Tips from an LC: How Do I Know When to Feed My Baby?

Learn your baby's feeding cues and signs of hunger, so you can ensure he or she gets all the liquid gold they need to keep their tummy full and satisfied. 

How Do I Know When to Feed My Baby?

Transcript: How Do I Know When to Feed My Baby?

Most babies are very good at telling us when they are hungry, and it’s often only in the pre-birth classes where we first learn that crying is not an early sign of hunger - but really a late one!

Most babies are very good at showing us they are starting to get ready for a feed from quite an early time point. It makes breastfeeding much easier when we can recognize these early signs of hunger, especially when we are learning so many new things in the early days.

The best tip is to try and offer your baby a breastfeed as soon as they start showing early feeding cues. This way, your baby is calm around the breast and it makes life easier for both of you when you are still getting the hang of breastfeeding!

Trying to attach a crying baby to the breast is not only stressful and difficult, it also means that their tongue is pulled back in a different position, which makes it harder for them to attach correctly and comfortably.

When babies are calm and showing us early feeding cues like:

  • rooting and turning their head from side to side to look for the breast,
  • opening their mouth,
  • putting their fist up to their mouth and sucking on their hand,
  • you might even notice them poking their tongue out...
  • ...or making cute little cooing noises!

Then they are eagerly searching for the breast, which helps them attach well, comfortably, and without pain for your nipples.

If we ignore or miss these early feeding cues, babies will naturally become increasingly unsettled and will eventually start to cry, moving their arms around, and becoming more agitated. Babies are clever - They know how to get our attention!

For some babies, they seem to go from completely asleep to wide awake and crying for a feed within seconds! Others may give us several minutes of these early feeding cues before they start to get upset, if we haven’t recognized their signals and already started to feed them.

Remember, learning feeding cues and how your baby reacts is new to every parent. It’s like learning a new language, it doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t put any pressure on yourself, just take it one breastfeed at a time. Try not to look too far into the future, because things change so rapidly in the first few days and weeks. Within a few weeks you’ll be looking back and wondering how you didn’t know what your baby was trying to tell you. So be kind to yourself; you’re doing a great job, and it’s normal to have some great feeds, normal to have some okay feeds, and normal to occasionally have some not-so-great feeds. Over the next few days and weeks, your confidence will grow and you and your baby will settle into breastfeeding.

If you have any concerns about your baby, yourself, or your breastfeeding journey, please seek support from your healthcare professional.