What is a Dream Feed?

If you have been around here for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard me use the terms “dream feed” or “dream feeds”. While dream feeds are a super common topic of discussion in the baby sleep world, finding information on how and if they really work can be tricky.

 

In this blog, I’m going to be answering three commonly asked questions about dream feeds:

 

What is a dream feed?

 

Do dream feeds work?

 

What do I do if the dream feed doesn’t work?

 

Now scoop up your hungry baby and let’s get into it!

 

 

Mom Doing a Dream Feed With Her Baby | The Peaceful Sleeper

 

 

What is a dream feed?

 

Essentially, a dream feed is when you feed your baby 2-3 hours after they have already fallen asleep for the night. The idea is that they’ll hopefully be still so drowsy during this feeding that they’ll fall right back to sleep when you’re finished.

The goal is to put your baby back down (after the dream feed) around the same time you’re going to bed. This way, you can capitalize on that first, long stretch of your own sleep.

 

Because newborn babies, typically between 0 – 3 months, usually do well with a later bedtime, the dream feed is worth a try. If you normally go to bed super duper late, trying a dream feed could be extremely worth it, since you don’t have to go to bed when your baby does (before the dream feed, that is).

 

When it’s time for the dream feed, I recommend unswaddling your newborn so that you can actually wake them up more to get a good, full feeding. 

 

Pumping and using a bottle can be great for a dream feed so that you know how much breastmilk they actually got.

 

Here’s an Instagram Reel that tells a little more about dream feeds.

 

What Are Dream Feeds Instagram Reel | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch the Instagram Reel about what a Dream Feed is!

 

*Quick tip for the feed!

If you are planning on using formula, give your baby the same amount that you usually would. If you’re nursing, feed as usual or you can try supplementing with formula so that you get in a full meal.

 

What’s the purpose of a dream feed?

 

Parents also implement the dream feed to eliminate the dawn awakening.  A “dawn awakening” is something most babies do and usually happens sometime between 4:00 and 6:00 in the morning.

 

Waking up any time before 6:00 am is considered an early morning waking, and is too early a time to start the day (for babies at ANY age).

 

For more information on what causes early morning wakings and how to manage them, click here for another blog post all about them.

 

 

Do dream feeds work?

 

In my experience consulting with Mamas and navigating dream feeds, I have to be honest in that I don’t typically love them. Whenever I ask other moms, I find that most say that the dream feed does not actually really help that much…for THEM!

 

My advice? Experiment with it and try it out for yourself. If it works for you, awesome! If it doesn’t work for you, that’s pretty common.

 

If you find that you are firmly in the habit of having a dream feed but are not sure if it’s actually helping or not, experiment for about 1 – 4 days. 

 

Try taking away the dream feed and see what happens with your baby’s sleep when you don’t do it. It might totally work great for your baby, or, it might not be actually moving the needle that much.

 

After around four months, I don’t usually find the dream feed to be beneficial. Let me explain the rare exception to this…

 

If your baby goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:30 and you wake them up around 9:30/10:30 (that 3-hour mark I mentioned earlier) for their dream feed and they DON’T need a dawn feeding and they are able to sleep until 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, awesome. KEEP IT UP!

 

However, if they are still having a dawn feeding AND the dream feed, it’s probably not really helping that much.

 

Mom Doing a Dream Feed | The Peaceful Sleeper

 

 

What do I do if the dream feed doesn’t work?

 

If having a dream feed doesn’t seem to do the trick for your newborn, don’t stress. As I mentioned early, it’s more common than not. That said, I definitely still think it’s worth a shot!

 

You’ll know that the dream feed isn’t “working” if, after a few weeks of trying, it isn’t offsetting any other awakenings. In this case, just drop it. 

 

If the dream feed isn’t working for your baby but you still want to capitalize on what is usually their longest stretch of sleep at night, let it go and just try getting yourself to bed around the same time as your newborn.

 

Remember, ALL babies are different! What works for one baby doesn’t always work for another and vice versa. Newborn sleep can be all over the place…they are brand new to this world! Try not to stress too much, and know that the goal right now is to prevent overtiredness and get food, full feedings. 

 

If you want more help navigating your newborn’s sleep, check out my FREE Newborn Sleep Guide! Designed to help you feel more comfortable and confident in helping your new baby get the sleep they need, the guide covers the following topics:

 

  • How to ensure full feedings
  • Orienting day and night
  • “Spoiling” your newborn (and why you shouldn’t worry about it)
  • Swaddling safely and effectively
  • Keeping awake times short
  • Starting the morning off right
  • Sleep learning at 4-5 months

 

And, if you’re really looking to lay the foundation for great sleep, check out our 0-4 Months Course. It’s seriously GOLD!

 

Mother Breastfeeding For a Dream Feed | The Peaceful Sleeper

 

 

Recap on Dream Feeds

 

Many new parents hear the term “dream feed” and aren’t exactly sure what it is, how to implement it, and how to know whether or not it’s working for their new baby. There’s no need to stress about it!

 

Dream feeds are one of those things that work great for some, not so great for others, and are in no way a necessity for your newborn to get the good sleep that they need.

 

Remember, a dream feed is when you feed your baby 2-3 hours after they have already fallen asleep for the night. The idea is that they’ll hopefully be still so drowsy during this feeding that they’ll fall right back to sleep when you’re finished. The goal is to put your baby back down around the same time you’re going to bed. This way, you can capitalize on that first, long stretch of your own sleep.

 

Try it for yourself and see if it’s something that works for you!

 

Know that you do NOT have to figure this out on your own! Having a sleep expert in your corner who you can trust to help support you and navigate YOUR baby’s sleep with is incredible.  I have a team of amazing consultants who can and will be there for you every step of the way!

Chrissy Lawler

Chrissy Lawler

LMFT, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Hi! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing for over 13 years.  I’ve set out to do ALL of the research and I created a method to optimize baby sleep that is tuned in, empowering and WORKS. There absolutely should be joy in motherhood, and I have learned that every baby CAN get better sleep!

Read more about my team here.

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