Understanding your baby’s hunger and fullness levels

For parents of newborns, especially those experiencing parenthood for the first time, understanding how hungry or full your baby is can be daunting.

When your precious bundle of joy can’t verbalise how they are feeling, it can cause you, the new parent, significant stress.

 

Am I over or under feeding my child? Are they getting adequate nutrition? How can I tell what they are feeling?

 

 If you’ve often got these questions running through your head, don’t panic, you are in the same position as many first time mothers, who just want to ensure they are doing everything they can to raise a healthy baby.

Just like you are with your own body, your baby is the best judge of their own fullness and hunger.  We’ve compiled a few of the most common signs of fullness and hunger they will exhibit, to assist you in getting peace of mind when feeding your baby.

HUNGER

Fist sucking/lip smacking

Generally, this will be the first sign your baby will give to let you know that they are ready to be fed.

Sucking on their fist and smacking their lips is a distinctive hunger cue, as typically are any other gestures towards the mouth, and will give you a good indication that they are ready and willing to feed.

 

Opening mouth while feeding

When your baby is feeding and continues to open their mouth, you can simply translate this to, “more please!”

Similarly, if your child is trying to close their mouth while feeding, it is a good sign that they have had enough.

 

Smiling during feeding

Typically, this will only occur in babies older than 4 months, but the expression of happiness and interest during feeding is a good sign that they are hungry and will continue feeding for some time.

 

Waking up restless

Waking up restless, moving around excessively in their cot, and making gestures towards their mouth typically occur together, and are a good indication to you, the parent, that your baby has woken up ready for a feed.

 

Crying

Hunger is often the last sign your baby will give that they are hungry, and at this point it may be difficult to get them to feed, as they may have become too distressed to settle with the breast or bottle.

Making sure you are aware of the earlier hunger cues will make feeding time far easier for both yourself and your baby.

 

FULLNESS

Turning away from breast or bottle

As do older children and adults when they have had enough to eat, babies tend to try and turn their heads away from the breast or bottle when they have reached a point of satiety.

Even if you think that your baby hasn’t had enough, typically this is a strong indicator they are full.

 

Falling asleep

Feeding can often make your baby very drowsy, so should you notice they are drifting off to sleep during a feed, it is best to stop feeding and let them rest, as their little bodies are telling them they have received adequate food for the time being.

 

Disinterest in feeding

Should your baby become increasingly interested and aware of their surroundings, and less aware of the breast or bottle, they may be trying to tell you that have had enough. 

 

As was stated above, once you have noted the fullness and hunger cues your baby displays, it is important to follow them, as your baby is the only one who can truly understand their level of hunger.

It is important to speak to your family GP if you are concerned about whether your child is getting adequate nutrition, or you have questions on the frequency or amount they should be eating at any stage throughout their development