Hungry and ready to feed: Clues it’s time to feed your baby

Puckering or playing with their mouth? Babies show you when they're hungry

mother feeding baby a bottle

How do you know if your baby is hungry? Babies may not have words yet but they do communicate. Letting Mom know when it’s time to eat is very important to them!

When you stroke your baby’s cheek in the first few months, baby’s natural response will be to turn toward you and make sucking motions. Rooting for your breast is also reflexive in the first four months of life. Babies give various clues signaling hunger.

Early stages of hunger:

  • Makes sucking motion with lips
  • Opens and closes mouth
  • Sticks out tongue
  • Puckers lips
  • Roots for breast

Getting hungrier:

  • Rooting
  • Moving head from side to side as if looking for something
  • Fidgeting and squirming a lot
  • Making fussy noises
  • Breathing fast
  • Opening mouth during feeding
  • Putting hands in mouth and sucking on them or sucking on other things

Really hungry:

  • Crying or wailing
  • Moving head frantically side to side (accompanied by fussing or crying)

While babies cry for various reasons, the hunger cry can usually be defined by its sound: short, low-pitched, and rising and falling. By the time your baby is wailing, you may have difficulty calming and getting your baby to eat. Both of you end up stressed. If it gets to that point, first try some calming skin-to-skin contact before feeding.

Avoid letting your baby get to the crying stage before feeding. On those occasions when you just aren’t sure if your baby wants to eat or not, offer the breast or bottle anyway. A hungry baby will gladly respond.

Sanford Health offers support for every mom, whether you’re breastfeeding, pumping or formula feeding. Learn more about lactation services.

Learn more

Posted In Children's, Health Information, Parenting, Pregnancy