When seeking ways to help baby sleep longer stretches at night, parents commonly hear advice that they must offer baby a "dreamfeed." LMS night nurses and newborn care providers explain how this scheduled feeding technique works.
What is It?
Popularized by the widely respected Baby Whisperer newborn advice books, to dreamfeed means to simply bring breast or bottle to baby’s lips in the later evening hour (think 10 p.m.) if baby is still asleep. Babies will instinctually take in what their little bodies need at that time, usually just a few ounces. There is also no need to burp or wake baby since he/she will be relaxed enough to go back to sleep after the feed. To ensure baby is comfortable overnight, we do recommend a quick diaper change after the feed.
Why Does A Dreamfeed Work?
Without a dreamfeed, a baby who typically feeds in the 7 PM hour may awakens naturally from hunger at midnight, 1 AM or 2 AM. Giving a feed in the 10:00 hour allows parents to head off this hunger and may allow baby to sleep longer, usually until 4 AM. By giving a feed at 10 PM, instead of waiting to see when baby naturally wakes to feed, we are shifting baby’s asleep hours to match parents, so parents get a long stretch of sleep themselves.
The addition of these few extra ounces will eliminate the physical need for baby to awaken for the first overnight feed since we are taking true hunger out of the equation. As baby gets older and able to physically sleep 10-12 hours without needing to eat (which is only decided on by families and their pediatrician) the dreamfeed provides that final feed of the night to take babies through to their natural wake up time in the morning.
Here’s how a typical dreamfeed schedule works:
6:30 or 7:00 PM: Baby’s last feed before bedtime
10:00 PM: bring bottle/breast to baby while baby is still asleep (dreamfeed)
10:20 PM: quick diaper change and back to sleep
While certainly not a necessity, the dream feed is a simple extension of baby's natural 3 hour feeding cycle whether parents are breastfeeding or formula feeding. For parents wishing to gently pave the way to long, independent stretches of sleep overnight, the dreamfeed can be another valuable tool.