Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

Hunger and Sleepy Cues Explained

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As you learn about your baby in the fourth trimester, you will learn about what their cries mean. This isn’t always as easy as it may seem, so please give yourself some patience and understanding. Two VERY important cues to look out for are hunger cues and sleepy cues. These are ways they are communicating basic needs with you. Let’s explore.


  • Early signs – Licking lips, smacking lips, sticking tongue out, rooting toward finger, bottle, or breast
  • Hunger approaching – Hands going to mouth, beginning to squirm
  • Overly hungry – Fussing, wailing, crying. Remember that not all fussing, wailing, and crying is hunger.

If you feed your baby and they show any “overly hungry” signs within 1-2 hours after a feeding, first try to calm them down with a swaddle, cuddles, or any of your soothing tips. We want to make sure they didn’t just need to be soothed. We also want to calm them so they may feed if they’re truly hungry.


  • Early signs – Red eyebrows, blank stares, looks away into space
  • Approaching sleepiness – Yawning, rubbing eyes, starting to get fussy
  • Over-tired – Arching back, making fists

One takeaway is that in both scenarios of an over-hungry baby or an over-sleepy baby, it is important to try and calm the baby first. Both situations can yield a crying, screaming, fussy baby.

If the baby is wailing and rooting, smacking lips but won’t take the bottle or breast, calm baby down using your soothing tips and try feeding. An overly tired or overly hungry baby MAY need to be calmed slightly to settle into a feeding session or sleep session.

Download my free guide on this topic so you can avoid difficult feedings and rough naps and make room for more happy feeds and cuddles!

P.S. – Check out The PedsDocTalk Podcast!

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.