Your dreaming baby

Dr Richard Woolfson reveals what goes on behind your baby’s sleeping eyes


Do babies dream?

Yes they do; when he’s fast asleep, look closely at his eyelids. Although his eyes are often restful and still, there are times when you can see them moving rapidly under his closed eyelids, in the same way that they would if he was looking at a picture when he’s awake – that’s when he’s dreaming.


It would be wonderful if your baby could tell you what he dreams about – probably endless vats of milk! – but he can’t, although we can hazard a guess. Analysis of adult dreams suggests we typically centre on an event or experience that happened during that day. So the chances are that your baby dreams about what he has seen and heard earlier in the day.

Maybe it’s the fun you had when you were giving him a bath that’s the focus of his night-time imagination, or perhaps he relives the tickling game you played with him that morning. During dreaming he’s probably thinking, ‘What fun! I liked that so much, I’m going over it for a second time.’

Learning through his dreams

Psychologists maintain that a baby’s dreams serve another purpose – learning. Scientific evidence shows that new connections between brain cells – vital to the development of his thinking skills – are formed during his imaginative adventures while he’s asleep. Even though he looks docile, cuddly and passive while in the land of nod, he’s recharging his batteries for the next day and activating brain cells that are responsible for taking on board new knowledge.

Don’t worry if you see his closed eyelids twitch actively while he sleeps – there’s nothing wrong with him having vivid dreams. You may notice your baby having jerky arm and leg movements which coincide with this type of sleep – that’s quite normal. He’s simply reacting to a very intense series of images that are running through his mind. You’ll find that he settles back into a sleep rhythm quite quickly without waking up. All that has happened during these moments is that a new brain connection has been formed.

Soothing a bad dream

If you suspect your baby wriggles about because he’s having a bad dream, don’t wake him but speak very gently to him until he settles.

If your little one does wake up suddenly from a dream – because it seemed so real and vivid to him – he might burst out crying. All that he’s saying is, ‘I’ve just woken up too quickly, give me a soothing cuddle.’

Calm him, chat to him gently, and he’ll soon fall asleep once again. Try not to wake him up when you see he’s in dreaming phase of sleep – he’ll feel more relaxed if he can wake up naturally.


Slumbering babies: the facts

  • You usually dream for about 30% of the time you’re asleep, whereas your baby dream his way through 50 and 80% of his slumber time.
  • Some research studies claim to have proved that from week 24 to week 30 of pregnancy, a foetus dreams for every minute he sleeps.
  • You baby dreams more in his first two weeks than at any other time in his life. Dreaming decreases from that point onwards.
  • By 1 year, you infant dreams half as much as he did six months previously. By 3 years old, he dreams half the amount he did when he was 18 months old.

Comments ()

Please read our Chat guidelines.