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Infant Hunger Cues: Early vs. Late signs of hunger

Our babies are simply amazing! They are born with an innate ability to communicate their needs through their unique sounds and movements, but it can take time to learn and discover the language of your baby. 


When it comes to feeding your newborn, it would be helpful to get to know the feeding cues they are sending you. Crying is a late indicator of hunger so it is important to learn your baby’s earlier hunger cues. 


While babies need to eat every 2-3 hours, remember that they are not robots! Just like you, they sometimes have days where they need more or fewer calories. Watch your baby for signs of hungry versus relying on an app to tell you your baby is hungry. The guideline to feed every 2-3 hours is a solid plan, but listening to your baby first and foremost is always the way to go. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, however, if you are using formula please follow the guidelines outlined by your pediatrician. 


Below is a list of common newborn hunger cues:



Smacking or licking lips

Opening and closing mouth

Sucking on lips, tongues, hands, fingers, etc.



Rooting around and seeking for the breast or bottle 

Squirming around

Tapping your body repeatedly

Lightly fusing

Clenched hands



Moving head from side to side quickly

Agitate body movements


Color turning red

If your baby is showing late signs of hunger try to soothe and calm them before feeding. Try bringing them skin-to-skin, walking around and bouncing, or offering your clean pinky finger for them to suck on for a few seconds. Once your baby is out of a state of stress they are more likely to have a productive feeding session. 


It takes time to learn your baby’s cues but if you know the common ones to look for you’ll be off to a great start. Teach your partner and/or other caregivers these signs of hunger too so everyone can be on the same page. 


Share this blog with someone in your life who needs these tips! 


*The information in this blog post is for educational purposes only and is not individual medical advice.

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