June 26, 2019

As a new parent, it can be tricky to know exactly what your baby’s wants and needs are at any given moment. Let's be honest, they don't exactly have the best communication skills….... or do they??

A common question I get from new parents is “How will I know if my baby is hungry?”. Newborns (fresh out of the oven) will typically want to breastfeed every 1.5-2 hours. Biologically speaking, babies know exactly what they need to do in order to bring in your milk, so bringing your baby to the breast often is essential in those early days and weeks. Eventually, as breastfeeding becomes easier and your milk supply is established, they will go an average of 2-3 hours between feeds. However, each baby has their own individual wants and needs, so how can you know whether they’re hungry or full?

Babies are designed to give us a multitude of signals or cues. The cues start off small and almost in-perceivable, and they gradually build to a point where baby is past the point of hungry and acting more like a ravenous sabretooth tiger who hasn’t seen a meal in weeks. The key to a calm baby (and calm mommy!) is to catch these hunger cues early:

Early signs of hunger

  • Sucking on their tongue or lips (awake or asleep)
  • Bringing their hands to mouth (awake or asleep)
  • Light Fussing or fidgeting while sleeping
  • Turning head from side to side
  • Rooting reflex (turns cheek towards stimuli and opens mouth)

Feed me now!

  • Rooting around on your chest/shoulder
  • Smacking or licking their lips
  • Wigging into nursing position and/or bobbing their head on the breast/chest
  • Hitting you with their fists
  • Becoming very agitated and fussy

No really, now I’m pissed! Get that food into my belly please!

  • Inconsolable crying & screaming
  • Frantic back and forth movement of the head

**If your baby is at this point, chances are you may have missed a lot of hunger cues. Trying to feed through this phase can present some challenges. Some babies need to be calmed down before attempting to latch onto the breast.

A full baby is a happy baby, and a happy baby equals a happy mommy. So how do you know if your baby is done feeding?

Signs that your baby is full:

  • Their bodies soften and they aren’t so rigid
  • Their fists uncurl and the arms relax to the sides of their bodies
  • Their forehead relaxes
  • They fall asleep
  • They fall off the breast

You are the expert when it comes to your little one and I promise you that learning your baby’s cues does get easier with time. Happy feeding!