Baby cues of hunger and fullness

Baby cues of hunger and fullness

You often hear new mums saying that their baby cries because of hunger all the time.

It is true that in earlier days when your baby is very young, you don’t get much of an idea from your baby about their feeding needs and requirements.

Midwives usually suggest a shortcut solution to knowing when and how much, by recommending that you feed your new baby for certain hours of the day, such as every two hours for newborns.

Despite this, you may find yourself feeding your baby more often than the recommended time.

As a new mum, you’re unable to understand your baby’s hunger cues and it’s understandable that you want to err on the side of caution.

Feeding can be very stressful for new parents, as they do not want their babies to go hungry, and on the other hand they fear over-feeding the baby.

It’s normal to ask yourself,‘am I doing this right?’and struggle to find the right balance.

Just like adults, infants have a satisfying point.

Although they cannot tell you by talking, they definitely give some signals to show their interest in feeding or that they feel full enough.

Generally, health practitioners will tell you the standard requirements of your baby’s feeding needs: they can in fact differ from baby to baby.

It depends on how much energy a baby needs, which depends primarily upon the baby’s health.

That’s why the best way is to observe carefully and understand your baby’s signs of hunger and fullness.

Once you understand your baby’s cues, it becomes much easier to manage baby’s feeding schedule.

Moreover it helps improve your baby’s physical and mental health.

On the other hand, if parents are unable to understand their cues, it not only confuses the baby but it will also end up either over feeding the baby or leaving the baby hungry when they actually need energy.

Cues that your baby is hungry

Not all babies tell you in the same way that they’re feeling hungry, but the majority of babies show some of these common signs of hunger:

Sucking on finger or fist

This is the most common and earliest sign of babies to tell their mother that they are feeling hungry.

They usually do this when they are awake and hungry.


A large number of infants do this while they are sleeping and hungry.

But lip smacking does not always mean that baby is hungry.

Some children do this regardless of being hungry.


This is a very late sign of hunger.

By this time your baby is very hungry and because you have been unable to understand their other general hunger signals, the baby becomes very stressed and restless and at this point they are essentially communicating unhappiness and stress.

They tend to start crying at a lower pitch which slowly rises higher until you pick up your baby and start feeding.

However, hunger may not be the only reason your baby is crying, read more on why do babies cry here.


Your baby might start moving their head, hands and legs.

This could be one of the signs of hungry baby, but not always necessarily.

Waking up

Your baby might not be able to go into deep sleep, or else they wake up frequently during the night and open their mouth.

Rooting reflex

You will notice this reflex very often during your baby’s first few days.

Your baby will move to the feeder nipple or your breast and start making sucking movements, as soon as you touch their face.

Slowly, as your baby gets older,they learn to make this motion only when they feel hungry.

Opening mouth and smiling expressions

When your baby is interested in feeding and they want more, they will smile during feeding and/or open their mouth wide to ask for more.

Cues that your baby is full

Falls asleep

When you baby falls asleep while feeding, it often means your baby is full.

Now your baby will sleep well.

Stops sucking

As soon as your baby feels full they will slowly stop sucking on the breast or feeder but they do not let it go.

This is the sign that you can end the feeding session and move the baby to their cot.

Turns head away

When baby feels full, they can sometimes turn their head away from the bottle or mother’s breast.

Closes mouth

Baby closes his mouth when full.

Spits out or throws up

When baby has fulfilled their requirement they might spit out the nipple and a little milk.

If your baby is over full,they might throw up and need burping.

Looks around

As your baby grows a little they might show their disinterest by moving their head around.

When they show more interest in their surroundings rather than feeding, they’ve probably had enough for the moment.


There can be other signs beyond the ones mentioned above.

Moreover,these gestures won’t necessarily always mean that your baby is hungry or full; there can be other reasons behind any of these gestures.

It is best to always observe your baby’s behaviour closely and practice recognising the actual reasons for your baby’s cues, depending upon the situation.