Newborn Hunger Cues, One helpful way to prevent crying

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newborn hunger cues

Crying is a form of communication

I think one important thing to remember when you are in the thick of the fourth trimester, or parenting in general, is that crying is a form of communication for your little one.  Your sweet little one just recently entered this big, huge world! Hunger is a brand new feeling too. While they were floating around happily in utero, they connected to their umbilical cord, getting a constant supply of nutrients. Can you imagine how strange and intense hunger feels for the first time and not having the words to communicate your needs? This is what all that crying is all about! 

All of this is to say, that when baby is upset and hungry, it is their way of communicating with you what their needs are so that you can work as a team and meet those needs! 

Reading your newborns hunger cues can prevent crying

Learning what newborn hunger cues are and look like can help you prevent crying. This is because you can meet your baby’s need before they get too upset! I think it is really helpful to watch for the beginning newborn hunger cues right after they finish a nap. 

I have outlined all of the newborn hunger cues below for you!

So what are newborn hunger cues?

Early Hunger Cues

Early newborn hunger cues are the ones you want to be on the lookout for, especially after the wake from a nap. Your baby will show these cues when the start to get the first feelings of hunger. When you notice early newborn hunger cues, you can snuggle baby close and offer them breast or bottle. By watching for these early cues and feeding baby early on, you can prevent baby from becoming overly upset. An additional pro of feeding baby when you notice early cues is that they have an easier time latching to the breast when they are not frantic and crying from late hunger!

Early hunger cues include: Stirring, mouth opening, turning of their head, and rooting  licking the lips, making smacking or sucking noises, opening their mouth, & sticking their tongue out!⁠

Active Hunger Cues

If you missed the early hunger cues, no worries! You can catch a baby’s active hunger cues and offer them the breast or bottle. This stage of newborn hunger cues is called active hunger cues because your baby will be much more physically active.

A baby’s active hunger cues will be: baby rooting, their hand in their mouth, and they will begin to squirm around trying to locate the breast. ⁠

Late Hunger Cues

Late hunger cues are going to be crying, overly upset body movement, and turning red from being mad. If baby has reached this stage, no worries! It happens sometimes. Calm your baby down and encourage them to nurse or offer them their bottle, depending on what feeding method you have chosen. 

baby feeding cues

How to feed baby if they reach late stage hunger cues

So what can you do if your baby does reach their late hunger cue stage? Take a breath, its okay! This happens and there is a way to calm baby back down so you can take care of their hungry tummy. 

You can use part of the ‘Happiest Baby on the Block‘ ‘5 S’s’ to calm your baby back down to where they can latch to breastfeed or take a bottle. 

First, put baby on their side or stomach.  You can do this with baby in your arms or with baby laying against your chest.  Then, sway back and forth and making the sushing sound to replicate the noise they became used to while in utero.  Once baby has calmed back down, you can offer them the breast or bottle!   I really advise not trying to shove a bottle or nipple into your baby’s mouth while they are crying. This doesn’t create a good latch for breastfeeding and can further upset your baby.

Take a deep breath, calm baby back down, and try to offer baby to breastfeed or their bottle.  

Below is a video from the author of “Happiest Baby on the Block‘, Harvey Karp teaching how to calm a fussy baby!

OKC Birth Doula Jenni Jenkins


Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma City Bereavement, Birth, & Postpartum doula who serves her Central Oklahoma  community.   She is also a midwifery assistant with Holistic Birthing Services and planning to begin her student midwifery journey in 2022. 

Jenni has been a Thrive Mama Collective Member since 2017.  Jenni is also the creator & facilitator of the Kaleidoscope OKC LGBTQ Family Support Group & the Nurture Oklahoma Live Interview Series.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.