Recognising when your baby is hungry
Reading the signals will help you keep on top of feeding and stop your baby from reaching the point of 'too hungry'.
Cues to feed baby

While there is no universal baby language that will be the same with every newborn, there are some signals that are common indicators of a hungry baby. Recognising these signs will mean that you can pre-empt your baby's hungry grizzling and feed him or her before they go beyond the point of no return!

Waking a sleeping baby?

While the common saying "never wake a sleeping baby", is often best adhered to, there may be cases - particularly if baby is a little under the weather or a newborn who needs the extra feeds - where you will have to risk it to make sure baby is fed.

After your baby is a few months old, you should’t need to wake them for a feed as they’ll wake up of their own accord when they’re hungry.

Once a baby is awake you’ll be able to tell he or she is ready for a feed by reading their body language.

One of the first signals you’ll see will be stirring from side to side, opening her mouth and turning her head to the side (the seeking or rooting reflex).

These are known as early cues and are your baby’s way of telling you she’s hungry.

Don't delay...

If your baby still doesn't get a feed at this point, she will begin to get more distressed. You may notice your baby start to stretch, or begin to put her hand to her mouth. Increased physical movements will also accompany this phase.

These are called mid cues and are your baby’s way of saying she needs feeding pronto.

You've crossed the line

Your baby will now start to get really upset if she still hasn't had her food. This is when you will need to soothe her first before attempting a feed. In her distressed state she’s unlikely to feed properly, so you need to give her a chance to calm down before attempting a feed.

Signals in this phase include crying, agitated body movements and she may even begin to turn red in the face as she gets really upset. Calm her down by gentle stroking, calm talking or skin-to-skin contact.


Your at-a-glance guide to feeding cues

This article was written by Margaret Rafferty for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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