Feeding cues for your baby

Find out about the different ways to recognise that your baby is hungry with midwife Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub.
Feeding cues for your baby
2020 - 09 - 26

Mama, before your little one can talk to tell you that they’re hungry, they communicate in a very special way to let you know that it’s feeding time! Both as your baby grows, and as you transition into the wonderful journey of parenthood, there are a number of ways to recognise that your baby is hungry. So let’s talk about it!

Remember mama, in the early days you and your bub are getting to know each other. Over the first few weeks, you will begin to notice little cues from your baby. These cues through baby’s body language you can tell a number of things, whether bub is tired, hungry, or wants a cuddle! A newborn feeds between 8-12 times in a 24 hour period and may wake up for a feed between naps, however, it is an extra handy tip to understand when your baby is awake and is showing feeding cues. This helps their needs be met, and also helps avoid getting to the last cue which can be crying (and make latching quite tricky). Every newborn is different and your baby will show some cues that are very obvious as well as some more subtle ones that you will get to know over time.

  • Early feeding cues may include:Rooting and baby turning their head. This instinct or reflex is built into a newborn’s mind and they know just where the nipple/teat may be and how to get it! As a baby becomes more demanding for a feed, they may begin to wriggle and fuss.
  • Mid-sign feeding cues may include: Licking and puckering of baby’s lips, or baby poking their tongue right out so you can see it! They may also begin to start sucking on their hands. Your baby might be active, alert, awake, and begin to kick their little legs around. This is a great sign that they want some love from mama. They may even start to grasp at your shirt if you are holding them. They use all of their senses, including touch when it’s feeding time.
  • Late feeding cues may include:A crying and agitated baby! They might get so upset that they may begin to turn red with their breathing becoming irregular. Not to worry though mama, you’ve got this! Have some skin to skin time, give baby a nice warm cuddle and calm them down with your voice that they know so well! Skin to skin time can also be a great way to soothe bub if they are quite upset. It is important to soothe baby before trying to feed to get a good latch, and have a successful feed + mama and baby will be much happier!

baby feeding cues

Mama, if you are unsure if bub is hungry, you can always try to offer a feed if they are showing some of these cues. It may not be the reason they are unsettled, however when you respond to their body language it makes them feel safe and secure. Responding to their cues assists in building a strong relationship between the two of you and it is their very own special way of communicating with their parents.

Not only are these feeding cues a sign of hunger, but they can also let you know if baby wants more milk after a feed is finished. Reoffering the breast following a feed is a good way of keeping baby happy and settled.

My baby is sleeping all the time and not showing these cues, should I wake my baby for a feed?

Depending on how old your baby is can influence their sleeping pattern. In the first few days of life you baby may be sleepy, just like you, from a tiring birthing experience. Allowing your baby to sleep an extra hour can be beneficial, however sleeping for too long might mean you need to wake baby up. This is important for healthy weight gain and minimising conditions like jaundice! Before you leave the hospital or the care of your midwife, have a chat about your specific circumstances. For example, if your bub is quite small or has low blood sugars, feeds will need to be very routine for the first few weeks until the circumstances change. Regular feeding is also crucial for your milk production mama! As your baby grows, and you get to understand their feeding patterns a bit better, you will get to know if your baby is sleeping too much and needs to be woken up for a feed. Just remember mama, they are learning too!

baby feeding cues

Getting to know your baby’s feeding cues are an extra special way of communicating and an awesome way of creating a safe and responsive relationship. As you and your baby journey through life together, you will form a bond where even the most subtle cues an be picked up by mama. As always, if you have any concerns, I recommend chatting with your health professional and or a lactation consultant to get a personalised plan for you mama!

Blog written by midwife and head of education, Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub.

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