Signs that your baby is hungry

Unfortunately our babies can’t tell us when they’re hungry, but they do have hunger cues you can look out for.


“Many parents assume that crying means their baby is hungry, however crying is actually a late hunger signal,” says Pinky McKay, parenting expert and IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).

Parenting and Breastfeeding website, Kelly Mom lists the following as common hunger cues for babies:

Early hunger cues

  • Smacking or licking lips
  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing

Active hunger cues

  • Rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying him
  • Trying to position for nursing, either by lying back or pulling on your clothes
  • Fidgeting or squirming around a lot
  • Hitting you on the arm or chest repeatedly
  • Fussing or breathing fast

Late hunger cues

  • Moving head frantically from side to side
  • Crying

However, not every cry means that your little one is hungry. Sometimes your baby just needs a clean nappy, some cuddle time or a change of scenery.

How do I know if my baby has had enough?

“Trust your instincts and your baby’s,” say the authors of Feeding Sense, Megan Faure, Katherine Megaw and Dr Simon Strachan. “Parents often worry that their newborn isn’t eating enough, but babies usually know just how much they need. Don’t focus on how much, how often and how regularly your baby eats. Instead, look for contentment between feeds, alertness, good skin tone and steady weight gain,” the book advises.

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