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While scientists have been studying dreams for years, the vivid scenarios you create in your dreams at night can still be totally cryptic. One second you’re flying through the air, falling into the abyss, or perhaps enjoying a romantic date. Then, all of a sudden, you’re cradling a newborn baby.

Or maybe you dream that a baby is crying and you can’t seem to get them to stop, or you’re running around frantically trying to find a baby you’ve apparently lost — even though you don’t have a baby in real life.

Dreams about having a baby are common if you’re pregnant, but they can also happen in people who aren’t expecting. If your dreams are filled with a bundle of joy, read on to find out what it might mean.

Researchers still don’t entirely agree on the real reason we have dreams. There are, however, plenty of theories.

Many researchers view dreams as merely the result of random brain activity. But others believe dreams are a way to confront or work through emotional drama in your life. This is because during the dreaming phase of sleep, your brain is operating at a much more emotional level than when you’re awake.

Some scientists propose that dreaming is an evolutionary adaptation that helps you work through stressful situations. This, in turn, makes you better equipped to handle real-world threats.

Whether you’re expecting or not, dreams about having a newborn baby are likely normal.

If you’re pregnant or just had a baby

If you’re pregnant or just had a baby, a dream about a newborn could be a reflection of your anxiety about giving birth or taking care of your child. A dream may help you prepare emotionally for the arrival of your baby.

A 2001 study suggests that pregnant women tend to have more dreams about pregnancy or childbirth than those who aren’t pregnant.

Other research, including a 2014 study, has reported that pregnant women experience more nightmares than those who aren’t pregnant.

One reason for this is the fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy and after childbirth, which may produce more vivid dreams or influence the content of those dreams.

Interpreting dreams is rarely objective, which makes it difficult to conduct research on the meaning of dreams.

If you’re having dreams about babies or breastfeeding babies, you may want to consider what’s going on in your life that could be affecting your unconscious mind at night.

If you’re pregnant or have a baby

A dream about breastfeeding your new child could be a way to cope with the need for parental bonding with your new baby.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when most dreams happen, may play a role in mother-infant attachment, according to a 2007 study. In other words, a dream about breastfeeding your baby could just be an expression of your desire to form a bond with your new child.

If you’re not expecting

If dreams are meant to help you work through real situations, then dreams about breastfeeding a baby could signify a need or desire to take care of others.

If you’re not pregnant, dreams about a baby may be a metaphor for:

  • a fresh start in life
  • personal growth
  • a new development

They may result from of a major change in life you’re currently working through.

A baby-related dream could also simply happen after watching a movie about babies or talking to a friend about babies.

If you dream about having a baby, but you’re not pregnant and don’t want to be pregnant, it could signify stress or anxiety in your life that you need to deal with. Or it could be a manifestation of your desire to take care of others.

A baby could appear in your dreams in many different ways. And the context around what’s happening with the baby in your dreams could point to different meanings.

Keep in mind that dream interpretation should be taken with a huge grain of salt. The meaning of dreams hasn’t been proven by science, so these are only theories.

A few possible interpretations of a baby in your dream could include:

  • Dreams about a crying baby. These dreams may signal that something is amiss or that you need help with something in real life. If you’ve just had a baby, a crying baby dream could be a byproduct of the anxiety you feel when your baby cries at night.
  • Dreams about holding a baby. These could reflect your desire to nurture others or a time in your life that’s full of responsibility.
  • Dreams about an evil baby. Such dreams may relate to a fear of the unknown or a worry that something bad is about to happen in life.
  • Dreams about losing a baby or an injured baby. It can be quite disturbing to have these dreams. They could be a response to some sort of loss or something missing from your life.
  • Dreams about being a baby. These may indicate a need for comfort and nurturing, a feeling of helplessness, or the avoidance of a responsibility.
  • Dreams about taking care of a baby that isn’t your own. These dreams could be a metaphor for a project or plan you’re working on and care about.

If the dreams you’re having about babies are unwanted or even stressful, you can take a few steps to try to minimize them, including:

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night.
  • Avoid watching violent, scary, or suspenseful movies before bed.
  • Avoid cigarettes and nicotine products, and don’t drink caffeine or alcohol late in the day.
  • Exercise during the day, but not right before bed.
  • Avoid long daytime naps.
  • Don’t drink too much fluid at night before bed.

You may not be able to stop a dream completely, however, especially if it’s triggered by emotional issues, trauma, or major life changes. Once you deal with the emotional stress or get through the life change, you may find that the dreams stop on their own.

If something is really bothering you and you have a lot of anxiety about it, you may want to meet with a counselor or other mental health professional.

You likely have several dreams at night but don’t remember most of them.

Dreams are considered sensory experiences that occur most often during a stage of sleep known as REM. During REM sleep, your brain is active and your eyes move, but your body is relaxed.

Despite what we know about sleep, it can be difficult for scientists to explain the role of dreams in our lives. Dreams often make little or no sense. This may be because the parts of the brain that trigger dreams are considered your “emotional centers.”

A dream can be shaped by whatever you’re thinking about as you fall asleep or something you’ve experienced during the day, including a movie, book, or video game.

Dreams can also be brought on by anxiety or stressful situations that you haven’t had a chance to cope with yet.

Dreaming is a normal process, though not much is truly understood about it. You may dream about babies for a variety of reasons.

If you’re already pregnant, a baby dream could be a manifestation of anxiety about giving birth or an emotional need to form a bond with the new little one in your life.

If you’re not pregnant and don’t have a baby, dreams about newborns might be an expression of a new beginning in your life or a desire to take care of others.

Baby dreams could also be completely random and not really mean anything at all.

If unwanted dreams continue and start to bother you, though, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.