It can be hard to know what your baby’s cries, wriggles, and fussiness mean, especially if you’re a new parent. Quite often, a baby’s cries or fussiness are an indication she’s hungry. Learning to recognize hunger cues takes time, but it will help you understand your child’s eating habits better and help keep her on the right nutrition track.
The ability to recognize your little one’s hunger cues will also help foster her internal regulation system so she continues to practice self-regulation later in life. In case you didn’t know, babies are excellent at self-regulating themselves when it comes to food. For example: a baby will stop eating when she’s full no matter how much food you try to give her. Or vice versa, she’ll continue to eat if she’s hungry.
#1. She opens her mouth searching for a nipple, which is also sometimes referred to as rooting. Oftentimes, younger infants will root on the chest of the person who’s holding them even if it’s not mom. Rooting is known as an “active” phase of hunger, so baby may have given you a few hunger signs before beginning to root.
#2. She sucks on her lips, a toy or just about anything she can get her hands on. Sucking is usually one of the first cues your baby uses to tell you she’s ready for food. When she’s not sucking, you may also notice her opening and closing her mouth.
#3. She’s acting fussy, fidgety and restless. Although these three cues are sometimes associated with tiredness too, they’re more than likely caused by hunger if your little one just woke from up a nap.
#4. She cries and then wails. Crying is one of the last cues your baby will use to tell you she’s hungry. If you’re keeping an eye out for the signs mentioned above, you may avoid getting to this stage altogether. Hunger cries are often shorter and lower in pitch than cries signaling pain or distress. If your baby does cry as a result of hunger, you may need to calm her down first before feeding her.
It’s important to remember: the cues your baby uses may change as she gets older. Developmental stages like gaining more control over motor functions may alter the cues your baby uses to signal it’s time to eat.
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