Heard about the dream feed and curious about whether it’s right for you and your baby? We’ve got all the details for you right here.
The dream feed is the ultimate in baby multitasking.
Think, as the name suggests, dreaming + feeding — and, all going well, doing them at once.
The pros? Potentially longer stretches of sleep for you and them.
Sound like a dream? It can be!
So what exactly does the dream feed entail? And how can you make this magic happen?
We’ll take you through the details.
In this article: 📝
- The lowdown on dream feeding
- How to dream feed
- When to stop dream feeding
The lowdown on dream feeding
Originally coined by Tracy Hogg, author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, the dream feed has become a popular parenting hack for many mamas.
You may have also heard it referred to as the focal feed — basically, feeding your baby before you go to sleep yourself.
(It’s usually recommended between 10 pm and midnight, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. We all have different schedules.)
Hogg describes it as feeding your baby while they sleep — a method we’ll take you through in a moment.
But the term also describes waking your baby to feed before you go to sleep.
Either way, consider it a top-up — with the goal that you’ll keep them full for enough hours for you to get the rest you need.
Rather than waking up every two to three hours, you get to go a longer stretch without having to attend to your hungry customer.
And seriously, every minute extra can feel jackpot-equivalent in those early days.
Plus, it may help your baby practice their sleep endurance and become a more long-distance sleeper.
Proper sleep has all sorts of benefits for your baby, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
It’s connected to everything from memory and language development to the healthy growth of their bodies.
And the same goes for you!
You also need sleep to support your brain function, reduce the risk of various health issues, and just look after your general well-being.
So finding ways to help you and your little one get the rest you need is a priority.
And, if it’s right for you and your baby, the dream feed can make an important contribution here.
How to dream feed
First up: when your baby is a newborn, they need to feed often and on demand.
That’s because they have tiny little stomachs that can’t hold too much food all at once.
According to the CDC, they need to eat every two to four hours to get the nutrition they need.
In these early days, you’ll probably be feeding about eight to 12 times a day.
And, in what’s known as cluster feeding, some babies may even need to eat more frequently than that.
So, tip number one: while you can give them a focal feed from very early on, the longer stretches of sleep may only come a bit later, perhaps when they’re about two months old.
But even if it doesn’t mean more sleep immediately, research shows that focal feeds may positively impact your baby’s sleep going forward, helping them to sleep through the night earlier.
Ready to give it a try? We’ll take you through the steps.
1. Stay in sleep land
Although this may sound magical, it’s weirdly possible to feed them while they’re either still asleep or at least not 100% awake.
Keep the room dark and quiet.
If you swaddle your baby, keep them swaddled.
2. Gently lift them from their crib or bassinet
Softly, softly, try not to wake the baby!
3. Hold them in a feeding position
Stroke the corner of their mouth to stimulate what’s known as the rooting reflex, where they turn their head and open their mouth in response to your touch.
If they’re very sound asleep, you can tickle their toes to bring them a little further into waking.
4. Offer them the breast or bottle
You may hear a few adorable mews and see some flutterings of eyelids.
5. Feed for a brief period
All baby’s needs are different, but five to 10 minutes on each side should do the trick here.
6. Burp them
Yep, it’s important to burp baby, even in a dream feed.
A gassy baby is usually not a very happy baby.
Of course, there’s a chance that they will wake up during their dream feed.
If they do, it’s time to practice the tricks that got them to sleep in the first place.
Rock them, bounce them, walk with them — do what works best for you.
(For tips on how to get your little one to sleep in a crib, head here.)
It’s a good idea to pair dream feeding with other practices that boost healthy sleep habits.
While bedtime schedules and routines usually wait until you’re over the newborn phase, there are habits that you can start putting into practice right from the start.
The Stanford Children’s Hospital recommends the following:
- Practice a settling down period where you listen to quiet music or read a book.
- Get into a routine that works for both you and them: feed, change, soothe, sleep, for example.
- As your baby gets past the newborn phase, put them to bed while they’re still awake so that they can learn how to fall asleep themselves.
- Keep devices out of the room they’re going to sleep in.
- Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle as this can cause tooth decay and ear infections.
When to stop dream feeding
We’re often like a stuck record on this, but all babies are different, and no one mold fits everyone.
You may find that you naturally progress away from dream feeding as your baby becomes better equipped to sleep through the night on their own.
So what age is this?
Well, again, it’s not the same for everyone.
If you and your baby are struggling with sleep, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.
You don’t have to just write this off as part of mamahood.
And if you need support along the way, your Peanut community is here for you.
We’re having the conversation.
All the best, mama!