How to Tell If Your Baby is Hungry - Signs and Age-wise Cues

How to Tell If Your Baby is Hungry – Signs & Cues

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Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
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Babies have a unique way of communicating their needs to their mother. When they’re hungry, most babies have a general way of communicating it. However, differentiating between your baby’s different cries, to know if he is sleepy, hungry, or unwell, might take some time to get used to. Here’s how you can figure out certain infant hunger cues and address them.

Video: How to Tell if Your Baby is Hungry – Signs & Cues

Signs of Hunger in Babies

Babies themselves are the best judge at knowing if they’re hungry or not. They can understand their internal body signs and respond to them accordingly. Being able to recognise baby feeding cues makes it simple to satisfy them as soon as possible.

  1. Early Hunger Cues

  •  Licking or smacking lips – This is a clear sign to understand that the baby is trying to taste and check if there is food nearby.
  •  Moving the mouth – Babies try to see if food is already present in their mouth by carrying out chewing motions.
  •  Sucking on fingers or toys – Although done as a playful activity, a repetition of this activity could signal a hungry baby.
  1. Active Hunger Cues

  • Rubbing against the person carrying him – This is where the baby attempts to look for a breast on the person holding them.
  • Responds by touching their head – If a baby is expecting to be fed, they will turn their head in the direction where you touch them.
  • Fidgeting and hitting the arm – Babies try to get our attention by showing discomfort or hitting the person to communicate to look at them.
  1. Late Hunger Cues

  • Rapid movement of the head – This is when babies have run out of patience and are desperately looking for a sign of food anywhere around them
  • Crying out loud – The tell-tale sign of a baby’s discomfort, it’s their last resort in grabbing someone’s attention and letting them know they need food.

Baby Hunger Cues, AgeWise

As babies grow, their signs of communicating their need to be fed or hunger change as well. By knowing these well in advance, you can prepare yourself to notice them beforehand and adapt to their newer ways of communicating with you.

Approximate Age Hunger Cues
0 to 5 months · Sucking fingers

· Waking up and tossing around

· Crying and fussing incessantly

· Opening and closing the mouth

5 to 8 months · Looks at the person holding them

· Makes cooing sounds or smiles when they see food

· Points to the food or moves/leans towards a spoon

· Uses their hand to wave in the direction of food

8 to 12 months · Starts reaching out for food when seen

· When food is offered, they get excited and happy

· Starts using specific words or sounds to indicate hunger

Baby Hunger Cues, AgeWise

How Frequently Should You Feed Your Baby?

Babies can seem demanding at times when you’ve just finished feeding them, and within no time, they are hungry again. Their small stomachs and high metabolism lead them to eat small quantities that get digested quickly. This results in frequent feeding and is normal.

In the early stages, as much as 12 feeding cycles can take place within a single day. Babies are still getting used to the world, and the presence of their mother holding them close to their body is extremely important. It makes them feel safe and comforted to know that they will have food whenever they need.

Every baby communicates differently so a set pattern cannot be determined. However, if they cry more often and feed longer on your breast, it’s a good sign to know that they’re hungry and need to be frequently fed. On the other hand, if they wet their nappies routinely, are gaining weight steadily and have a happy demeanour, then they’re fed well, and you have no reason to worry.

Certain ages of the baby such as ten days, 3-6 weeks, 4-6 months, are widely known markers for growth spurts. In these stages, babies feed more than usual for a few days or so. Rest assured your body understands this as well and compensates by producing more breast milk to support your baby.

What Are the Benefits of Following Hunger Cues?

  • You begin to understand your baby and respond in time to him.
  • Breastfeeding takes place smoothly without forcing the baby or extended feeding times.
  • The baby begins to trust you and grows closer to you since you understand it better.
  • It builds your confidence, which fosters love and betters your relationship with them.
  • Your body gets enough time and energy to produce milk and maintain a good supply.

How to Know Your Baby’s Stomach is Full

Babies instantly know when they’re full, and they will let you know that as well. Babies close their lips and turn their head away from the breast or the bottle when they don’t want more food. A popular cue is a baby slowing down and falling asleep while breastfeeding and reflexively pushing the nipple out of his mouth. Older babies push away the food and start looking around since their need for food has been satisfied.

Knowing babies’ hunger cues is just as important for us, as it is for them. Erratic routines end up confusing the baby, leading them not to eat enough or eat more than needed. With the build of trust, babies start understanding that you know it best when they need food and when they don’t.

What if You are Still Unsure That Your Baby is Hungry

It’s best to err on the side of caution if you are unsure that your baby is hungry. The best way to check that is by trying to feed them, either via a bottle or your breast. Breastfeeding is highly preferred because it doesn’t just comfort the baby and allows him to feed if it is hungry, but it also kicks in your breast milk production and maintains a healthy supply.

By checking if your baby is hungry, you won’t be creating any bad habits or upsetting their schedule. At the same time, trying to breastfeed won’t make them dependent on your presence or cause difficulty in weaning them away. Checking the baby’s hunger using your breast is best!

What if You are Still Unsure That Your Baby is Hungry


Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about recognising hunger cues in babies

1. Is Your Baby Sucking His Hand a Sign of Hunger?

In newborns, the sucking action is a sign for want of breast and food, since they tend to be perennially hungry. From the age of 6 to 8 weeks, babies start exploring parts of their own body using their hands or their mouth. They may tend to suck on their fingers or fists, but that wouldn’t automatically mean that they’re hungry.

If your baby is teething, these tendencies are more common since they would tend to suck and chew on nearly any object in their vicinity.

2. Is It Fine to Wake Your Newborn for Nursing?

Newborn babies are extremely sleepy in the early days following their birth. An infant might move his mouth in its sleep and then continue sleeping. Before four weeks since birth, it’s best to wake him up every 4 hours in the night for a feeding cycle, and every 2 hours in the day for the same. Good signs to observe that this is working well include a steady gain of weight and normal poop and pee in the nappies.

Is It Fine to Wake Your Newborn for Nursing?

3. What If Your Infant Shows Hunger Cues Even After Feeding?

Certain baby hunger cues while sleeping can be a good sign to know if the previous feed wasn’t enough. If the baby seems restless and fussy in its sleep, you can check if they’re hungry by trying to breastfeed them. If they move away from your breast and are still uncomfortable, they might be suffering from gasses or stomach-ache, and you may try to check for those.

Babies feed in clusters of feeding cycles that occur within short time gaps. This frequently happens around afternoons or late evenings. Furthermore, if your infant’s age is in the growth spurt stage, it is likely for him to show more hunger cues than usual.

Getting to know your baby well will help you recognise his hunger cues in no time. There might be incidents where you end up missing your baby’s cues, and he starts wailing. There’s no need to beat yourself up about it. Spending more time with your baby and encouraging physical proximity with him helps you both to be in sync with each other.

Also ReadA Guide to Giving Coconut Water to Babies

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