5 Newborn Feeding Cues To Know If Your Baby Is Hungry

As a parent, feeling overwhelmed with caring for your newborn is expected. One of the biggest challenges is knowing when your baby is hungry and needs to be fed. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it’s essential to know and understand your baby’s feeding cues to meet their feeding needs effectively! It can be incredibly daunting if you’re a first-time parent and unsure what to look for or how to interpret your baby’s signals. But don’t worry; understanding your newborn’s feeding cues is easier than you think. In this post, we’ll walk you through the typical newborn feeding cues your baby will give you, so you can confidently respond to their needs.

5 Newborn Feeding Cues That Signal “Feed Me!”


Crying

Crying is a late feeding cue, and it usually means that your baby is very hungry or uncomfortable. If you wait until your baby cries to feed them, they may become too upset to latch on correctly or feed well.

Try to respond to your baby’s earlier feeding cues before they get to the crying stage. This will help ensure that your baby is calm and well-fed and that feeding is a positive experience for both of you.

Rooting Reflex

One of the first feeding cues you’ll notice is the rooting reflex.

This is when your baby turns their head towards your breast or bottle, opens their mouth, and starts to move their head in search of the nipple.

Responding promptly to this cue is essential so your baby doesn’t become upset or frustrated. If you wait too long, your baby may become too hungry to latch on properly, or they may suck harder and faster than they need to.

Short Feeds

Don’t be alarmed if your baby only feeds for a few minutes at a time, especially in the first few weeks of life.

Newborns have small stomachs and must feed frequently every 2-3 hours. As your baby grows, they’ll be able to feed for more extended periods of time and go longer between feeds.

If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, or if they’re feeding for very short periods of time, talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

Sucking Reflex

Once your baby has latched onto your breast or bottle, you’ll notice their sucking reflex.

This is when your baby moves their jaw up and down in a rhythmic motion, using their tongue and cheeks to suck and swallow.

You may also hear soft, repetitive sounds as your baby feeds. Your baby will continue to suck and swallow until they are full; at this point, they may fall asleep or pull away from the breast or bottle.

Swallowing Sounds

While your baby is feeding, you’ll hear soft swallowing sounds as they swallow the milk. This is a good sign that your baby is getting enough milk and feeding well.

If you don’t hear any swallowing sounds, or if your baby is taking very long to feed, it may be a sign that they’re not latched on properly, or that they’re not getting enough milk. In this case, you may need advice from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider.

How Can You Tell If Your Baby Is Full?


Just like hunger cues, babies give signals when they’re full. This is known as satiety cues. When your baby starts to feel full, they may turn their head away from the bottle or breast, close their mouth, or push away.

A relaxed body and decreased sucking speed are also common signs of satiety.

It’s essential to stop feeding your baby when you observe these signs, or they may end up overeating.

3 Other Newborn Cues To Know


Comfort Cues

Pacifiers or thumb-sucking can provide comfort to your baby in between feeds. Your baby may suck on their hands or fingers when bored, tired, or uncomfortable.

Knowing the difference between hunger and comfort sucking is essential so your baby doesn’t overeat. If unsure, offer your baby a pacifier instead of a feed.

Practice Cues

Babies must practice feeding to develop their sucking and swallowing skills as they grow. Practice cues include sucking on fingers or fists, tongue movements, and mouthing.

Letting your baby practice sucking skills can help them develop better feeding skills and strengthen their jaw muscles.

Sleeps Cues

Feeding your baby just before they begin to sleep can be calming. Hence, it’s crucial to identify your baby’s sleep cues. Some standard signals to watch include rubbing eyes, pulling ears, yawning, and fussing.

Remember that feeding your little one is not always the solution to sleepiness. Sometimes, simply providing a comforting environment or a nap may do wonders.

FAQ


How do I know if my newborn is hungry or wants comfort?

One key factor to look out for is the timing of their last feeding. If your little one has gone a few hours since their last meal, they likely need nourishment. You can also watch for signs like lip smacking, rooting around your chest or hand, or sucking on their fists.

However, it’s also important to remember that babies may sometimes seek comfort from their caregivers, regardless of whether they are hungry. If you’ve recently fed your newborn and they continue to fuss or cry, try soothing them with a pacifier, a gentle rocking motion, or skin-to-skin contact.

How can I tell if my baby is feeding or pacifying?

One way to tell if your baby is feeding is to listen for the sound of swallowing. If you hear a consistent pattern of gulping, chances are your baby is getting milk. However, if you hear only sucking sounds, your baby may just be using your breast or bottle as a means of comfort.

How do I know if my newborn is full?

First, pay attention to your baby’s feeding patterns. If they consistently finish their bottles or breastfeeding sessions, they’re likely getting enough to eat.

Another helpful indicator is your baby’s behavior. They might feel satisfied if they seem calm, content, and relaxed after a feeding. On the other hand, if they’re fussy and crying, they may still be hungry.

How do I know if my baby is still hungry after feeding?

If your baby is still rooting around for your breast or bottle, making smacking sounds, or sucking on their hands, these are all potential indications that they’re still hungry. Additionally, if they seem fussy or cranky shortly after a feeding, that could also mean they need more to eat.

Should I wait for my baby to cry before feeding them?

While some people believe that waiting for a hunger cue like crying is essential, others argue that responding to your baby’s early hunger signals can help them feel secure and prevent excessive fussiness.

Your baby may start showing early signs of hunger by sucking on their hands or smacking noises with their mouth. Pay attention to these cues and offer a feeding before your baby becomes upset and inconsolable. Waiting until your baby is crying may make it harder for them to latch or cause them to take in air while feeding, leading to discomfort and fussiness.

Staying proactive with your baby’s hunger cues will help keep them content and happy and ensure they are adequately nourished and growing.

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To Wrap It Up


Understanding your newborn’s feeding cues is integral to caring for your baby. By responding to your baby’s early feeding cues, you can help ensure that they’re well-fed and comfortable and that feeding is a positive experience for both of you.

Remember to look for the rooting reflex, sucking reflex, and swallowing sounds, and try to respond to your baby’s feeding cues before they start crying. And if you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s feeding habits, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for advice and support.

With some practice, you’ll soon become an expert at reading your baby’s signals and meeting their feeding needs.

Until the next post, I’m sending you all the positive parenting vibes! You got this 🙂

With gratitude,

Linds

What can you add or share about newborn feeding cues that I didn’t cover in this post? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below. Your input is valuable and helps fellow parents or caregivers who read this post!

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About The Author


Linds is the proud mom of two little miracles, Mono Mono twin girls, and one AMAZING older brother! She is the founder and content creator of Mono Mono Twins, Intensive Therapy for Kids, and Co-Founder of The LENN Foundation, a 510c3 that helps children with cerebral palsy receive grants for intensive therapies to thrive.

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