THE DREAM FEED: IS IT FOR US?
WHAT IS A DREAM FEED, AND IS IT FOR ME?
A dream feed is where you would feed your baby while they are still asleep, right before you go to bed yourself. The idea is typically that you ‘top them up’ before you go to bed, in order for them to achieve a lengthier sleep, and thus you too achieve this too! However, the question for you is ‘Should you do a dream feed?’.
HOW DO I DO A DREAM FEED?
If your baby is settling down to bed around 6/7pm, you would look at dream feeding them around 10/11pm, while they are still asleep, right before you go to bed. Babies can tend to be leaving a deeper stage of sleep around this time of the evening, meaning that they are reusable, but not completely awake, and able to be put to the breast or bottle and take a dream feed, easily returning to sleep spot feed.
Positives of this can include your baby stretching somewhere close to 4/6am! Even if your baby wakes during this dream feed, gently helping them drift back off to sleep still aids in the lengthier sleep overnight. Gently place your baby to the breast/bottle, keeping them swaddled – allow the feed to take place, wind/burp then place back down to sleep.
HOW DO I KNOW IF THE DREAM FEED ISN’T WORKING?
Unfortunately, sometimes dream feeds just don’t work! This is especially common for babies over the age of 4 months, who generally tend to be in a deeper sleep around the time of 10/11pm, and cannot be roused enough (without waking completely and becoming upset!) to take a dream feed.
So, the little feed they take doesn’t help them get through. It can also work in the opposite way, triggering the digestive system to wake, and causing a wake 2-3 hours after the dream feed was taken.
For babies around 4 months of age, and up to 6 months:
-If they are woken and are not hungry, they can become upset due to being woken and require additional time to settle down again.
- They are still waking up, or begin waking up earlier then they previously did when offered a dream feed (i.e.: Around 1am or beforehand) then it’s not working or time to ditch. Letting them wake naturally for a feed instead or opting for the dream feed.
WHY DO WE SUGGEST A WAKE-TO-TO FEED FOR YOUNGER BABIES INSTEAD?
If your baby is settling down for the night between 6-7pm, and stretching to 10-10:30pm, they’ll likely be looking for a feed shortly. A wake to feed as per our sleep guide routines is an option that:
1: Gives another top up feed before a lengthy stint of sleep for the night, and
2. Creates a little more ‘awake time’ allowing for further sleep debt to be accrued, a good wind or burp and the opportunity to take in a decent amount of feed (with a little rest between!). We find this works better than a dream feed in most cases, but it can be left up to you! If it is too stimulating, opt for a dream feed at this time!
From 4+ month, introducing a dream feed becomes much more successful, with the likelihood of this feed being weaned out closer to 8/9 months, or earlier around 6 months, depending on the individual baby. Some babies tend to sleep through naturally, and opt to wake for a later overnight feed. And in other cases, they won't wake at all for an overnight feed, after their last bedtime settle feed!
HOW LONG SHOULD IT TAKE TO WORK?
Typically we'd see a good 3-4 days of offering the dream feed before a baby begins to adjust to the idea of taking a lengthier sleep afterwards. Just because it doesn't work on night 1, doesn't mean it's not for you! Trial it for a good 3-4 days before making the decision to drop it out all together.
Again, it comes down to personal preference, and the temperament of the baby too. If your little one doesn't like being put to the breast or bottle while half asleep, listen! Do what's easier for you both! Some babies will pick it up and roll with a dream feed straight away, and you will notice the effectiveness of this relatively soon. Others will refer the natural wake to feed option.
If you need more information on your baby's daytime schedule to best suit their night structure, feeds or opting for a dream feed, see our sleep guides here.