Early Feeding Cues

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated August 2, 2017.

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Early feeding cues include wiggling, alertness, and hands to mouth.

Knowing when your baby is telling you she is ready to nurse is important. Crying is a baby’s last resort to tell you he is hungry.  Learning the early feeding cues can help you know when she is hungry and allow you to feed her before she gets upset, which can always make latching on and nursing more challenging. A new baby nurses for many reasons, not just hunger.  The world is a brand new place and she has just left the comfort of a mother’s womb where noises were lower, and she was held, comforted, and fed by mom at all times.

Breastmilk is easily digested because babies have a need for touch, bonding, and interaction. Babies also have a sucking reflex and enjoy sucking frequently. While it is not always feasible to be a human pacifier, breasts really were the first pacifier and it is perfectly acceptable to comfort nurse your baby. You will not be spoiling him and this will not last forever.  Babies grow quickly; it is okay to nurse your baby frequently and allow your baby to nurse for comfort as well as nutrition.

Whether you choose to nurse or use a pacifier to fulfill your baby’s desire for comfort nursing, it is essential you understand your baby’s early feeding cues.

Early feeding cues your baby is hungry include the following:

  • Moving his eyes
  • Increased alertness
  • Bringing hands to mouth
  • Sucking fists or blanket
  • Wriggling, licking, physical activity
  • Making murmuring noises
  • Rooting – turning head side to side

You cannot feed your baby too often.  Frequent nursing encourages a strong milk supply and allows your baby to quickly become more comfortable with it.  It develops a strong bond and is associated with many positive health outcomes for both mother and baby.