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Learn the Signs on How to Tell if Your Baby is Full or Hungry

Baby reaching for toy while eating

Can you overfeed your baby? How can you tell if your baby is full?

Newborn babies are notorious for being fussy for a myriad of reasons. If only they could tell us exactly what was wrong! We would move mountains to make them happy. Since babies lack the verbal communication skills needed to understand them, we need to be attentive to their non-verbal communication.

Baby being bottle fed

How to Tell When Your Baby is Hungry

 The first 6 months are the most crucial to ensuring your baby is getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to ensure they develop into strong, healthy children. Most newborns need to eat every 2 to 3 hours (8 to 12 times within 24 hours) and need to be fed 7-9 times a day between 4 to 8 weeks old. It's perfectly normal for your newborn to only need a half to one ounce during each feeding in the first few days after birth. Typically, the amount they consume increases as the frequency of feeding decreases. Babies have their own internal gauge to help them regulate how they need and when. However, you don't want to underfeed your baby.

Signs to Look For to Know Your Baby is Hungry:

Newborn to Six Months Old

  • Puckering, licking, and smacking their lips
  • Tightly clenched hands
  • Repeatedly puts their hands to their mouth
  • Crying (not always just a sign of hunger)
  • Continues suckling after finishing their bottle 
  • Turning towards your breast when being held after brushing their cheek, known as "rooting"

6 to 24 Months Old

  • Shows excitement when they see food, such as cooing or wiggling
  • Gestures and points at food
  • Uses hand motions similar to eating
  • Eagerly opens their mouth when offered food

Some babies may want to feed multiple times within a short period of time. This is known as cluster or bunch feeding, and it's completely safe and healthy for them. It's also important to note that you may need to wake your baby up for feeding. Even if your baby is still drowsy, try giving them a bottle or putting them to your breast anyway. Babies can feed even when they're not entirely awake.

CDC Weight Gain Guidelines

CDC Growth Chart

Baby eating in a high chair

How to Tell When Your Baby is Full

Just as important as feeding, is knowing when to stop. As we mentioned early, babies are great at knowing when they're full. Baby fat is healthy! Most babies aren't overweight, even if they look a bit over plump. The CDC guidelines for the average weight for babies in their first month or two is around 8lbs - 11.5 lbs. Typically your baby should gain around 1.5lbs per month on average. However, it is possible to overfeed your baby and cause unhealthy weight gain.

Signs to Look For to Know Your Baby is Full:

Newborn to Six Months Old

  • Turns away from their bottle or your breast
  • Keeps their mouth closed
  • Spits out the bottle or nipple, known as "falling off"
  • Falls asleep or looks drowsy
  • Focused on other objects around the room
  • Unclenches and relaxes their fists 

6 to 24 Months Old

  • Motions with their hands 
  • Turns their head away from food
  • Pushes food away 
  • Loses interest in food

Every baby is unique in its feeding habits and health needs. Some babies may not cry when they're hungry, while others will sound the alarm. It's important to let your baby decide how much they want. They don't absolutely need to finish a whole bottle at once or feed for 30 minutes straight every time. Food isn't a reward or a punishment, it's a vital aspect of thriving in life. If you're concerned your baby isn't at a healthy weight, consult your doctor. Mummy's Miracle is not a professional authority on health (trust us, we're really not doctors, just mom's trying to do their best). The best advice from family and friends will never substitute a professional opinion.

Additional Support

Contact your local WIC chapter. WIC staff are trained to help give you the support you and your little one need. They offer personal counseling, mentoring, and support for all parents.

 Check out this video from American Academy of Pediatrics:

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