You’re a new mom, and chances are, you’re feeling overwhelmed. Almost all new moms feel dazed and confused at the beginning, especially about feeding. Figuring out your newborn’s feeding schedule and knowing how much to feed him can be stressful and confusing. So we’re sharing a few simple techniques you can use to recognize your baby’s hunger and fullness cues. That way, you can feed your baby when he’s actually hungry and let him stop when he shows you he is full.
Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re full, so just follow your baby’s lead. Learn his hunger and fullness cues and feed him on demand, and he will get the nutrition he needs to grow.
Another reason to read baby’s hunger cues: He’ll learn to eat when he’s hungry, not because “it’s time.” Responding to his cues also tells him you’re there to keep him safe and sound.
A baby’s hunger can change day to day, hour to hour. For instance, he’ll likely eat more during the day as he sleeps longer at night and during growth spurts. Some breastfed babies will “cluster feed,” eating more often during certain times of the day.
As baby gets older, his feeding schedule will be more predictable. For now, just learn to trust his hunger instinct and he’ll do the rest!
Here are six easy ways to tell if your baby is hungry.
- Bringing his hands to his face
- Rooting (looking for the nipple with his mouth)
- Making sucking motions and noises
- Sucking on his fingers or putting his fist in his mouth
- Flexing his hands, arms and/or legs
- Breathing fast
Crying is a late hunger cue, so try feeding your baby when he shows these early signs. By following these cues, you’ll discover his natural schedule.
How do you know when to stop feeding? Your baby might be full when he:
- Turns away from nipple or bottle
- Starts to play, appears easily distracted or disinterested in feeding
- Begins crying shortly after feeding starts
- Extends his fingers, arms and/or legs
- Slows his sucking
- Starts falling asleep*
*In the early weeks, some newborns are sleepy and need help staying awake to eat. If he’s younger than a month and hasn’t eaten in a few hours, try keeping him awake long enough to eat (undress him, wipe his forehead with a damp cloth, play with his feet or talk to him). Once your doctor has said your baby is gaining weight well, it’s OK for baby to fall asleep before he has finished eating. It’s probably a sign he’s full! It’s easy to remember: Just follow his lead on when to feed!
Until your baby can tell you what he wants, follow your instincts because you know your baby best. But remember, a crying baby isn’t always a hungry baby. Before you jump to feed him, check whether he:
- Needs a fresh diaper
- Needs a pacifier
- Is dressed appropriately (not too hot or too cold)
- Wants to be swaddled
- Is sleepy
- Is uncomfortable (has gas, is feverish or ill)
If none of these apply, he might very well be hungry. Pay close attention and you’ll be able to tell a FEED ME! cry from an I’m sleepy cry from a wet diaper! cry in no time.