What is a dreamfeed and how can it help your baby sleep through the night. This post answers all of your questions about a dreamfeed.
When you have a baby, you want to do everything you can to get as much sleep as you can. If baby sleeps, that means you can sleep.
A great tool for helping baby to sleep longer through your night is the Dreamfeed. Keep reading to learn what it is and how to implement it.
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- What is a dreamfeed?
- What time should I do the dreamfeed?
- Why do I need a dreamfeed?
- Should the dreamfeed be at the exact same time each night?
- What if my baby won’t eat for the dreamfeed?
- Should I un-swaddle my baby for the dreamfeed?
- Should I change my baby’s diaper at the dreamfeed?
- Should I burp my baby at the dreamfeed?
- Should I wake my baby up for the dreamfeed?
- When do I drop the dreamfeed?
- How do I drop the dreamfeed?
- RELATED DREAMFEED POSTS
What is a dreamfeed?
A “dreamfeed” is referred to as the “late evening feeding” in On Becoming Babywise. This is the last feeding of the day before you go to bed.
It is called a “dreamfeed” because baby has been put to bed for the night and you are simply getting baby up to get one last feeding in the day before you go to bed.
If baby needs 8 feedings in a 24 hour period, but has had only 6 by the last evening feeding, then adding a dreamfeed means baby only eats one time in the night while you are asleep instead of two times.
For more on the dreamfeed definition according to Babywise, see Dream Feed and Babywise.
For more basic information on the dreamfeed, see The Basics of a Dreamfeed.
What time should I do the dreamfeed?
The dreamfeed is typically between 10-11 PM. Baby will be in bed already before this feeding.
In the early weeks of baby’s life, you might want to go to bed around 8 PM or so because you are so tired! That is fine.
Just set an alarm to wake up and feed your baby the dreamfeed. A feeding after 11:30 PM is not a dreamfeed; that is a night feeding.
Time your dreamfeed 2.5-4 hours after the final feeding of the day. You want baby to be hungry enough to take a good feeding at the dreamfeed.
However, you don’t want it so late that it disrupts nighttime sleep. Disruption to nighttime sleep will cause baby to wake earlier in the morning.
So let’s say your last feeding of the day is at 7 PM. You will then want to do your dreamfeed anywhere from 9:30-11:00 PM.
You may need to try different times of the dreamfeed to find what is best for your baby.
Take note of what time you do the dreamfeed and how baby sleeps. I found that McKenna sleeps later in the morning if her dreamfeed is closer to ten then if it is closer to eleven.
Brinley was super sensitive to her dreamfeed timing. She had a perfect five minute window.
When she was a few months old, if I missed that window, it meant she woke in the night instead of sleeping through the night.
Your timing really can matter (but don’t worry, most babies are not as sensitive as Brinley was). Take good notes.
You can get a printable book of logs here to help you out. These are the same logs I used for my babies and they help SO MUCH!
Why do I need a dreamfeed?
Your newborn baby needs to eat 8-12 times per 24 hour period. By doing a dreamfeed, you work a final feeding in during a typical “day” for you so you can get more nighttime hours of sleep.
Once baby reaches a point that he can sleep through the night, he will be able to sleep through your night also.
If his last feeding is 7 and he then sleeps 7-8 hours, that puts him waking at 2:30-3:30. But if his last feeding is 10 and he sleeps 7-8 hours, that puts him waking 5:30-6:30.
Should the dreamfeed be at the exact same time each night?
You can do it at the exact same time. However, I don’t think it is a bad idea to vary it.
Varying it has several advantages.
One is that baby won’t metabolically come to wake up for a feeding at that time (though I think this is rare).
Another is that you can experiment and find the best time range for the dreamfeed.
Once you find it, you will most likely want to stick to it so you can get the best nights rest as possible.
If your baby is like Brinley and really needs that specific dreamfeed time, do not vary it. Do it at the same time each night.
What if my baby won’t eat for the dreamfeed?
You already know the benefit of the dreamfeed. It is worth your efforts to get the dreamfeed working.
However, after you have put forth a good effort for it, if baby won’t eat, put it aside for a period of time.
Kaitlyn would not eat for the dreamfeed, so I didn’t bother. I mean, I tried for a few nights without much success. There were tears on my part! It can be so frustrating.
I quickly moved on and gave up on the dreamfeed idea.
Instead, I fed her at 8:30 and then went to bed. Over time, however, her days lengthened out and her 8:30 feeding moved to 10:00.
She then had a dreamfeed.
McKenna also didn’t eat well for the dreamfeed at first. I worked harder to establish it, though, so we could go down to fewer night feedings sooner.
The work paid off.
Note that Tracy Hogg, the Baby Whisperer, says that if you are trying to get a dreamfeed and cluster feeding in, the dreamfeed is the more important of the two. If cluster feeding interferes with the dreamfeed, shoot for the dreamfeed instead.
Should I un-swaddle my baby for the dreamfeed?
Possibly yes, possibly no.
When McKenna was a young newborn, I unswaddled her so I could wake her up.
Around 3 months old, I still unswaddled her, but it wasn’t to wake her up. It was because I started the night with her in a lighter swaddle blanket and moved to a warmer one after the dreamfeed.
You can definitely leave your baby swaddled if she will still eat well while swaddled. There is no one right or wrong thing to do here; just do what is best for your individual baby.
Should I change my baby’s diaper at the dreamfeed?
In the first couple of months, I always change the diaper after every feeding–even the middle of the night.
Once the baby starts to sleep 7-8 hours at night, I move to a bigger diaper for night if necessary and don’t change the diaper at the dreamfeed.
So, again, change if you find it necessary. If not, put some diaper ointment on the bottom and leave it for the night.
Should I burp my baby at the dreamfeed?
My answer is yes. Hogg’s answer is no.
She says that a baby is so relaxed for the dreamfeed, they don’t need to be burped.
I actually disagree with this. For a newborn, they are no less relaxed at the dreamfeed than they are for any other feeding in the day. They are always sleeping while eating. And yet, they need to be burped.
With an older baby (say around 4 months or older), you might not need to burp the baby. Some babies burp on their own by this point, so you don’t necessarily need to work on burping.
My thought is this. Would you rather take a few minutes and try to burp baby, or risk having baby wake up in the night due to gas pains?
I think trying to burp is well worth it. You might not get anything out, but it is worth a shot.
Should I wake my baby up for the dreamfeed?
This is again dependent on the baby.
Some find baby sleeps better at night if she wakes during the dreamfeed. Others find baby sleeps better if she doesn’t wake for the dreamfeed.
Keep notes and see what works best for your baby. You want to work to get a full feeding in, but weather she truely wakes up or not is completely up to her reaction to it.
When do I drop the dreamfeed?
Most Babywise babies will drop the dreamfeed somewhere from 3-7 months old. I think most will be ready around 4ish months.
You can start to consider it once baby has slept from the dreamfeed until your morning wake up time consistently for two weeks. Read more at When To Stop the Dreamfeed.
Hogg says to keep the dreamfeed until baby is about 8 months old. You can choose to do that, but I doubt it is necessary for most babies.
The dreamfeed can really start to interfere with night sleep as baby gets older (see Note below).
How do I drop the dreamfeed?
There are a few methods you can choose from when dropping the dreamfeed.
You can drop the number of ounces (or time spent nursing) slowly over time.
You can move the time up over time (from 10:30 to 10:15, then to 10:00 etc.) or just cold turkey. See Dropping the “Dream Feed” for more details.
NOTE: some babies don’t do well with a dreamfeed. This will be true if it is disrupting baby’s natural sleep patterns. This is more likely to be possible if baby is 4 months or older.
If you think the dreamfeed is disrupting sleep but baby still needs the food, try having the dreamfeed at a different time. Otherwise, try dropping it and see if that fixes things.
The dreamfeed is very much worth doing if you can make it work. It is one of my favorite tools for helping baby to sleep through your night. It can take some work, but it is well worth your efforts!
RELATED DREAMFEED POSTS
- The Basics of a Dreamfeed
- The Benefits and Drawbacks of Doing a Dreamfeed
- Dropping the “Dream Feed”
- Dream Feed and Babywise
- Poll Results: What Age (Approximate) Did You Drop the Dreamfeed?
This post was originally published July 2009
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