Baby Hunger Cues: Signs Baby Is Hungry (Even After Breastfeeding)

Is Your Baby Hungry? How To Pick Up On Their Hunger Cues

December 9, 2020 Updated June 3, 2021

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Your baby might not be able to talk to you yet but they do have a unique vocabulary (or shall we say body language cues) to let you know what they need and want, including food. Whether your infant is breastfed or bottle-fed, it’s important for parents to understand and pick up on baby hunger cues. Ultimately, your goal is to try to recognize the signs that your baby is hungry before they start crying because, as you probably know, then it becomes even trickier to feed them — no matter how much they might want to actually eat! The same is true for when your infant has had enough to eat.

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Just as there are signs to tell if your baby is hungry, there are also clear signs that your baby is full. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

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What are some baby hunger cues?

First, it’s important to note that babies usually need to eat every two to three hours, so your baby will probably show hunger cues every two to three hours. Over time, your mother’s intuition will start to kick in, and you’ll probably not only recognize but also anticipate when your little one is hungry.

Here are some newborn to six-month hunger cues:

  • Puts hands to mouth
  • Turns head towards mom’s breast or bottle
  • Puckers, smacks, or licks lips
  • Has clenched hands
  • Open eyes and active movement
  • Wriggling
  • Fussing
  • Crying

Here are a few hunger cues for six months to 24 months:

  • Reaches for or points to food
  • Opens his or her mouth when offered a spoon or food
  • Gets excited to see food
  • Uses hand motions or makes sounds to let you know he or she is still hungry
  • Crying
  • Irritable

How do you know if baby isn’t hungry?

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Just as it’s important to understand your baby’s hunger cues, it’s just as key to learn when your baby is full. You can overfeed a baby and, since they can’t properly digest the milk or formula, doing so can cause discomfort. This can lead to gas, which will only make your baby feel even more uncomfortable and potentially lead to crying. And we don’t want that!

Here are some signs that your baby’s tummy is full:

  • Falls asleep
  • Turns their head away from breast or bottle
  • Spits out food
  • Closes mouth
  • Relaxes hands
  • Pushes food away

What are some baby hunger cues after breastfeeding?

A common concern among mothers is that no matter how much you breastfeed your baby, it never seems to be enough. Your baby is always hungry! Don’t worry, Mama; this is normal. Every baby is different, though, so it’s possible for one infant to be completely full after one feeding for the next few hours whereas another might need a few extra feeds in between.

The same hunger cues listed above are what you should look out for: Crying, clenched hands, fussing, etc. When this happens, feed on demand, even if it means multiple feedings within the hour.

Why is my newborn always hungry?

You can blame growth spurts for this one. Do you find that your little one wants to eat all the time? This happens because during a growth spurt, your baby drinks a lot of milk to support their rapid development. Your baby may also sleep a lot more or very little. (Cue the sleep regression.)

What is cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding is when your baby has several short feeds — lasting maybe twenty minutes or so — over a few hours, which often occurs during the early days of breastfeeding. Basically, you nurse your baby for a bit; they come off your breast and fuss; you nurse some more; they take a short break to burp, and then you nurse again.

Most common in newborns and young babies, cluster feeding typically happens when your baby is going through a growth spurt. However, it can continue with older babies who are also going through a growth spurt. Cluster feeding is totally natural. If you’re breastfeeding and worried you won’t be able to keep up with the demand, don’t stress — more often than not, a woman’s body is readily equipped to provide enough milk for a cluster-feeding baby. And for women who have supply issues, for which there is no shame, there are natural ways to increase milk output.

Should I feed baby every time he wakes?

When your baby was swimming around in your belly, they ate all the time. So, it’s normal for them to have a big appetite. When your cutie wakes up and shows signs of hunger, feed them. Breastfeeding infants need about 10 to 12 feedings per day and if your baby is bottle-fed, then it should be six to eight. This may sound like a lot, but your baby should be taking at least five naps a day, which gives you the chance to feed them before and after they go to sleep. Babies may be tiny, but they’re really greedy.