Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

“How do I know if my baby is hungry or full?”

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Babies don’t follow a textbook, but there are some indicators to look for!

Infant Signs of Hunger

  1. Early Signs Licking lips, smacking lips, sticking tongue out, rooting toward finger or breast.
  2. Hunger Approaching – Hands going to mouth, beginning to squirm.
  3. Over-hungry – Fussing, wailing, crying. If you feed your baby and they show any over-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 to either make sure they didn’t just need to be soothed or to calm them so they feed if they’re truly hungry.

Remember when it comes to infant feeding, that not all fussing, wailing, and crying is hunger. You can look for other cues; but be patient with yourself and baby, if they don’t seem to take the breast or bottle and they are wailing. This could mean they are not hungry or need to be calmed a bit before.

THE HOSPITAL TOLD ME TO FEED MY BABY A CERTAIN AMOUNT, BUT THEY SEEM HUNGRY!

Let’s remember babies don’t follow a textbook. So, in terms of amount, all babies are unique, so if they’re still hungry after finishing a feeding, feed them more.

Overfeeding will look like putting a bottle in when they’re not showing hunger cues. If they spit up large amounts consistently with that amount, scale back to find their happy spot.

I oftentimes find babies lose weight because parents feel they MUST stick to a certain amount – and baby is actually hungry. So remember to go by your baby’s cues.

Infant Signs of Fullness

Remember, whether you breastfeed or formula feed, initially they will feed only a little because their stomach is small. Focus on these to ensure they are getting enough.

  1. Day one of life, baby should have one wet diaper and pass a black tarry stool.
  2. Day two of life, they should have at least two wet diapers and stool.
  3. After day three of life, baby is making a MINIMUM of three wet diapers in a 24-hour period; baby will likely make close to 6+ by five days, but the MINIMUM is three.
  4. Baby is making poop 3+ times a day (this can be established after day four); remember, breastfed babies can go 7-10 days without a poop once feeding is established. So, monitor wet diapers AND discomfort if not pooping. Formula-fed babies can also go less than 3+ times a day.
  5. If BF, baby seems to suck AND swallow milk—should have a good latch and be swallowing milk and not spitting it all out.
  6. Baby seems content after feeds: relaxed hands, “milk drunk,” relaxed body like a wet noodle. If baby is overly listless or constantly hungry and/or rooting, this may be a sign of underfeeding.
  7. Baby is gaining weight: Baby is trending well on growth curves at visits or with lactation consultant. Remember, some babies are slow to gain, but don’t lose hope, and follow guidance from clinician on if there is any need to supplement or pump until milk supply builds up.

Other infant feeding concerns

  • If you are seeing brick-colored dusty residue in diaper, these are called urate crystals and can be common initially, but we see it resolve once milk comes in by day five. If you see this and are concerned about weight loss, seek medical attention.
  • Stool has not transitioned to yellow by one week AND you are concerned baby isn’t gaining weight: Some formula-fed babies don’t have that yellow-seedy poop, but they should be making poop and wet diapers.
  • Your clinician can ALWAYS do a weight check to confirm your worries. I’d rather have a parent in my office every day while breastfeeding is being established than having you worry at home that baby is not getting enough. That anxiety is hard.

For more content on infant feeding including an entire module about Infant Feeding Foundations, purchase and join The New Mom’s Survival Guide and community!

P.S. Checkout Episode 40 where I discuss more on infant feeding: “Infant Reflux and Constipation”!

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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.