Signs that your baby is hungry

Signs that your baby is hungry – Transcript

If you are breastfeeding you may have heard the term feeding cues and been encouraged to follow your baby’s cues. It’s really important to know that 20 to 30 minutes before your baby actually gets to the crying phase your baby is actually trying to tell you that he is ready for feeding at the breast, and many of us have not known about those cues and haven’t really picked up on them. It’s far better to get your baby to the breast before he gets to that last crying protest cue – babies sometimes struggle to latch when they get to that point because they become a little bit more distressed.

So what are those cues that you can look out for?  The first cues are quite subtle – you may see rapid eye movements, or a little fluttering of your baby’s eyelids. It might be the baby brings his hand right up to his mouth and moves his mouth a little bit as well. Your baby may also lick his lips and he may open and close his mouth quite a lot, and he may even suck on his hands or his fingers or his toes – or anything else that he might have in front of him!

And if your baby gets to the point where he’s trying to tell you that he’s really hungry, he may even root around and if you’re carrying him he could root around on your own body trying to position himself for feeding, and even starting to whimper or squeal a little bit as well. So there’s also some verbal cues going on at this time. So yes you will see a lot of squirming and fidgeting and he may start to even breathe faster. So it’s always good to get your baby to the breast at this time before that leads into the next stage where he may start to get a little bit more distressed.Tired desperate mother and baby crying

So if your baby has got to this latest feeding cue, where he’s beginning to really get really frantic, moving his head from side to side and starting to cry, it’s actually a really good idea to calm him down first. Now sometimes even bringing him close against your body, especially skin to skin, will help to calm frantic babies, but that might not be possible if you’re out and about of course. So calming your baby down before latching is a far better option so that he is likely to latch better at that point.

And remember try not to wait until your breasts are actually feeling full before you bring your baby to the breast where you can, because babies can sometimes struggle to latch a little bit in that circumstance. And another point – it is still absolutely fine to bring the baby to the breast for all reasons -for warmth, and comfort, and just to chill out as well.

And it’s also important to mention that if your baby is a sleepy baby, and therefore too sleepy to show some of those cues at times, it’s important to bring your baby to the breast anyway, every couple of hours in the day, and at least once a night (preferably every three hours or so), because those babies will eventually start to display feeding cues appropriately – but at the moment, not enough to get all the nutrition they need.

And just to let you know as your baby gets older maybe around six to eight weeks he will start to suck on his hands for other reasons as well. You know they tend to have more control over their movements and they start to become interested in the hands so things do change over time. And it is important that you are aware of those changes too.

And finally as your baby becomes even older, maybe four to eight months – that’s generally the time when teething starts to happen, and many babies, (and you will find this happening with your own baby), start bringing the hands to the mouth and sucking on hands in preparation for that tooth eruption!  So that is a different time. Have a look at the videos relating to teething and know that these changes will continue to occur over the next few weeks and months.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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