In This Post:
Being able to recognize the signs baby is hungry – especially newborns – will make feeding time so much easier for you and your baby.
You will be able to anticipate their hunger needs before they start crying. Leaving you and your baby more relaxed and satisfied during and after feedings.
We will touch on the wide range of hunger cues that your baby may use to signal they are hungry, the signs baby is full, and how to better understand your little one’s appetite as they grow.
7 Signs Your Baby is Hungry
The main 3 signs that your baby is hungry are:
- sucking fingers
- nibbling hands
Although there are a variety of other ways your infant may show they are ready to eat, such as:
- awakening from a nap or at night
- making soft sounds
- mouth movements – licking lips, sticking out their tongue, smacking lips, or sucking sounds
- fussiness and light crying
What is rooting?… rooting is when a baby will turn their head toward your breast or turn their head and open their mouth. They may open their mouth toward whoever is holding them. It doesn’t always have to be their mom.
Once you spend some time with your newborn you will start to notice the little things they may do when they are hungry. Crying is often the last sign of hunger. Once baby gets to the point of crying it can often be harder for them to get started feeding.
If you have a gassy infant, then it is also beneficial to catch their hunger cues before they start crying. Feeding a crying baby causes them to swallow more air than usual which causes more gas. When they are relaxed they are able to latch on better to both the breast and bottle.
4 Signs Your Baby is Full
There is a lot of information out there about how long a baby should nurse for or how many ounces of formula they should be drinking. In reality, every baby is different and may not follow those guidelines.
You would be surprised at how well your newborn can communicate that they are full. Being able to recognize their cues that they are finished with their feed will help them eat exactly what they need, sleep better, be more content, and gain the proper amount of weight.
The 4 signs your baby might show to express they are full are:
- stops sucking and detaches from the nipple
- closes their mouth and does not want to open it
- turns their head away from the breast or the bottle
- falls asleep or seems satisfied
As your baby grows, so does their tummy. It’s natural for them to start feeding for a longer period of time and less frequently throughout the day.
You may also notice a change in their feeding habits when they start solid foods.
When baby starts to become more aware of their surroundings it is common for them to stop feeding when they hear a sound or something catches their eye. You have to be patient as they grow and understand they can take little breaks, look around, and then want to resume feeding.
The Signs Your Baby is Hungry While Breastfeeding
Understanding the signs baby is hungry and full is especially important for newborn breastfed babies. Noticing your baby’s hunger cues when you are breastfeeding is important for three main reasons:
- Latching a calm, hungry baby is easier than latching a crying, hungry baby.
- Unlike bottle feeding, when you breastfeed you are unable to see exactly how much milk your baby is drinking.
- It is recommended to feed your breastfed baby on demand and not on a schedule.
As breastfeeding mamas we really rely on our babes to share with us when they are hungry and full – which they will do – we just need to be able to recognize those signs!
After spending a little time with your baby, you will be able to recognize some of the signs I have listed above.
As soon as you may think they are hungry you can try bringing them to the breast. Sometimes they may be hungry and latch right on to nurse. Other times you may misread them and they won’t be interested in feeding.
I always preferred to offer the breast and my babe did not want it, then be struggling to get him to calm down and latch because I waited too long after the hunger cues. As time goes on you will get better at reading those cues correctly.
Understanding Your Baby’s Appetite
As your little one grows, his or her normal feeding habits will change. Their hunger cues, normal feeding patterns, how long they nurse for, or how many ounces satisfy them will all change. There is no one size fits all guide that will tell you exactly when and how these things will change.
Understanding your baby’s appetite and recognizing when you need to change things up will make things easier for you and your baby. The best way to follow your baby’s appetite as they grow is to stay flexible and listen to your baby’s hunger and full cues.
Keep an eye out for their signs they are hungry or full and know these may change over time. My little guy used to put his hands in his mouth when he was hungry. As he got older (and started teething) he ALWAYS had his hands in his mouth. So I had to look for a new cue that he was hungry.
Size of Your Baby’s Belly
The other big thing that will help you understand your baby’s appetite is being aware of the size of the baby’s belly. Most first-time mamas don’t realize how small their baby’s belly is at birth and through the first few weeks.
This is why newborn babies drink so little, but so often. Their bellies are just too small to hold that much milk. Breastmilk is more easily and quickly digested than formula, so it is common for breastfed babies to feed more often than formula-fed babies.
- Day 1: about the size of a cherry, baby will likely be eating 1-3 tablespoons of milk per feeding
- Day 3: about the size of a walnut, baby will likely be eating around 1 ounce of milk per feeding
- Day 10: about the size of an apricot, baby will be eating around 2 ounces of milk per feeding
- 1 Month: about the size of a lime, baby will be eating around 3-5 ounces of milk per feeding
Remember that every baby is different. Yours might not follow the general guidelines above. This is just to give you a rough idea of how small their tummies really are. Follow their hunger cues to understand their appetite best.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Hopefully, you are now armed with the knowledge and know-how to tell when your little babe is full or hungry. Remember to keep an eye out for signs baby is hungry and signs baby is full. Plus be flexible in knowing these can change over time.
I promise you catching the cues your baby is hungry before they start crying with leave you and your baby happier, especially during feeding time. Feeding time is a time for bonding with your baby – whether you nurse or bottle-feed. Snuggle up with your little one, smile at them, and quietly talk with them as they eat. Feed with love and smiles.
Share your experience with your little one’s hunger cues below in the comments section. Some babes have some really quirky cues!