different. :)

  18. Christine says:

    Hi my baby slept ‘through the night’ from birth from 11.30 – 5.30 ish We used to keep him downstairs with him feeding on demand and cuddling etc i didn’t really notice how often he slept. Went to bed around 11 -12 fed and then he would sleep for 5-6hrs straight through. Then around 3 weeks he became colicky it was a nightmare from 6.30-10pm with him getting grumpy at 4.30. He is a lovely baby in the day. I decided to do a relaxing routine around his worst colic time, bath, massage feed etc and this cured the colic. Only problem is now he sleeps from 7.30ish – 1am and once he wakes he has a feed ( sometimes very frantic which can be upsetting) he then doesn’t settle well at all and wakes every 1 1/2 -2hrs. It’s a bit like his colic hs moved to the nighttime I can hear him struggling with wind 9 altough I spend much more time trying to wind him than he feeds). It’s like he’s having his deep sleep early and then light sleep when we want our deep sleep! I tried a ‘dream feed’ at 11pm ( as this is close to when he previosly got a feed) this didn’t make any difference. I am considering going back to keeping him with us in the evening rather than putting him to bed but I suspect he’ll just sleep (that had started to happen around 9pm previous to us starting the bath thing) and I’m afraid his colic will return. Shall I try to do his bath routine later so he gets his 5 hrs later? Or shall I try dream feeding again? Or shall I just get on with being woken every 2 hours. He is 5 1/2 weeks old and his sleeping at night is getting worse! He sleeps tonnes in the morning I don’t want to impose heavy routines on him in the day but I can’t believe he used to sleep through and now doesn’t! Evil child LOL Any advise? I’m getting so little sleep I am becoming physically wobbly in the day!

  19. Mike says:

    Are you a doctor? If not, why would anyone care what you recommend (or not) as a solution to their child’s sleeping habits?

  20. Nicole says:

    @Mike No, I am not a doctor and don’t pretend to be. People care about what I recommend or not because I am a mom who has gone through a lot sleep-wise and can give practical and realistic advice. Most doctors tend to have a “Do it my way or you will fail.” mentality and one way doesn’t work for all kids. I have now helped countless parents overcome very difficult obstacles even when their doctor wasn’t able to help them. Helping other parents has given me a wealth of knowledge and experience with a wide range of personality types that you can’t read in a book or get from a doctor in your 15-minute well-baby visit. You can read parent stories here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/testimonials Good luck in your sleep journey (if you have one) and thanks for commenting!

  21. Ali says:

    I have been dreamfeeding my son since he was 2 weeks old. He is now three months. He is still waking up at 1 to 2 times a night to eat and its always at different times. Should I try skipping the dream feed and seeing if he sleeps better?

  22. Sally says:

    thanks for this article about dream feed – now i have a question. How do you correct it if you started the problem? should i let him cry through the old dream feed, since apparently it wasn’t a “necessary” feeding anyway?

    we tried the dream feed for about a week with our 4 mo old son, who goes to bed at 6pm. I would wake him at 9:30pm for a dream feed, reasoning that would get us about 6 hours of continuous sleep from 9:30p on. (the longest he has ever gone is 6 hours). but, that’s not the case – instead he would wake after only 4 hours or less and then every 2 to 3 hours after that. I’ve stopped dream feeding, but he seems stuck in the 9:30pm wake up – crying for a feeding now. So now i have even more feedings in the night. What’s the best way to eliminate this wake up (that i caused!) Should i let him cry through this feeding in order to eliminate it?
    Thank you for your help!

  23. Kimberly says:

    Hi Sally,
    Cry it out is a personal choice but a hungry baby cries a lot more than if it’s an issue of self-soothing. You might look at doing a slower night weaning plan. Nicole covers this in her book (www.babysleepswell.com) or you might consider contacting her for some sleep consultation services.

  24. Jonathan says:

    my baby son is about a week old have been waking up every 2 hours to feed
    A. is this normal and
    B. do you think dream feeding will help.
    At the moment i dont really mind the every 2 hours but when i go back to work this will leave a lot of strain on my wife.
    thanks for your help

  25. Kimberly says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    Newborn definitely need to feed on demand for about the first 3-4 months. At this age, dream feeding won’t really make much difference since he’s still to young to have any kind of schedule or pattern down for his eating and sleeping. As an infant, he’s still sorting just being out in the world. We don’t really recommend much in the way of sleep training or working extending their sleep until they are at least 4 months old.

  26. Shannon says:

    My 3rd son is 4.5 months old. We have used the dream feed with all of our children and with our first two it worked great. By this point my older two would have their dream feed around 11pm (provided by my husband) and then sleep until 7-7:30 in the morning. Our 3rd child however isn’t on board with this plan. He has his dream feed and then will wake anytime from 2:30am – 5:30am to eat again and then sleep until morning. There is no rhyme or reason to when he wakes and his disorganization is making it difficult to maintain an eating schedule for him in the daytime (if he eats later he’s not hungry in the morning). We tested dropping the dream feed this past week and at first it looked great – only waking 1x to eat overnight, but by mid-week he was waking at least twice between midnight and morning. If he needs to eat twice I’d rather my husband keep feeding him before bedtime and then I take the middle of the night waking. Any idea what would be causing the random overnight eating pattern post dream feed (going 3.5 hours one night and then 6.5 the next)? Also, on a separate issue, any suggests for weaning baby from the swing? He has reflux and we got into a pattern of sleeping 1/2 the night and each nap in his swing early on and now we’re stuck.

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  28. Casey says:

    My son is almost 7 months and I dream feed him and it works great. He would get a bottle at 7-8 pm and go to sleep at 8:30-9pm, his dad or me would get up and feed him at 12-1am and he would continue to sleep throughout the night until 6:30 am and would want another bottle. Then he would play for an hour or so and then fall asleep once again for another hour or two.

  29. Alyssa says:

    My baby, thank goodness, sleeps for 6 or more hrs. a night (from 7pm to anywhere from 1-3am) and goes right back to sleep. Unfortunately, he then wakes at 4:30 or 5am bright-eyed and ready for the day – way too early for mom and pop. Could dream feeding fix this?

  30. Melanie says:

    I have an 11 week old who was sleeping fine (waking up just once a night and around 6:30-7 in the morning) but I thought I would just try the dream feeding just for fun. I guess I thought it might somehow help him sleep the entire night through. I’ve done it for 3 nights now and he hasn’t slept better. Actually, he’s waking up more often and earlier in the morning. Also, he’s been really cranky during the day–he was never like that before I tried dream feeding. I wonder if it’s related. After reading people’s comments, I think I’ll just stop and hope he goes back to his old routine and his happy self. I kind of wish I wouldn’t have tried it because he was doing just fine before.

  31. Simon says:

    As a rough guide how much you can take your baby probably will be during the day by taking an average of 70 g a formula for every 450 g of weight of your baby. For example, babies 4500 g heavy will eat about 700 g formula for 24 hours. Keep in mind that this will not apply to smaller babies, premature babies or babies over 6 months of age.
    It is also important to remember that all babies are different, some have a greater appetite than others bearing in mind that your baby is still physically progressing and if your pediatrician is satisfied with his / her progress, then why you do not have to worry about.
    You will notice that generally baby taking less milk you do not feel good, and more milk when you grow faster (this typically occurs between 2.3. and 6 weeks and 3 and 6 months of age), and this is completely normal.

  32. Laura says:

    How do you burp your baby after a dream feed?

  33. Debbye says:

    Hi Laura,
    You can gently burp your baby without too much stimulation by laying her on her side, and rubbing her back instead of patting, or gently laying her on her stomach with pressure on her belly and rub gently.

  34. Meg says:

    Hi, my baby is 7 weeks old and was going for 9-4 then feed and back to bed till 7:30/8 but some one said to try getting him down earlier and he will sleep better but now he goes 8-2 awake for an hour then till 6!! Was my routine better for him? How do I get him in a better routine? I don’t really want to dream feed…
    Thanks

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