Having a baby is a wonderful thing but no matter if this is your first, second or third child there always seems to be something new to learn about.
One of the most important things that you have to get your head around is your baby’s hunger cues.
Now at first glance, this might seem like it would be easy to do but what you have to remember is that babies can’t talk when they are newborn so you have to be able to almost interpret what it is that your baby wants.
You have to know the reason your baby is crying and how you can help them.
Your baby’s only method of communication is crying at the moment so how can you know when it is time to feed your baby?
We will go over these hunger cues in just a moment.
Unless you are prepared to constantly feed on demand and not do anything else, you will need some type of system to understand your baby’s hunger cues.
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How will I know if my baby is hungry?
As you get more and more familiar with your baby you will start to notice signs that your baby is becoming hungry. It takes a little getting used to so if you haven’t been able to identify it yet, don’t worry you will.
Besides, that’s why you are here right’?
The tips I’m going to show you for identifying your baby’s hunger cues will help you out immensely.
Just a little tip though as I have made this mistake millions of times with my little ones.
Try to be as attentive to your baby as possible when they are very small because sometimes they can give us little clues as to what is wrong but if we are not paying attention we can easily miss it.
If you let your baby get to the point of being overly hungry, you will have a little situation on your hands.
It’s always best to feed your baby before they get to the point of beyond hungry. Keep an eye out for those baby hunger cues.
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How often should I feed my baby?
I very much believe in on-demand feeding and I’m not a huge fan of scheduled feeding but if that works for you then that great!
If you choose to practice scheduled feeding then you will need to teach your baby that they will only feed at those times. Be prepared that there will be lots of work ahead to establish this.
What I have noticed with all 4 of my children is that sometimes they don’t know how long they want to feed for.
One moment they will feed for 20 minutes the next it will be a 5-minute feed.
Sometimes they are really hungry and need to get to the hindmilk and sometimes the foremilk is plenty.
There isn’t a particular rhyme or reason to it so don’t work yourself up over what type of feed you think your child should be having.
Right now the only battle your baby is facing is if they should eat and then sleep or sleep and then eat.
You may even see your baby fall asleep whilst feeding. This is completely normal.
You think your baby is done with their feed, take the breast away and then they wake up to feed some more.
Your baby has been through a lot and has lots of adjusting to do so don’t focus too much on how often or how long a feed should be.
As long as your baby is eating, you are doing a great job.
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So what are some of these newborn hunger cues that we need to look out for?
Generally, there are 3 stages of hunger cues that your baby will go through.
The first being early:
- This is where you will see your baby
- Opening and closing their mouth
- Licking or smacking of their lips
- Sticking their tongue in and out
- Sucking on anything they can put their hands or mouth to
The second stage is the active stage
Your baby will start moving their head around from left to right. ( You may have heard people joke about a baby trying to get breastmilk from someone who is not mom) This is just a hunger cue.
- You might start to see lots of wriggling and getting agitated
- You might find your baby waking and then sleeping again in quick succession
- They may even begin to breathe fast
The third stage is the late stage (or what I like to call the “Don’t even go there stage!”)
This is the stage you must avoid as much as you can.
In this stage, your baby is fully upset and will probably be shaking their hands, crying and all sorts.
Try to avoid this as much as possible because once your baby reaches this point it can be difficult to clam them down before they are able to eat properly.
Things you can do to make sure that you are able to feed your baby in good time
If you are formula feeding, make sure you have bottles readily prepared. The worst thing you can do is to allow your baby to scream whilst you rush around the kitchen trying to make up a bottle then having to blow it like a crazy person because it’s too hot.
This is not good for either you or your baby.
Or you can generally pump to keep up the flow of your milk supply so your baby doesn’t get frustrated at the breast.
I would advise that you get a pump that works well but also isn’t too expensive. I recommend the Medela, Harmony Manual Breast Pump as a starting point.
A hungry baby is NOT a happy baby.
What if my baby is still showing signs of being hungry after just being fed?
Babies feed how they want.
It’s hard being a baby and a lot of the day is taken up by sleeping. Feeding generally has to fit around this.
Your baby could easily feed for 10 minutes, fall asleep then wake up to feed again in a few minutes time.
There’s not really a whole lot you can do about it.
You will find that the older your baby gets the less sporadic their feeding will be.
Don’t forget about growth spurts.
There will be times when it feels like your baby has been feeding all day. Those baby hunger cues just keep coming.
Don’t worry about it, your baby just needs a little more milk to help them get through a growth spurt. Once this slows down, normal feeding should resume.
If I am out in public and my baby starts giving me cues for a feed what should I do?
If you are bottle feeding its not so much of a problem as you probably have a bottle ready to go.
If on the other hand, you are breastfeeding it can be a little more tricky.
Personally speaking, I’m not a shy feeder when it comes to breastfeeding and I will generally do it anywhere but I know the same is not true for everyone.
If your baby does begin to show hunger cues then you should make sure that you find a place to sit quickly with a breastfeeding cover and feed your child as comfortably as possible.
Breastfeeding covers are perfect if you have a baby that likes to tug and pull at your clothes whilst you are feeding.
Final thoughts on baby feeding cues
It takes some time to get used to the needs of your baby. Just when you think you have it all worked out something else pops up.
Indeed raising a baby can be challenging but eventually, you will get to know all your baby needs. Within that, you will probably make some mistakes along the way and that’s ok, we all do.
Just do your best.
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