DREAMFEEDING – What it is and how to do it
A dreamfeed is when you do the late-night feed while your baby is asleep, rather than waking your baby up to feed them.
We find this works best for babies from 3 months to about 9 months or so. Babies younger than about 10 weeks often are too deeply asleep to drink.
Babies over about 9 months can generally sleep through the night from 7pm until morning without needing a night feed or dreamfeed.
The benefit of doing a dreamfeed is that you go to bed knowing your baby has a full tummy, and therefore doesn’t need any feeds during the night. So, if they wake during the night, you can settle them using another technique other than feeding.
For a dreamfeed you…
gently get your baby out of bed at around 10pm, feed both sides or give a full bottle and put straight back to bed still asleep. If your baby will not drink, she may be too young for this technique to work (if younger than 12 weeks or so). Another option is to wait until your baby comes into a lighter sleep (watch for some twitching or flickering eyes) and try again.
A dreamfeed can be an excellent way to help a baby who is waking from hunger at about 4am to be able to last until morning.
The reasons for feeding whilst the baby is asleep are
- Your baby doesn’t know she has had the feed, so she doesn’t develop an association with feeding and falling asleep (thinking she needs to feed to go to sleep).
- You don’t interrupt your baby’s sleep, in the way that you do if you wake your baby to do a late feed.
- There are no issues resettling your baby after the late feed, as they are still asleep!
If your baby wakes while you are doing the dreamfeed, we recommend putting her back into bed awake. This means she will not get confused about being fed to sleep.
Once your baby is consistently sleeping through the night, you can gradually move the feed earlier each night and then stop doing it.
If your baby starts waking in the night or waking earlier, go back to doing the dreamfeed at the time you were doing it when she last slept through.
If your baby is settled at bedtime by being fed or rocked to sleep, then doing the dreamfeed is not going to start your baby sleeping through the night. You first need to work on removing your baby's sleep associations and teaching her to self-settle.
Often continued night waking once you have started the dreamfeed is the result of sleep associations, lack of routine during the day, an over-tired or cold baby.
If your baby is self-settling at bedtime and you feel the dreamfeed is causing more night-waking, we recommend you continue to do it for at least 3 nights. Avoid using feeding to settle your baby during the night (if they are over 6 months or you know they can last through the night without a feed). It may just be a temporary adjustment your baby is making, and in a few nights, they will be sleeping through and sleeping longer in the morning.