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What Is Dream Feeding Anyway?

Heard the term ‘dream feed’ but unsure of how it could work for you and your little one? This commonly used strategy can be used to encourage fewer night wakings by filling up their tummy just before their longest sleep… helping everyone to have a better night’s rest.

What is a dream feed?

To put it simply, it’s nursing or bottle feeding your baby in the late evening hours, usually around 10-11pm, this can often coincide with when you go to sleep yourself. Follow these simple steps to understand how to dream feed:

Step 1. Rouse the baby.

After your baby has been sleeping for 1-3 hours, you will want to rouse the baby from the cot and lift them from the cot. It is important that they remain drowsy and awake just enough to take a full feed – you do not want to wake them completely.

Top Tips:

  • Keep lights off or very dim.

  • Do not talk or make excessive noise.

  • Use slow and steady movements when lifting your baby from their cot – you want to reduce the chance of your baby waking fully.

Step 2. How much to feed.

How long or how much to feed your baby at this final feed of the night varies. Breastfed babies may need to nurse for just a few minutes (e.g. 5-10 minutes) or half an hour. Bottle-fed babies, like breastfed babies, will require differing amounts, depending on their age, size, and how recently they last ate. Initially, you could try making up their usual feed amount as a guide and see how much they will take from there. However long the feed, don’t forget to take the time to burp your baby as trapped wind could result in more wake ups due to discomfort.

Step 3. Put the baby back to sleep.

After the feed, your goal is to now put your little one back to sleep, without them waking up fully. This can be tricky and may require some practice and patience… but it can be done! Remember to remain slow and steady, as you gently lie your little one back down onto their back.

Top Tip:

If your little one doesn’t like the movement of being laid down onto their back, move them down towards the cot sideways and then gently roll onto the back once they have reached the mattress. This can be particularly helpful with babies, who have a strong startle reflex.

At what age can you dream feed?

Dream feeding can be introduced at any point. Although, some parents prefer to introduce sleep feeding into their baby’s schedule once they have graduated out of the newborn phase allowing feeding to become more established. Dream feeding is most commonly used for babies between 6 weeks and 10 months old. Let’s take a look at the optimal ages to dream nurse or bottle feed.

When is the best time to stop the dream feed?

Babies will not always require a dream feed and the best time to withdraw this feed can depend on a few factors:

  1. The baby’s primary feeding method (i.e. breastfeeding, bottle feeding, combination feeding, and if solids have been introduced)

  2. The overall calorie intake from the day

  3. As a parent, are you ready to drop this feed

  4. Is the baby still waking from true hunger or a has a sleep onset association occurred

  5. Is the dream feed helpful to the baby’s sleep schedule and their ability to sleep longer

Dream feed weaning

Once a family is ready to make the decision to stop dream feeding, they can do this by simply removing the dream feed from their schedule and allow the little one to wake naturally if they are hungry. Another option for the family is to wean the child off their dream feeds by gradually offering less milk each night. For example, parents can gradually lessen the time spent nursing by a minute or two every few days or reduce the formula in the bottle by 1-2 ounces every few days.

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