What are your child's behavioral cues and how do you recognize them?
For many new parents, feeding time can be stressful and confusing. How do you know your child had enough to eat? How often do you feed your new baby?
As parents, we want to make sure our child gets enough to eat and is getting the nutrition he or she needs for healthy growth and development. Even though your baby can’t verbally express his or her feelings of hunger and satiety, look for the nonverbal cues. Infants can regulate their own energy intake. When these nonverbal cues aren’t acknowledged, children can become confused about hunger and fullness sensations. Try to trust your baby to communicate when he or she is full or hungry instead of following a strict schedule for feeding.
So, what are these behavioral cues and how do you recognize them?
How to tell if your baby is hungry:
- The hunger cry. Usually a later sign of hunger, hunger cries are typically short, low pitched cries that rise and fall. If your baby has reached this point, it may be difficult for them to start eating easily due to the stress of being hungry.
- Restlessness. Your baby will start to move around in the crib. You might find that your baby moves his or her mouth and raises their hands to their face.
- Fist sucking and lip smacking. At this point, if you breastfeed, this is the perfect time to feed as they are more likely to easily latch.
- Rooting. During your baby’s first few weeks, your baby’s natural reflex will be to turn toward the bottle or breast and make sucking motions whenever his or her cheek is stroked. As they become older, rooting becomes more voluntary.
- Opening his or her mouth during feeding. This is a sign that the baby is hungry. Consider continuing to feed or mix more formula.
- All smiles. After 4 months, babies will show you they are still interested in feeding by smiling and looking up at you as they feed.
How to tell if your baby is full:
- Closed lips. Once your baby has had enough to eat, a full baby will tightly close his or her lips.
- Turning away. Your baby may go a step further after closing his or her lips and turn their whole head away. Don’t force your little one to feed. This is a very natural queue.
- Sucking decreases or stops. A baby may stay latched but will no longer suck any more milk. This is a clear sign they are full.
- Sleepiness. A full baby tends to get drowsy and may even fall asleep when full.
- Getting distracted. At about 4 months old, children start to pay more attention to their surroundings. If your child is hungry, he or she won’t let these distractions get in the way of feeding. Once they start to feel satisfied, they may show more interest in their surroundings.
Being a new parent and learning how to feed your little one is one of the joys of being a parent! Let your baby help you and pay close attention to his or her cues. Your baby will tell you what they need.