Every mother must understand that 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. Your baby may first display some hunger cues, signalling that he/she is ready to feed. It is important that you identify this cues and know what to expect after each stage. Try to pay attention and keep in mind that swaddling, pacifiers, and mittens can inhibit the hunger cues, as the baby’s mouth and hands are enough cues to tell you want to do.

 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

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.

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.

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 of 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

Time to stop?
Ideally, your baby will decide he’s had enough when he’s drained one or both breasts. If you need to change your baby’s position, switch him to the other breast, or end his feeding for any reason, gently insert your finger into the corner of his mouth. A quiet “pop” means you’ve broken the suction (which can be remarkably strong!), and you can pull him away.