8 signs that your breast-fed baby is hungry | Living and LovingLiving and Loving

8 signs that your breast-fed baby is hungry

Not sure when and how often to feed your baby? These cues will let you know when your little one is hungry.


There’s a good chance your baby will resort to full-blown wailing in order to summon a feed – and that, of course, is difficult to miss. However, there are a series of earlier cues that, if noticed and heeded, will go a long way to taking the stress out of breastfeeding, suggests West Rand La Leche League leader, Ena du Plessis.

Early feeding cues include:

  • Licking or smacking of his lips
  • Opening or closing his mouth
  • Sucking on hands or clothing.

If these cues are missed, baby will begin to give more active ones, such as:

  • Turning towards anything touching his cheek
  • Squirming, fidgeting or trying to position herself for a feed
  • Rooting around on the chest of the person carrying him
  • Punching you if he’s being held, and looking worried
  • Niggling or fussing.

“Crying, with increasing tension, is a last resort,” explains International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, (IBCLC) Nan Jolly.

ALSO SEE: 10 frequently asked breastfeeding questions answered

How often should you feed?

  • “You’ll probably need to feed your baby more than you’ll expect. Remember that, in the womb, the placenta supplied oxygen, food, fluid and protection, 24/7,” says Nan.
  • The golden rule is to watch your baby for cues rather than the clock, when it comes to feeding frequency, counsels Ena.
  • Nonetheless, for a newborn, you can bank on feeding within the ranges of 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period.
  • “Carrying your baby in close contact can help you feed on cue; but if your baby was born prematurely, or if you’ve had a medicated birth, or you aren’t able to keep your baby physically close, he will need to feed at least every two to three hours,” says Ena.

Is baby getting enough milk?

  • A good gauge is to count and inspect his dirty nappies. The first day usually produces at least one dirty nappy, the second day, two, and thereafter, there should be at least three dirty nappies a day, but usually more.
  • Also, your baby will grow. Regular clinic visits will give you the opportunity to plot his growth curve, and most well-fed babies will climb steadily along the curve they arrived on, says Nan.
  • However, with respect to each feed, a satisfied, well-fed cue is when baby pushes the nipple out of his mouth, looks completely relaxed, or even falls asleep advises IBCLC Ana Frawley.

Also see: 5 ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.

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