Feeding a newborn is something every parent should be able to do with ease, but that is not always the case. It can be a very stressful task, especially for new parents. You may be asking yourself ‘’How often should I feed my baby’’, ‘’How to properly breastfeed my baby’’, or even ‘’Should I wake my newborn to feed?’’. A lot of things can be confusing when it comes to feeding, but the good news is your little one knows best when it comes to this.
Your baby’s hunger regulator is in tune with its energy needs, so you should not worry whether it is getting enough nourishment. There is no need to obsessively count the number of minutes in a feeding session or the ounces of formula. Instead, simply pay attention to your little one’s behavior to see the signs baby is hungry.
Signs Baby Is Hungry
It is important to respond to the signs your little one may be given to you. Research has shown that babies regulate their feeding if the parents are responsive to their feeding cues. In case those signs of hunger are neglected, your baby may become confused when it comes to fullness and hunger. Consequently, such behavior may lead to a higher risk of childhood obesity and less adequate energy intake. To avoid similar problems, follow these signs:
- Crying. If your little one is hungry, its cry will be rising and falling, low-pitched and short. However, crying is not the best sign of hunger. If your baby is crying, that means it has been feeling hungry for a while. Crying is a late sign of hunger. By the time your baby starts wailing, it may be feeling too stressed to start eating properly. That is why it is important to look for other signs of hunger before it is too late.
- Moving the head from side to side. In case you notice your baby is frantically moving its head from side to side, it means you have missed some of the earlier signs of hunger. In addition to crying, moving the head from side to side is also considered a late sign of hunger.
- Being restless and waking up. If your little one is hungry, it may wake up as well as move around in its crib. Also, your baby may raise its hands to its face while moving its mouth, imitating the movements it does while being fed. If you notice such behavior, offer your baby a breast or a bottle to calm it down.
- Smacking the lips and sucking on the fist, toys, fingers, tongue, or even clothing. This is another sign of hunger. If you notice your little one is doing such things, offer it food. If you start breastfeeding during this time, your baby will latch on more easily. So, pay close attention to its behavior to provide your baby with the best possible nourishment.
- Rooting. Your newborn will turn toward your breast or the bottle, making sucking motions with its mouth during the first few weeks. This is normal because rooting is its natural reflex. This reflex will become a voluntary action once your baby becomes 4 months old.
- Trying to get into the feeding position. You may notice your baby is hungry if it is trying to lay back or if it is pulling on your clothes. Imitating the feeding position usually means your little one is ready to eat. So, do not wait any longer and offer your baby some food which is needed for its proper development.
- Hitting you in the chest or arm. If you notice these signs, it most likely means your baby wants to be fed, so do not get frustrated. Instead, offer it your breast or a bottle and watch it calm down within seconds. Simple, isn’t it?
- Smiling when being fed. If your little one is older than 4 months, it will show its interest in eating by smiling while looking at you during its feeding sessions. If you follow this sign, your baby will never finish the feeding session feeling hungry.
- Opening the mouth when being fed. Your little one may be feeling a bit hungry even after finishing the first bottle or breast. If it is opening its mouth, it means it needs more food.
- Breathing fast or fussing. You should pay attention to your little one’s behavior to see these signs. If your baby is fussing or breathing fast, do not offer it toys or comfort, simply offer it some food.
Sings Your Baby Is Full
Similarly to signs baby is hungry, there are some signs which can show your little one is full. They are as equally important for your babies’ proper development. If your baby is full, it may do the following things:
Closing its lips. Just like a hungry baby sucks on its fist or toys, a full baby closes its mouth because it does not need any more food. In case your little one is closing its lips, the translation would be ‘’No more food, thank you’’.
Falling asleep or spitting out the nipple. Spitting out the nipple is a pretty straightforward sign your little one is full. A full baby often acts drowsy after about 15 to 20 minutes of the feeding session. Some babies even fall asleep when they are full, so you should not worry if it happens earlier than you expected.
Turning the head away. Your baby may show that it is not hungry more forcefully. If it is turning its head away, it is just a stronger version of closing its lips. Do not force your baby to eat more food in case it is behaving like this. Remember, babies have an internal hunger regulator which works wonders when it comes to proper nutrition.
Stopping sucking or decreasing sucking. Sometimes, your baby may stay latched on to your nipple without sucking. You will notice it is about time to gently end the feeding session in case your little one is not sucking anymore.
Showing more interest in its surroundings rather than the feeding session. Once your baby is 4 months old, it will become more distracted by its surroundings because of its increased awareness of the environment. If your little one is hungry, it will not let anything distract it from the feeding session because it has to satisfy its basic needs. On the other hand, it will start noticing what is going on around it rather than focus on the feeding once it is full.
Frequent Feeding Dilemmas
‘’My baby seems to be sleeping all the time! Should I wake my newborn to feed?’’
You may ask yourself this question often, especially if you are new to the parenting world. The answer would be yes. You should wake your newborn to feed in case it does not wake on its own. Newborns are very sleepy in the first days or even weeks of their life. During this time, you may not notice the signs baby is hungry as often as it needs to eat. Your newborn should be fed whenever it shows the signs of hunger. A good rule of thumb would be every 2 hours during the day and at least one time during the night. You can stop waking your newborn to feed once it develops a good weight gain pattern (at least 4 ounces a week for a baby younger than 4 months). Your little one will set its feeding pattern around this time so there will be no need to ask yourself ‘’Should I wake my newborn to feed?’’
‘’My baby started sleeping longer during the night. Should I wake my newborn to feed?’’
If your little one is younger than 4 weeks, you should wake it up every 4-5 hours during the night in case it does not wake up on its own. However, once it is older than 4 weeks, you can allow it to control its sleeping if it is properly developing.
‘’My little one often sucks on his fists. Does it mean it is hungry all the time?’’
Hand sucking is not the most reliable indicator of hunger in the first weeks of your baby’s life. Around week 6-8, your little one will have more control over his movements and will start exploring the world around it with its mouth. Sucking on the hand can also happen if your baby is experiencing tender gums or similar teething symptoms. This happens when it is preparing for tooth eruption. Such symptoms can occur weeks or even months before the eruption, so it may be a good idea to learn about baby teething pain treatments.
Baby Planet Overview
Feeding can be confusing and stressful, especially for new parents. Luckily, there are some signs baby is hungry that can help you provide your little one with the best possible nutrition. Keep in mind that crying is one of the late signs of hunger. Instead, focus on your baby’s behavior to notice small changes that could indicate hunger.
Some of the signs to look for are sucking on the fists, rooting, fussiness, and opening the mouth. However, there are even more signs which indicate hunger. In case you are asking yourself ‘’Should I wake my newborn to feed?’’, the short answer is yes, but only if your baby does not do that on its own and if it is younger than 4 months. In case your little one is exhibiting strange behavior in any way or is refusing to eat, you should consult with your doctor.
- Baby’s Cues, breastmilkcounts.com