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One of the most overwhelming things about being a new mom is the stress that comes with feeding the baby. I remember getting worried because I didn’t know how to tell if baby is hungry or how often is I should feed them. But I had to “learn” and understand my child and with time it became very easy to read their various hunger cues.

You’d be very surprised to know that even infants can send subtle hunger cues even if they still can’t talk.
You don’t need to create a feeding timetable for your baby and the quantity that’s enough for them. This is because babies usually grow very fast and their eating patterns usually change. Do you have a newborn and you are wondering how they can alert you that they are feeling hungry? Below are some of the most common baby hunger cues that I have witnessed. 

feeding cues

Rapid Eye Movement While They Are Sleeping

This is a sign that even though the baby is asleep, they are hungry. Rapid eye movement is commonly witnessed in newborns and it indicates that they haven’t been fed for a few hours. Note that during the early days, babies usually spend most of their time sleeping. So, if you have a baby who is less than one month old, ensure that you routinely wake them up after every 2-3 hours to nurse them before they can continue sleeping.

Rooting for the Breast

When the baby is turning their head from side to side in a way that indicates they are searching for something, then it’s called a rooting reflex. In case you touch one side of their head and they turn to that direction, there are high chances that they are looking for something to suckle or eat. This is an active hunger cue and they may also rub themselves against the individual who is carrying them while searching for a breast.

Hand-to-Mouth Reflex

This is an early feeding cue. It happens when the baby puts their hands in their mouth then sucks on them. Besides that, the baby may suck whatever is in their hand i.e. clothing, toys, etc. Note that although the hand to mouth reflex may sometimes be done simply as a playful activity when it’s done repetitively it’s a signal that the baby is hungry.

Tongue, Mouth, or Lips Movements

These movements may include:

  • Lip motions such as smacking or licking which indicates they are trying to taste food or if there is any food that’s nearby.
  • Opening and closing the mouth to check if there is food already in the mouth. This can be followed by chewing or sucking motions.
  • Sticking the tongue out.

Increased Body Movements

This is usually a late hunger cue. The baby is extremely hungry and is doing everything to get your attention. They have lost all their patience and they desperately searching for any sign of food. Some of the body movements that you may witness are:

feeding cues
  • Rapid arm and leg movements
  • Fidgeting and/or squirming
  • Punching in case if they are being held
  • Rooting around the chest area of the person carrying them
  • Rapid head movements

Crying Out Loud

Cries are active feeding cues. It indicates a lot of discomforts and it’s considered as one of the last resorts. It’s important to learn how to interpret how your baby cries. This is because some cries are simply developmental while others could signify pain, sleep etc. Note that a hunger cry usually starts off with the common hunger cues, grunts, and then whining sounds. 

Overall, getting to know your baby’s feeding cues is important rather than trying to make assessment by calculating the amount of time and food that you last fed them. Hunger cues have a lot of benefits and they will help you to understand your baby very well. It helps to ensure that the feeding process is smooth and understand how you can satisfy the hunger or thirst that your little one is experiencing. Additionally, it gives you confidence and you will be able to foster a strong relationship with your child. Remember that these hunger cues will change as they grow and at some point, they will be able to point the food/breast or even reach out for it.

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