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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Kowal

Signs my baby is hungry

Wouldn't it be so much easier if babies could just tell us what they need? The vast majority of new parents find it tricky to know if baby is hungry, uncomfortable, or fussy for other reasons. Babies have various ways of indicating hunger. Here are some common signs that your under one month old baby may be hungry:

  1. Rooting reflex: When babies turn their head and open their mouth in search of a nipple or bottle, it's a clear indication that they are looking to feed.

  2. Sucking on hands or fingers: Babies often suck on their hands, fingers, or fists when they are hungry. It's their instinctual way of self-soothing and preparing for feeding.

  3. Crying: Hunger is one of the most common reasons for a baby to cry. If your baby's cry is escalating and accompanied by other hunger signs, it's likely an indication that they need to be fed.

  4. Increased activity and restlessness: A hungry baby may become more active, fidgety, or restless. They may squirm, kick their legs, or move their arms more than usual.

  5. Choppy movements: When baby has sharp jerky body movements rather than soft rounded and smooth body movements it might mean they are hungry.

  6. Smacking or licking lips: Babies sometimes smack their lips or stick out their tongues in anticipation of feeding. They may also lick their lips or make sucking motions.

  7. Rapid eye movements: When baby is hungry, they may exhibit rapid eye movements or open their eyes wider than usual.

  8. Increased alertness: Hunger can make a baby more alert and attentive. They may become more focused on their surroundings, become more awake, and/or exhibit increased interest in their environment.

In the first month, it's always good to practice bringing baby to breast or offering a bottle of milk to baby with the presence of any of the above signs until you are sure they are gaining weight appropriately. After that point, or if your baby is gaining weight faster than expected, it is helpful to begin looking for LAYERING of CUES; look for baby to give you two or three cues before instantly offering food. This way you begin to create a "dialogue," with baby where they learn not only to communicate and that you will respond to them, but that you will also need them to show you more clearly what they need. Trust and relationship building happens with reciprocal communication, and that starts in infancy!

It's important to remember that every baby is unique, and they may display individual cues for hunger. It's helpful to observe your baby's feeding patterns over time to understand their hunger signals better. If you're unsure whether your baby is hungry, getting enough, or gassy, you can reach out to a lactation consultant. If you are concerned your baby may be experiencing other issues, consult with your pediatrician or a healthcare professional for guidance.


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