11 signs your baby is hungry
Big hugs for new parents. There’s a lot to figure out in the first weeks. Between umbilical cord care and changing a million diapers, you’re also trying to figure out when, how much and how often to feed your new baby.
The answer in the first few weeks is simple, but not easy: feed your baby whenever they seem hungry. What can be hard to figure out is, when is your baby hungry? It seems like they JUST ate, can they be hungry again? Probably yes.
Your baby has some early cues that they’re hungry, some active signs that they want to be fed and ways that they tell you they’ve passed hungry and moved on to HANRGY.*
Early hunger signs for babies
- They stick their tongue out.
- They lick their lips.
- They may open and close their mouth.
- They may start actively sucking on anything near. Which can be really funny if they get a hold of your elbow.
- They have open eyes and active movements instead of seeming snuggly or sleepy.
Active hunger signs for babies
- They’re “rooting”, which looks like turning their head towards a caregiver and searching around with an open mouth. They’re looking for the nipple on a breast, even babies that are formula-fed root around.
- They put their hands in their mouths.
- They fidget around and aren’t calm in your arms, they may try to get themselves into their normal nursing or feeding position.
Signs baby is HANGRY and really needs a feed
- They are fussing and won’t be soothed.
- They make frantic random arm or body movements.
- They turn red and cry!
Babies are much easier to feed in their early hunger stages. So if you can, learn what those early cues look like for your baby and, when in doubt, just offer the bottle or breast. If they’re not hungry, they won’t eat. New babies eat at least every 2-3 hours in the early months.
By the time kiddos are in hangry-mode it can be hard to get them latched on the breast or focused on the bottle. If you do get to that stage, calm your baby then feed them.
How to calm your baby when they are hungry
- Movement: rocking, swaying or bouncing your baby.
- Calming noise: gentle shushing, or soft words are good here.
- Sensory inputs: skin-to-skin contact, gentle back pats or rubs.
- Co-regulation: The calmer you are, the calmer baby can be. Try relaxing your body and taking slow, deep breaths while you hold your baby.
- Some combination of all these things!
When you think about learning your baby’s hunger cues, be gentle with yourself. You and your baby are learning to communicate with each other and nobody just “gets” it right away.
Also, we’ll be honest here, a lot of those early baby cues can look just like all the other cute and funny stuff babies do in the early days. Don’t feel bad if you get to that hangry phase, you’re not failing your kiddo, you’re learning together.
If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding, what’s normal when it comes to hunger frequency and whether you need to be concerned. Come chat with us. We’re here 24/7 with an empathetic ear for anyone learning alongside their new kiddo.
*that’s hungry-angry. You know that feeling when you hate the whole world but then you have a snack and things feel a whole lot better. That’s hangry.