Signs Baby Is Hungry

Infants have a sophisticated vocabulary for communicating their needs, especially hunger. When a mild hunger begins, you'll start to see early signs your baby is hungry, such as putting his hand to his mouth, and making mmmm sounds.

Frequency of baby hunger cues: Babies usually need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, so your baby will probably signal hunger every 2 to 3 hours.

What happens if you miss one of your newborn’s early hunger cues? Don’t worry; your baby won’t give up! Next, he will send you more demanding middle-hunger cues. These include rooting (moving head from side with an open mouth, looking for a nipple), open eyes and more active movements. If he still hasn’t gotten your full attention, he’ll shift into late hunger cues: wriggling, fussing and crying.

List of Baby Hunger Signs

Here is a few signs that your baby is hungry:

  • Rooting
  • Open eyes and active movements
  • Wriggling
  • Fussing
  • Crying
  • Your baby puts his hand to his mouth
  • Your baby makes mmmmm sounds

Of course, you should never ignore your baby’s hunger signals. In fact, if your baby fusses for more than 10 minutes after the last feeding, you should still offer a bit more milk. (Some babies finish a feeding and then fuss a little later when they realize they need just an extra ounce to “top off the tank” in preparation for sleep.)

Is Baby Eating Hands a Sign of Hunger?

After around 6-8 weeks of the newborn period, your baby eating or sucking his hands is not always a reliable sign of hunger. During 6-8 weeks of age, your baby will begin to gain more control over his hands and explore his newfound dexterity with his mouth more frequently.

Ignoring the Signs That a Newborn is Hungry

Ignoring early hunger signs to get a bit more sleep is actually smart. An extra hour of rest can improve nursing by reducing depression, preventing mastitis and boosting your milk supply. That’s why hundreds of breastfeeding clinics help moms succeed by teaching them swaddling and the other S’s during Happiest Baby classes.

Note: During the first month or two, you will encourage better nighttime sleeping by waking and nursing your baby every couple of hours…during the day. You can also try the SNOO Smart Sleeper which is a baby bassinet that actually helps to automatically calm and put your baby to sleep using white noise and motion. You can learn more about purchasing or renting a SNOO here.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.