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What are common hunger cues in babies?

Babies communicate their hunger through various cues. It’s important for caregivers to learn and recognize these cues to respond promptly to their baby’s feeding needs. Common hunger cues in babies include: 

  • Rooting reflex. When a baby turns their head and opens their mouth, searching for a nipple or anything that touches their cheek or mouth. 
  • Sucking on hands or fingers. Babies may suck on their hands, fingers, or fists as a way to self-soothe and indicate hunger. 
  • Mouthing or lip-smacking. Babies may smack their lips, stick out their tongues, or make sucking motions with their mouths. 
  • Increased alertness or restlessness. Babies may become more awake, active, or fussy when they’re hungry. Stirring or waking from sleep: Babies may start to stir, wake up, or show signs of restlessness as hunger sets in. 
  • Crying. Crying is often a late hunger cue. It is the baby’s way of expressing their need for nourishment. 

It’s important to note that hunger cues can vary from baby to baby, and some babies may exhibit subtle cues while others may show more obvious signs. Learning to observe and interpret your baby’s individual cues can help you respond promptly to their feeding needs. 

It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to hunger cues, it’s beneficial to consider and respond to a baby’s fullness cues as well. These cues may include turning their head away, slowing down or stopping sucking, or becoming disinterested in feeding. Responsive feeding involves recognizing and respecting both hunger and fullness cues, allowing the baby to guide the feeding process.

To learn more about common hunger cues in babies, here is more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PowerMom Connect

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Lauren Serpico

Lauren Serpico, Ph.D, is the Sr. Project Manager of Social Media Content at Scripps Research Digital Trials Center. Her background is in Community Psychology, with a focus on online social networks.