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Dream Feed: What It Is and How To Do It Safely

Sleep is a never-ending struggle for nearly all families with babies. With endless quick fixes and sleep methods out there to choose from, it can be difficult to find one that resonates. Have you heard of the dream feeding baby method? It may be just the one you’re looking for.

With a strange name like dream feeding, lots of images may come to mind. We'll clear that up and more so you can decide if it’s right for you and give dream feeding a try.

Woman feeding her baby in a dimly lit room

Find restful sleep and comfort for your baby with the Boppy Bassinet.

What Is A Dream Feed?

If the phrase “dream feed” is new to you, you are not alone! Dream feeding is a relatively new sleep method, coined in 2001 by Tracy Hogg, according to CBS News. It has received some recent buzz and for good reason.

The idea is that in order for parents to get their best chunk of sleep right away when they go to bed, they should (right before bed) proactively rouse their baby and offer feeding. Dream feeding can work for any family whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

This planned feeding shifts the time the baby will next wake due to hunger. The goal is not to eliminate night and early morning feedings altogether, but to align your sleep schedules so you both can enjoy a longer stretch of sleep. 

When to Start to Dream Feeding

While there’s no “one size fits all” answer to when to start dream feeding, a good rule of thumb is that if your baby is waking throughout the night due to hunger, you can probably start dream feeding. You can even dream feed a newborn, although most parents prefer to wait until around 6 weeks when the baby is able to sleep for longer stretches of time. When thinking about the best dream feed age for your baby, it can be helpful to keep wake windows in mind.

When you dream feed a baby, you’ll want to aim for 2-3 hours after the baby’s bedtime feeding. This is ideally sometime between 10 pm and midnight, just before you go to bed yourself. The goal here is to offer one last full feeding before you go to bed to align the baby's longest stretch of sleep with yours. 

Does Dream Feeding Actually Work?

As is true for many things in life, dream feeding does not work for everyone. A common misconception about dream feeding is that it significantly extends the time your baby sleeps.

While dream feeding may help a bit with sleep duration, it is more about syncing your longest stretch of sleep with your baby’s. Depending on your baby’s age, you may not feel immediate results. For example, if you dream feed a newborn, you will still need to wake up multiple times per night, which is why some parents prefer to wait a bit before starting to dream feed. 

Learn how to use your nursing pillow and the factors to consider when choosing yours.

How to Dream Feed

The concept of dream feeding babies is relatively simple, but you may have questions when you’re just starting out. The most common question we hear is, “Should I wake my baby to feed?” Let’s go through the process of dream feeding step by step and get those questions answered as well as provide some handy tips and tricks. 

1. Gently Lift Baby Out of Bassinet

The first step is to enter your baby’s nursery, keeping the lights off. Slowly and gently lift your baby out of the crib or bassinet without talking or moving around too much. The key here is to rouse your baby just enough to be able to feed. You’ll want them to remain drowsy so that going back to sleep is not an issue, so try not to make too much noise.

2. Keep Baby Comfortable

In the spirit of just barely waking your baby enough to feed, keep your baby comfortable in their wearable blanket. The wearable blanket keeps them from moving around a lot and waking, while keeping them warm, cozy, and safe. Cradle them in your arms with their head slightly elevated. This propped position is best for feeding, and using a nursing pillow can help keep them positioned safely and securely in your arms. Always avoid feeding on their back as this can cause choking or ear infections.

3. Place Baby Near Your Breast or Bottle

Once you have your baby properly positioned, gently caress the cheek and sides of the mouth before bringing the breast or bottle to the lips. The baby’s rooting reflex will engage and the baby should begin eating.

4. Feed Your Baby

Allow your baby to feed until they are full. You’ll want a full feeding to encourage the baby to sleep for the longest stretch. How long you feed your baby will depend on a number of factors like when they last ate, their age and size, and if they are bottle- or breastfed.

5. Burp Your Baby

After feeding, always burp your baby to avoid gas throughout the night. How long you burp for will of course depend; you know your baby best! Once burping is complete, use the same steady movements to lower your baby back into their crib or bassinet. 

Sleeping baby getting zipped up by their parent into the Boppy wearable blanket

Keep your newborn baby warm and cozy during feedings with the Boppy Wearable Blanket.

Pros and Cons of Dream Feeds

The dream feed method can be life-altering for some parents, allowing for longer stretches of sleep and a more predictable schedule. For others, it may not be as effective.

Your baby may still wake throughout the night at the same time or it can result in overfeeding. While we cannot provide medical advice or direction, we can speak to some of the pros and cons families experience. If you have specific questions, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician. 


By actively waking and feeding your baby before you go to bed, dream feeding can have a significant impact on your sleep, aligning both of your long stretches of sleep. Getting a solid chunk of sleep in the first part of the night is very beneficial, but it doesn’t mean that you will be completely off the hook for night and early morning feedings. 

  • Can Encourage Longer Sleep: Dream feeding aligns your sleep schedule with your baby’s, getting you a longer stretch of sleep when it matters most, at the start of the night! Dream feeding can also encourage longer stretches of sleep for the baby. 
  • Supports Milk Supply: For those who are breastfeeding, adding a dream feed allows you to maintain your milk supply and may even eliminate a pumping session
  • Alleviates Hunger: By offering a full feeding between 10 pm and midnight, your baby will be able to sleep for a stretch where they may have otherwise woken you up due to hunger
  • Can Be Easier Than Night Feeds: Planning for a dream feed before you go to bed is often easier on the system than being woken up in the wee hours by a crying baby


While dream feeding can be a huge win for some, there are some cons to keep in mind as you start the process. Remember that dream feeding is not the answer for all families.

If your baby struggles to gain or maintain weight, dream feeding is probably not a good idea. The same is true for babies with sleep onset association. Dream feeding is best for babies between the newborn stage and 10 months old who wake up throughout the night due to hunger. However, always talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby’s weight, hunger, or overall health.

  • Can Interrupt Natural Sleep Schedule: Some babies may wake up more often than they normally would after a dream feed because of the unnatural disruption. If this is the case with your baby, dream feeding may not be right for you. 
  • Creating a Habitual Wake Up: Your baby may become accustomed to the dream feed and regularly wakes up at that time, expecting food.
  • Possible Overfeeding: Feeding your baby while they are asleep can pose a risk of overfeeding, which in turn can lead to a fussy and uncomfortable night, so be sure to rouse your baby enough that they are awake for the feeding.
  • Doesn’t Always Guarantee More Sleep: While the goal is to get you a longer stretch of sleep, that may not always be the case if your baby wakes up more frequently post-dream feed. 

Mom burping baby late at night in dimly lit room

Fed is best so learn tips to introduce paced bottle feeding if you choose to wean from breastfeeding.

Tips To Dream Feed

Many of our tips for dream feeding include priming the sleep environment for the best results. Whether your baby sleeps in a bassinet or a crib, getting them to sleep can be a challenge without the right planning and environment. Let’s go over some of our top tips for starting out on your dream feeding journey. 

Have A Sleep Routine

Establish a sleep environment and routine that is predictable and consistent. This teaches your baby that it’s time to sleep and builds good sleep hygiene. Many parents like to incorporate storytime and rocking before bed as both can be good primers for sleep. 

Create A Cozy Sleep Environment

Keep the environment cozy and ready for sleep by dimming the lights and using a white noise machine. Don’t forget to keep an eye on room temperature as well; maintaining a 68-72 degree Fahrenheit room is optimal for babies. Even more important than making the environment cozy for sleep is making sure it’s safe for sleep by priming their crib and mattress and using a wearable blanket.

Keep Movements Slow and Steady

As we mentioned earlier, keeping noise and movements to a minimum is key to a successful dream feed. You want to rouse your baby just enough for them to be able to take a feeding. By keeping movements slow and steady, you can prevent your baby from fully waking, which in turn makes it easier for you to put them back down when you're done.

Use Little or No Lights

When you enter the nursery for a dream feed, keep the lights off or very dim to avoid stirring the baby too much. Try using dim night lights that are motion-activated as you walk into the nursery. Keeping lights to a minimum will allow you to rouse your baby just enough for feeding and then successfully get them back to sleep. 

Pay Attention to Wake Windows

Wake windows are the windows of time in between sleeping when your baby is awake. Wake windows change as your baby gets older, getting longer and longer as they require less sleep. Understanding wake windows by age is critical for laying the foundation of dream feeding and helping you make informed decisions about when to start.

Discover additional tips and insights for breastfeeding from a lactation specialist.

When to Stop Dream Feeding

When to stop dream feeding a baby will depend on your unique situation. Factors such as the main feeding method, how many calories your baby takes in throughout the day, and if the dream feed is actually working for you are all things to consider.

It’s important to remember that you can and should stop at any time if it’s not working for you. Check-in with your pediatrician if you have specific questions, but in general, your babies can drop the dream feed at age 8-10 months. While all babies are different, this is the age that most will begin to sleep all night without requiring a feeding.

Seeking Additional Support

If you have tried all the sleep methods to no avail, consult with your pediatrician at your next visit. Some sleep symptoms you’ll want to discuss with the doctor include regular difficulty falling or staying asleep, fussiness throughout the night, and trouble with breathing. Your doctor may be able to recommend tips and techniques to try or provide information for sleep consults to help with training.

Dietary issues are also important to discuss with the pediatrician. If your baby is consistently refusing feedings or on the other hand can’t seem to get enough feedings, consult with your baby’s doctor. Both topics are worth bringing up as a regular point of conversation at your baby’s routine checkups.

Boppy Transforms Your Night’s and Sleep Routine

Boppy transforms sleep for you and your baby with stylish and safe sleep products, including our new baby bassinet that packs flat for easy travel and our wearable blanket in cozy 100% cotton jersey fabric. We make our award-winning nursing pillows with 100% organic cotton and include a removable cover for easy washing. We know firsthand how challenging sleep can be, and strive to make it just a bit easier for all parents out there. Find helpful content from pregnancy and beyond on our blog page.

Dream Feed FAQ 

Is Dream Feeding Safe?

While there are some risks to be aware of, dream feeding itself is safe for you and your baby. Feeding your baby in a semi-upright position and always burping afterward can help avoid choking or reflux. You should also gently rouse your baby (not let them sleep) when giving a dream feed to avoid the risk of overfeeding. If your baby struggles with weight gain or has sleep onset association, it’s best to avoid dream feeding. 

Do You Burp After Dream Feeding?

Yes! It’s important to always remember to burp after the dream feeding to help minimize reflux and gas, which can become very uncomfortable and lead to frequent wakeups in the night. Feeding in a cradled position with the baby’s head slightly elevated will also help with this. 

Do You Change a Diaper When Dream Feeding?

If possible, it’s best to avoid a diaper change when dream feeding. A diaper change is an activity that will likely rouse the baby too much and lead to difficulty getting back to sleep. If the diaper is soiled and you have to change it, try to do so quickly and minimize movement. 

Can Dream Feeding Cause Early Waking?

There are so many causes of early morning wakings, but dream feeds are likely not one of them, especially if your baby is younger than four months old. Remember that a dream feed doesn’t magically remove other night and early morning feedings. Depending on your baby’s age, you may need 1-2 more feedings throughout the night in addition to the dream feed. 

How Long Should a Dream Feed Be?

Dream feed time will depend on when the baby was last fed and the primary feeding method. Since the primary objective is to offer a full feeding, ensure that your baby is awake enough to accept and stop the feeding. A dream feed schedule will look different for everyone, so be alert to your baby’s cues here. 

When to Drop a Dream Feed

You’ll know your baby is ready to drop a dream feed when they’re getting to the age where they can go almost the full night without a feeding. For most babies, that is somewhere between 8 and 10 months. Keep in mind that you can drop dream feedings at any time if they just aren’t working for you.


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