Everything you need to know about dropping the dreamfeed. The ultimate list of information on dream feed for baby.
The dream feed is that feeding that happens around 10-11 PM. You get baby up, feed him, and put him back down. He often doesn’t even wake up for it! This is a great strategy to help your infant sleep through the night.
Dream feeds are helpful for getting your little one to sleep longer through your night so your night sleep is less disrupted. For more on what a Dreamfeed is, see Dreamfeed Frequently Asked Questions.
Dreamfeed is a term found in the Baby Whisperer books. This is the feeding that is often called the “late evening feeding” in Babywise books.
- When To Drop the Dream Feed
- Baby is sleeping through the night (STTN) consistently
- Baby has been STTN consistently for 2-4 weeks
- Baby doesn’t wake up for the dream feed anymore
- Baby is old enough to drop a feeding in a 24 hour period
- The dreamfeed is interfering with baby’s night sleep
- How to Drop the Dream Feed
- Move the time for the dream feed back by 10-15 minutes slowly
- Drop it cold turkey
- Slowly decrease the amount eaten at the dream feed
- Which method is best?
- Adjusting Baby’s Schedule
- Dropping the Dream Feed Common Questions
- Is swaddling okay after dropping the dream feed?
- Does baby need to be in a crib to drop the dream feed?
- Can you use a pacifier to drop the dream feed?
- Related Dreamfeed Posts
- Reader Dreamfeed Questions:
When To Drop the Dream Feed
You might be wondering when to stop dream feeding baby. You know it is safe to drop the dream feed when the following are true of your little one:
- Baby can sleep through the night
- Baby has been sleeping that long stretch of sleep all night for at least two weeks
- You consistently need to wake baby for the dream feed
- Baby is old enough to drop a feeding
- Baby is old enough to go a longer stretch of sleep between feedings
- The dream feed is interfering with good night sleep and baby is waking early in the morning
Let’s discuss these in more depth.
Baby is sleeping through the night (STTN) consistently
By that, I mean that he is staying asleep from the dream feed until your desired waketime in the morning. You no longer have night wakings.
Many babies start sleeping through the night, then wake in the night, then back to sleeping through, back and forth. My babies ALL did this.
It is normal to go back and forth. Do not drop the dream feed while your baby is in the back and forth stage of sleeping in the night.
Wait to drop the dream feed until the baby is sleeping through so consistently that you would be surprised for baby to wake early in the morning.
Once you drop the dream feed, you don’t want to wonder if baby is waking early because he needs the dream feed or because it was just “one of those days.”
You want baby’s night sleep patterns to be consistent before dropping the dreamfeed.
If baby wakes early, you do not want “is it because we dropped the dreamfeed” to be on a long list of possible causes for the sleep disruption. You want it to be on a short list.
One caveat to this is that if your baby is waking in the night at the exact same time every night, your baby might be waking from habit and could still be ready to drop the dream feed.
If you think this is the case for your baby, try the wake to sleep method to get baby to stop that night feed.
>>>Read: How To Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Baby has been STTN consistently for 2-4 weeks
Wait until your baby has been sleeping through the night for 2-4 weeks before dropping the dream feed.
This is for your own confidence.
If baby has shown that STTN is his thing now, you will have a solid foundation if you need to problem-solve after dropping the dreamfeed.
>>>Read: Is Baby’s Night Waking from Hunger?
Baby doesn’t wake up for the dream feed anymore
Not all babies wake up for the dreamfeed, but if yours did and has stopped, it might be time to drop that feeding.
Your baby might be ready to drop the dreamfeed if you have to wake baby up every night for it.
Note that this is just one of the signs. If your baby does this but does not sleep through the night, it does not mean your baby is ready. Your baby might still need those extra calories even if he isn’t waking for this feeding.
Baby is old enough to drop a feeding in a 24 hour period
Baby needs to be old enough that the appropriate number of feedings will still be met if you drop the dream feed.
You don’t want to drop the dreamfeed if that means baby won’t be getting enough feedings for his age in a 24 hour period after you do so.
Your baby needs to be old enough to be able to go longer stretches at night without eating. See this post to know how many feedings your baby should get right now, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
Your baby will need to be able to go from the bedtime feeding until the morning feeding without needing to eat.
If you drop the dream feed before your baby can drop that extra feeding, then your baby will wake in the middle of the night from hunger.
The age of your baby can really vary. The common range is 3-7 months old.
With my own kids, Kaitlyn was 7 months old, McKenna was 28-29 weeks old, and Brinley was 18-19 weeks old. So there was a wide variation among my own kids.
>>>Read: When To Stop the Dream Feed
The dreamfeed is interfering with baby’s night sleep
The dream feed can interfere with baby sleep. This is not super common, but there are instances when the dreamfeed actually interferes with baby’s night sleep and leads baby to wake in the night.
This happened with Brinley and is the reason she dropped the dreamfeed so young. She started waking in the night after sleeping through the night consistently for a long time.
We tried some other things first, but settled on thinking she was waking from the dreamfeed. So we dropped it and it fixed her night sleep. Read more about that here.
How to Drop the Dream Feed
Here are a few strategies for dropping the dreamfeed when baby is ready.
- Slowly move the time of the dream feed
- Drop it cold turkey
- Slowly decrease the number of ounces taken at the dream feed
Let’s discuss each method in more detail.
Move the time for the dream feed back by 10-15 minutes slowly
This could be each day, every couple of days, etc. Decide what is best for your baby.
Move it back until you are too close to the evening feeding to warrant doing both feedings. This will typically be when your dreamfeed would be happening less than two hours after the last daytime feeding before bedtime.
So if you dream feed at 10 and the evening feeding is at 7, move it back until you reach 9, then drop it altogether.
Drop it cold turkey
You can try to just don’t get baby up and see what happens. If baby wakes up in the night, then you can add the dreamfeed back in and try again later. It doesn’t hurt to try.
Sometimes cold turkey can be rough even if baby IS ready. I prefer the slow methods because it lets baby adjust.
So be aware that if baby doesn’t respond well after a cold turkey approach, it doesn’t definitely mean baby is not ready to drop the dreamfeed. But it does mean baby might not be ready.
Slowly decrease the amount eaten at the dream feed
Slowly adjust how much your baby eats at the dreamfeed, either by fewer ounces or less time nursing. Decrease amount daily or every couple of days.
This allows your baby’s metabolism to slowly adjust to needing to eat more at other feedings to make up for the lost calories during the dreamfeed.
Which method is best?
Any one or combination of the three ideas can work. You can first decrease the amount eaten, then move the time back, or decrease the amount eaten then drop it cold turkey. You decide.
Your baby’s age will likely be a factor in how you go about it.
I personally like the strategy to decrease the amount eaten over time best. I breastfed my babies, so to decrease it means my body adjusted to the amount eaten slowly.
Then I had a better chance of sleeping well myself because I wasn’t waking up at 5 AM engorged.
But again, Brinley needed to drop the dreamfeed because it was interfering with her night sleep. She dropped it cold turkey.
Adjusting Baby’s Schedule
When you drop the dream feed, you might need to adjust your baby’s schedule during the day.
When dropping the dream feed, you need to be sure your last feeding of the day is about 12 hours before your baby’s morning wake up time.
So if you wake at 7 AM, start the last feeding anywhere from 6-7, depending on your baby’s needed sleep at night and how long baby can go between feedings. You could even do 7:30. Just be sure it is late enough baby won’t get hungry in the night.
You might also need to increase ounces at other feedings of the day. Your baby won’t necessarily drop the ounces taken in during the 24 hour period–your baby will just be rearranging the number of ounces in each feeding.
Dropping the Dream Feed Common Questions
Here are a few common questions people have when dropping the dream feed.
Is swaddling okay after dropping the dream feed?
Yes, you can still swaddle baby after the dream feed has been dropped.
Does baby need to be in a crib to drop the dream feed?
Your baby does not need to be in a crib to drop the dream feed. Your baby can still be in a bassinet. However, most babies will be in a crib by the time they are old enough to drop the dream feed.
Can you use a pacifier to drop the dream feed?
Some people like to use a pacifier when dropping a night feed. This can be used for a dream feed, also. If your baby stirs and seems to want to eat, you can use the pacfier to get your baby to settle back down and go to sleep.
I will caution that you might find you get nighttime feeds start if you use the pacifier to drop the dream feed, however. Only use this method if you are confident your baby does not need to eat and can go the needed hours of sleep at night to make it to the next feed.
If you have a question that was not answered here, see Dreamfeed Frequently Asked Questions.
Dropping the dreamfeed can be scary. If you are considering it, then you most likely have a baby sleeping really well at night. No one wants to mess that up!
Just be sure your baby is ready to drop. You might be wrong, but be as sure as you can.
And remember, you can always return to the dreamfeed if you try to drop it and it doesn’t work out. So give it a try!
Related Dreamfeed Posts
- The Basics of a Dreamfeed
- When To Stop the Dreamfeed
- Dreamfeed Frequently Asked Questions
- The Benefits and Drawbacks of Doing a Dreamfeed
This post originally appeared on this blog January 2008
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Reader Dreamfeed Questions:
- Mom2Cohen said…
I was just reading about “dream feeding” and it sparked a thought. We started late (as you know) with Cohen and since we have started he has actually done quite well…at night anyhow. Basically where we are right now is: Go to bed at 7:30, wake at 12:00 (he wakes up consistently every night at this time), feed him and put him back down. He usually sleeps until about 5:30 after that feeding. I would obviously like to NOT have to get up at midnight to 1:00 every night so I was wondering if I should wake him for a “dream feed” instead. Or should I just try to wean him from eating at all? I am confused…any advice. BTW…he is three months old and we have been doing Babywise for about 2 weeks.
It is worth a shot, but don’t hold your breath. Kaitlyn didn’t dreamfeed. She ate at 8:30 then went to bed. Over time that feeding moved back and became a dreamfeed. When she was about 8 weeks, I decided to try a dreamfeed. I went in, woke her up, fed her. She woke earlier in the night than she usually did, and twice instead of once! It then took her a week to get back to where she was before I tried the dreamfeed. That is just a warning to you that it might not work, but I do think it is worth trying. At three months, 7:30 is an early bedtime in that he won’t make it until the morning. He will definitely need a night feeding in there. If you try something at 10 or 10:30, it might work. Let us know how it goes!
- Dyers said…
I need some advice… I am a first time mom and my daughter is 10.5 weeks old. She has slept through the night since 6.5 weeks. Now she is currently sleeping from 9-930pm to 7 am. I am questioning what to do about her schedule. Currently I feed her at 7a, 1030a, 130p, 4p, 7p. I consider her bedtime 730p. I then wake her at 9-930pm for a last feeding. For the past several days she will not hardly wake up at 9 to eat. I think she would be satisfied with 5 feedings per day (I am exclusively breastfeeding). But the problem is that between naps she can only stay up 1.5 hours max. My first question is is it to early to drop the 9p feed. And how can I adjust her schedule so that she gets 5 feedings daily but so that I am not having to wake her at 9p to eat? I can’t figure out what to do. I would love any advice or comments. Thanks!
Dyers, You are right at the age where most babies move down to 5-7 feedings a day. This information is found on page 123 of Babywise. This page also says most babies drop that late-evening feeding (aka dreamfeed) between weeks 12-15. You are very close. You are the parent–if you find that she is ready to drop that dreamfeed, give it a go. You can maintain your same feeding schedule and just eliminate that 9:00 feeding. See the dropping the dreamfeed post for information on that.
- alicia said…
My 3 month old daughter usually eats at 6:30 and is asleep by 7:30. I wake her up to eat at 9:30 for a dreamfeed, otherwise she wakes at 2 a.m. With the dreamfeed, she wakes up at 5:00. I would like her to wake at 6:30 and eventually eliminate the dreamfeed. Right now she sleeps the entire time and eats very little then. How can I adjust her routine to get her to sleep later? Should I wake her up later for her dreamfeed? Or should I try to adjust when she eats her last meal? Thanks for your help!
I would try adjusting the dreamfeed time. Maybe move it back an hour. You might have to experiment with the time. You could start with moving it 30 minutes. It isn’t a guarantee that it will work, but it is worth a shot!
- Karen said…
I have a 12 week old and I am trying to figure out when to start dropping the dreamfeed. She starts her day with a 6am feeding and her last feeding of the day is 10pm…we all enjoy sleeping through the night. She does well on a four hour schedule but I am wondering how to make sure she gets enough ounces in a day if we drop this last feeding. She was unable to breastfeed so I pump my milk for her and I’m able to monitor how much she eats pretty closely. How do I work towards dropping this last feeding but still make sure she is getting enough to eat?
You might need to wait for a bit. Typically, dreamfeed is dropped before you move to a 4 hour schedule, so since you did the 4 hour first (which is fine), you might need to keep that dreamfeed around longer than usual to ensure the right number of feedings are in a day. My guess is you have 5 feedings a day if you start at 6 and end at 10 on 4 hour schedule. The earliest she could move down to 4 feedings a day would be 16 weeks, perhaps as late as 24 weeks (some babies need 5 a day longer). So you should hold on to the dreamfeed for another 4 weeks at least. One option would be to shorten your feeding schedule so you could end the day sooner, but not drop a feeding. Remember a combo 3-4 hour schedule is okay. You want to keep 5 feedings for now. If you do move the schedule up, be sure right now (until 16 weeks) you don’t let more than 9-10 hours go between pumping sessions for you.
- david, blair, and sadie beth said…
Hi! Thanks for your recent posts…I’ve enjoyed them! I’ve been debating what to do about the DF with my daughter, who is now almost 6 1/2 months old. We still do a DF at 10:30pm. She rarely will wake up during it and goes right back down no problem. My guess is she would sleep through without it, but I’m concerned about keeping my milk supply up if I’m only nursing 4 times a day. It seems that I have read that to have a reliable milk supply you need to nurse at least 5 times a day (or pump). Unfortunately, my body simply won’t pump, (and I have a good electric pump). I really can’t risk losing my milk because formula is expensive and we’d like to avoid that cost if at all possible. I’d like to drop it though, simply so my husband and I can go to bed before 10:30! Recently, we’ve been dealing with some early waking due to illness, not eating solids, and being on 2 very strong antibiotics that are messing with her poor little body…so I probably wouldn’t even think of dropping it until we move past all this. Any thoughts?Thanks, Blair
Blair, It is hard to say. I do fine with four feedings a day, but some women really do need that 5th. One thing you could try is to move the DF back a bit. It would give you a slightly earlier bedtime 🙂 Have you tried the tactics of looking at a picture of your baby or thinking of your baby while pumping? You might want to see if you can contact a lactation consultant for ideas on how to successfully pump. The hard thing is that at some point she is really going to need to not have the DF–it will likely start to become a disruption for her. I would see if you can solve the pumping thing. I would also wonder if you could pump and get the stimulation even if no milk comes out. That would be something to ask a LC. Good luck!
david, blair, and sadie beth said…
I’ve tried just about everything to resolve the pumping issue, but I might try again since it’s been awhile. I’ve talked to LCs before and didn’t have too much luck, but I just switched to an OB that has one on staff so I might try to set up a time to meet with her. You mentioned that you expect the DF will become a disruption…did that happen for your kids? How do you think it would be disruptive?
Blair, The dreamfeed gets disruptive because you want your baby to have 10-12 hours of consecutive sleep without disruption. If she is in bed after the DF by 10:45, then she would need to sleep until 8:45. The dreamfeed disrupts that full nights sleep. Often babies will start to not sleep as soundly with that disruption.
- momtobobby said…
I have an 11 week old and he eats at 7pm and goes to bed at 8pm. I wake him at 10:00 for a dreamfeed and he then sleeps until 5:30 or 6:00. Recently, he has been difficult to wake for the DF and he only takes 3 oz. when he normally takes 6oz. Is this an indication that he is ready to drop the dreamfeed? If so, how do I do that? He is on a 3 hour schedule and usually gets 30 oz. a day. Also, should I let him CIO until 7am? Thanks for your help!!
I wouldn’t drop the DF until he is sleeping until your desired waketime. Your baby is still young and actually sleeping well for his age. If you think he can make it to 7, you can try CIO. Otherwise, I might give him a few weeks to see if he does it on his own. Here is a post for more ideas: Early Morning Feedings Before Waketime. Good luck!
- misty said…
my baby is 10 weeks old today. she has been STTN for about two weeks. her feed schedule is as follows:
the 10pm has become a dream feed. i have to wake her for this feeding. i am breast feeding and it takes a few minutes to get her to latch on and then she pulls herself off after about 8 minutes or so (I usually take her off after 10). I try and get a burp out of her then I have to struggle to get her on and feed for 5 or 6minutes. I know she is sleeping during this feeding time. So my obvious question is…what should i do? And when should i do it? I’m a first time mom so this is all very new territory for me. I constantly refer to the book, but can’t quite find a clear answer. I have started at 9:45 and 9:30 on occasion and she has still slept anywhere from 6:30-7:00am.
BW says WEEKS 9-15Baby can gradually move to 9-10 hours of continuous sleep if breastfed, 11 hours if bottle fed So, for the next five weeks, the longest she should sleep at night is 9-10 hours. You don’t want to cut back because of milk supply. You could move it back a bit if you want to go to bed earlier, but be sure to be within the hours suggested. While it sounds like she is ready to drop the dreamfeed, I would continue to do it until she is closer to 15 weeks. At that time, pick your favorite method of dropping it described in this post (or one of your own) and go for it. It sounds like she is doing very well!
- Rachel said…
At what age do you drop the dreamfeed? My baby is 5.5 weeks old and I feed her about 630,930,1230,330,630,930, and sometimes another time in there if I switched to a 2.5 hour schedule. Do I put her to bed at 7pm after the 630 feeding and then wake her up for the 10pm feeding? Right now she stays awake most of the time from the 630 to the 930 feeding. When do I establish that as bed time?Im so confused… 🙁
Your baby will be much older when you drop the dreamfeed. I would put her to bed at 7, wake for the 9:30 feeding, then put her right back down.
thanks for your prompt response. i’ll definitely try moving up her dreamfeed by 15 minutes tonight. caitlin woke up this morning at 5:30 instead of 6 am. should i wait till she wakes up consistently at 6, before pushing up her dreamfeed time? if i want to push back her wake time to 7 by 15 minutes, what do you suggest i do. at 2 months, caitlin’s napping b/t 1 hr 45 minutes to 2 hours. is this too long? her waketime is pretty consistent at 1 hour.
Kim, I was just organizing comments and saw you had a follow-up question I never got notice of. I apologize! Let me know if you still have questions. I wouldn’t mess with the dreamfeed until nights are consistent.
- Susanna said…
Valerie-I’m contemplating dropping the DF for my 16 week old. How do I know he’s getting enough calories to hold him over for the entire night? Also, how many feedings are recommended by BW to sustain a baby who is dropping the DF? I’ll be taking my baby out of town at the end of the month. Would you recommend dropping the DF after we get back or starting now before our trip? I didn’t know if trying to do too many things would be too much…Thank you!
You would know there are enough calories if he continues to sleep well through the night. You just make sure he is taking a full feeding at each feeding and then give it a shot. If he starts waking up, you know he isn’t ready for that move yet. In regard to the trip, I think it would depend on how long until you go. I would give yourself at least a week before traveling, preferably two. That way you can be sure any night disruptions would be from one or the other, but not both. Know that disruptions and seeming regressions might happen while traveling, but at least you would know it is because of traveling and not because of dropping the dreamfeed. Good luck!