New parents are continually looking for signs that their baby needs something. Whether it's signs they want to be held, the tell-tale signals of a diaper that needs changing, or ways your baby is trying to tell you they're hungry, one of the hardest jobs parents have is reading these word-less cues babies give.
As time goes on, you'll become a pro at deciphering these signals. But the first few weeks (and months, in all honesty) can be a lot like trying to walk through a maze with a blindfold on as you and your brand new offspring get to know each other.
Luckily, there are lots of cues your baby instinctively gives when they're hungry, so even if they aren't as predictable as you'd like, keeping an eye out for these signs will at least help you get to know them sooner rather than later.
Some of these hunger cues are early, meaning they're signs your baby is just getting ready to eat. Although others are called "late hunger cues", they're a sign that your baby is already very hungry. Learning to differentiate these signs will help you better learn your baby's schedule and needs, letting you at least take the blindfold off in the maze of parenthood.
Although babies love sucking on things all the time, if your baby brings their fist to their mouth and sucks on it (or anything else within reach), they're probably hungry, according to Belly Belly.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), babies are born with a "rooting reflex" to help them nurse easier. The reflex is triggered by something touching their cheek, be it your finger, their own hand, or anything else. They'll instinctively turn towards the object and try to latch on.
Although the age old debate of whether or not to wake your baby to feed them rages on, if your baby is moving around or seems restless during their sleep, they're most likely getting ready to eat. However, according to Breastfeeding Basics, as long as your baby is older than two weeks old, has reached their birth weight, and is eating normally, there's really no reason to wake them early to eat.
Fussiness, which is different than crying, is a sign that your baby is getting hungry, according to Gerber. Your baby may increase their breathing rate, almost like they're panting, or start to whine a bit before actually crying.
According to Baby GooRoo, licking their lips or exhibiting any other "mouth movements" is likely a hunger cue. Similar to sucking, babies may make movements with their mouth a lot, but if it's been a while since their last feeding, at least rule out hunger before dismissing the sign.
Although this is a late sign of hunger, if your baby seems distressed and squirmy, moving their head from side to side, they're definitely hungry, according to Belly Belly.
Another late sign of hunger that should be avoided, crying may mean that your child is overly hungry. Although babies cry for a variety of reasons, hunger is the easiest problem to rule out, according to LLLI.