When a child cries, you might get advice that says, 'don't give milk unconditionally'. It's because your baby might be crying for other reasons, such as the room being too hot, and if you comfort them with milk, it's not appropriate care. However, for newborn parents, it is very difficult to tell whether the child is crying because of hunger or for other reasons. Even if you are only reading the baby's hunger signals, parenting before 100 days becomes much easier. Today, we're going to talk about what signals a newborn baby sends when they are hungry, step by step.
Step-by-Step Hunger Signs in Your Baby
Stage 1: Tongue fluttering or lip touching.
This is a sign that your baby is a little hungry. Breastfeeding when your child is too hungry can cause your baby to gasp and reflux (vomiting). Ideally, breastfeed when your child is slightly hungry, which is when they are exhibiting these behaviours.
Step 2: Baby turns their head, licks their lips, and grimaces.
The baby turns their head and licks their lips. They are smelling the milk and trying to figure out where the mother's milk is. In the process, the baby may also grimace. This is a sign that they are quite hungry, so it is a good time to breastfeed.
Step 3: Similar to step 2, but sometimes they make a whining sound or wiggle their feet.
This is the signal your baby makes just before crying. The face is more distorted than in situation 2, and they might be making a squeaky sound. They might struggle with their feet. This is a sign that the baby is very hungry, so feed them right away.
Step 4: Baby is crying.
When a baby is hungry, the last signal that comes out is 'crying'. When a child starts to cry because they are hungry, they are not well soothed. If you breastfeed while your baby is crying, you may refuse to breastfeed because your baby is not feeling well. This makes feeding difficult.
What do you do when your baby cries?
Help them recall the time when your baby was in the womb and shake them very gently. Then, keep them a distance of 5-10cm from a white noise source; this will be you. Make a 'shh' sound with your mouth, being louder than the baby's cry at this time! Please make white noise.
If it is buried beneath the louder cry of a child, the baby will not be able to hear it. After making a loud 'shh' at first, when the child stops crying for a while, then continue with a small 'shh' sound. Breastfeed when your baby stops crying.
My child's hunger signs are confusing.
It is not easy to capture a child's hunger signal even by reading it in writing. Are you wondering if your baby is hungry and looking for milk, or crying for some other reason?
If you're confused about the baby's signals, try tapping your baby's cheeks or lips with your finger. If your baby shows signs from one of the 4 steps above, and if your baby slides their tongue in the direction it was tapped, your baby is probably hungry.
# Parenting Advice from Director Hyang-Hwa Kwon
I've already given enough milk, but my child keeps showing signs of wanting to breastfeed.
This could be a sign that your baby is trying to satisfy their sucking urge. In this case, give the milk from the side you have fed them from (as it is now empty of milk). When the baby's own sucking needs are resolved, they will remove their lips. During the first growth spurt of 2-3 weeks after birth, babies can show a lot of this behaviour. Help your child feel secure by allowing them to suck on their mother's milk for a while.
What if my baby refuses to suckle?
At this time, it may be because they are too full. Try using a pacifier. A baby's thirst in summer is quenched with milk. Because of the hot summer weather, babies often feel thirsty. This may be more likely after sleeping with their mouth open or after urinating a lot.
Although mothers want to feed their baby during the lactation period, babies can frequently seek milk due to frequent thirst. Do not give your baby water before starting them on baby food. Even they only suck a few sips, I recommend breastfeeding first.
Author: Kwon Hyang-hwa
- Newborn Childcare Coach
- IBCLC International Breastfeeding Specialist
- Worked as the director of a postpartum care center for 10 years.