Your little one cries – and you do your best to make them feel better. But is it really about food? The next time you are faced with a hunger cry, take note of these signs that can help decipher if you have a hungry baby or one who is crying because of something else.
Throughout the first year of life, a baby’s stomach capacity changes. Newborns are satisfied with just one or two big meals a day. As a baby grows, so does his hunger. He will eat every couple of hours, from morning through evening. But sometimes you will hear your baby cry in the middle of what should be one of those very frequent feedings. Babies cry for many reasons, but it is difficult to differentiate between hunger cries and cries that signal other needs – like a wet diaper or feeling unloved or unhappy.
Every baby is different and may develop their ways of showing you that it is time for a feed. As your baby gets more experienced and confident, you will begin to recognize the signals your baby uses to tell you it is time for a feed. Below are some common signs and cues your baby may use.
You already know how to tell when your baby is hungry! Soon, you will begin to recognize the many ways your baby communicates their needs to you. As you become more familiar with the early signs of hunger, it will be easier for you to feed your baby on cue. Think of these tips as your crib notes for infant communication.
Common hunger signs to know your baby is hungry
One of the main responsibilities of a new parent is to “read” your baby’s hunger cues. It is especially important to learn to communicate with your little one when she is hungry. As a newborn, she may show you that she is hungry by making sounds like cooing and gurgling. Later in her infancy, she will start showing you signs that she is hungry. As babies get older, they tend to be more vocal about their hunger. When they are 3 months or older, they may cry when they are hungry, so this is another important step in learning how to read your crying baby.
If you are breastfeeding, you will be able to tell from your baby’s cues when they need to feed: They may look at your breast or move their mouth in a sucking motion when placing them on the breast, they will first root for the nipple with their mouth outstretched, then start suckling. This process is called the rooting reflex. For newborns and infants, this is normal behavior. After one to two weeks of age, if your baby continues to stop feeding before their hunger is satisfied, then this could mean that your baby is not getting enough milk and may not be getting wet and dirty enough diapers (a sign of hydration).
Your newborn is polite enough to let you know when he or she is hungry. For example, if your sleepy head seems to doze off longer then they should use a feeding chart or guide to estimate if they are feeding frequently enough for their age. Hunger pangs in their tiny stomachs will usually wake them up, even from a deep slumber. If your baby seems fussy after nursing and squirming in your arms for so long, there must be a reason.
Newborns need to feed every two hours or so until they are a few weeks old. If you are concerned that your baby does not seem interested in feeding, or if you are unsure how much milk your newborn is taking in, talk with your pediatrician. Do not routinely sleep longer than 4 hours or so at a time.
How to know that you are feeding well enough to your baby?
Noticing your baby’s hunger cues is a vital part of successful breastfeeding. Your baby will instinctively know how to start breastfeeding, so you can easily learn this skill too. As soon as you start breastfeeding, your little one will let you know if they are getting enough milk or not with a few simple cues — and this handy guide will tell you what they look like.
How do you know your baby is feeding well enough? If your nipple is smooth and soft after a feed, it means your baby is getting the right amount of colostrum, the first type of milk that they need in the first few days after birth. If your nipple starts to feel hard and lumpy or cracked, this means there is not enough milk for them. In such cases, you will need to express or hand express extra milk from your breast.
As your baby grows, the number of times he or she will feed for 24-24 hours increases. By this time, you know whether your breastfed baby is gaining weight normally. If you have any concerns, ask your health care provider to help with feeding management.
When new babies grow, it is hard to know when to feed them. And some babies are in a hurry to grow, requiring you to feed them as often as every hour and a half or two hours. Some babies, however, will grow at a slower pace and want to nurse every 3 to 4 hours. As they get older, they will continue to grow according to their progress.
To know when your baby is feeding enough, you are going to have to have the courage to watch them eat. Watching your baby while they are feeding will help you know if they are swallowing their milk, gulping, and swallowing frequently. Your baby will not make much noise during feedings besides a few innocent lips smack as they soothe themselves.
Seeing these feeding cues is a great way to know whether your baby has had enough. However, you can also observe how your baby acts. A content baby may be easier for you to tell if he or she is full because babies often look more relaxed after a successful feed. Also, babies are active learners, so an alert and playful baby means they are ready for more food. If you are still not sure about how much your baby has taken in, watch breastfeeding moms at the playground. You will notice they often follow many of the same cues as you would with your child at home.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you notice a decrease of 2 to 3 ounces (58 to 85 grams) in your baby or a back-to-back loss of 5.5 to 8.5 ounces (155 to 240 grams) since the baby’s last visit. It is important to know when your baby is hungry, so be on the lookout for signs like these: Feed your baby more often during the day than their usual schedule.
If your baby is not feeding well, you will notice other signs. Signs that your baby is hungry include a weak, shallow latch; spending too little time sucking at the breast or from a bottle, or falling asleep soon after starting to feed. If you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk from feedings or pumping sessions, consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant for help with positioning and latch problems.” Signs Your Baby is Hungry. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry by rooting around inside your shirt or by trying to breastfeed more frequently. Newborns should have a minimum of three to four dirty diapers per day, but babies may not have enough time in the day to fill up on milk if they are not eating enough during the day.
If your baby seems to have trouble taking in enough nourishment, you will want to call your pediatrician immediately or make an appointment with a lactation consultant. Here are some signs that might indicate that your baby is having difficulty with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
What else to remember
When it comes to feeding your baby, you know the basics. If your little one is hungry, he will scream (for most people at least). Yet parents and caregivers are often confused about when their baby is hungry, and what that looks like. Your baby will learn to make a range of sounds to signal his hunger. In most cases, crying will not happen until a baby has gone many hours without eating.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to give a baby the nutrition that they need, along with plenty of love. We have learned how to feed our babies through generations of practice, so do not be afraid to use a few tricks. Many newborns can beat you at breastfeeding. They might move their heads around in different directions, sleep, or even spit up sometimes – do not worry! All these things are healthy behaviors for you and your baby during the first weeks.
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