Signals Your Baby Wants to Eat

Signals Your Baby Wants to Eat

April 19, 2019

As a new parent, there are a million questions that come up as we learn to take care of this tiny life. Is my baby too big? Too little? Too hot? Too cold? Overstimulated? Bored? The list goes on… One of the most important aspects of caring for a baby is ensuring they are well fed.

Knowing the cues that signal when a baby is hungry helps tremendously in keeping baby satisfied and establishing healthy eating habits during those early, blurry days. Babies use their body language to communicate with us — we just have to know how to interpret it. Here are the most common baby hunger cues to watch for:

 

Early Hunger Cues


When a baby starts to get hungry, they’ll likely do at least one of the following:

  1. Make smacking sounds with their lips and/or stick out their tongue.
  2. Suck or chew on their hands (if they can find them) — or anything else within their reach (pillows, toys, your chin).
  3. Root. Rooting babies usually turn their heads from side to side while reaching with their mouths.

Late Hunger Cues


Life doesn’t come to a halt when baby arrives so there will probably be times when you miss those early signs that baby is hungry. If this is the case, baby will get closer to the hangry stage and may do any of the following:

  1. Fidget or squirm, act uncomfortable.
  2. Start to speed up their breathing.
  3. Position themselves for nursing; babies may try to reach for the breast or grab at their caregiver’s clothing. They may try to tilt their head back if that’s how they are usually positioned for nursing.
  4. Fuss or tense their bodies.
  5. Make frantic, agitated movements.
  6. Red-faced crying.

Ideally, you want to offer your baby food before she gets to the later hunger cues — and especially before she starts full-on crying. It’s difficult for a crying baby to get a good latch, making it harder to have a good feed than if they were able to calmly latch and suck. If you’re breastfeeding, feeding your baby before they reach these late stages of hunger will increase the likelihood of establishing this connection for the long-term.

While the idea of feeding babies by the clock is a popular option, in the first few months of life, it’s best to offer food to the baby on demand rather than waiting for a specific amount of time to pass between feedings. Whether it’s been 3 hours or 10 minutes since their last feeding, babies grow rapidly in those early days of life and need plenty of nourishment to keep it up. There’s no benefit to pushing your baby’s eating time back — and it will probably just lead to tears for baby and frustration for mama. Trust your baby and tune in to their cues; they may not be able to speak, but they can still communicate — we just need to listen, or rather, watch.

What’s been your experience reading your baby’s hunger cues? Are there more cues you’ve noticed in your little one? We’d love to hear in the comments below!

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