Your baby won’t usually waste any time telling you that they’re hungry. There’ll be a number of signs they’ll give you to let you know that they’re ready to feed.
However, some babies may be hungrier than others, and you may start to wonder why your baby is constantly hungry, even after being breast or bottle fed.
Signs your baby is hungry
Even before your baby can talk, they’ll be able to show you clear signs that they’re hungry using sounds and movements.
If your baby is hungry, crying is one way of them communicating that to you. However, crying isn’t the only sign of hunger. In fact, your baby is likely to let you know that they’re hungry long before they start to cry. These subtle actions are known as early feeding cues1. Look out for your baby trying to tell you that they’re hungry by:
- Putting their fingers into their mouth
- Become restless and fidgety
- Seeking out and looking/‘rooting’ for a feed
- Opening their mouth
- Clenching their hands
Early feeding cues are really useful when it comes to feeding your baby, as it means that you can feed them before they become upset. This keeps feeds with your baby far more relaxed. If your baby is crying, that’s quite often a sign of late hunger2.
Spotting early feeding cues will become easier as you get to know your baby. With a little bit of time, you’ll start recognising when your baby needs to be fed and how they tell you.
How do I tell if my baby is still hungry after breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?
Knowing when your baby has had enough milk isn’t always easy, especially during the early days of breastfeeding. It’s common to wonder if your baby is getting enough milk3.
If your baby isn’t hungry anymore, it’s possible they’ll try to tell you by:
- Closing their mouth
- Turning their head away from your breast or their bottle
- Ignoring the bottle or your breast
- Slowing down or falling asleep during a feed
- Relaxing their hands
It really helps to understand your baby’s cues. They’ll prove vital for knowing when your baby is starting to feel hungry, or when they’ve had enough. It may take some time before you get the hang of things and feel confident that your baby’s getting the milk they need, but rest assured you’ll get there.
My baby is constantly hungry
As your baby grows, so will their appetite. Just when you think you’ve got to grips with establishing a feeding routine, your baby will be ready to change things up once again.
Your baby will go through a number of growth spurts during childhood. Babies experience various growth spurts in the first 12 months of age, meaning they’re hungrier than they normally would be for up to a few days4. This is completely normal. It’s a great way of knowing that your baby is simply in need of more milk due to them growing and developing in a healthy way. After a while, you’ll start to notice that things will start going back to normal.
Sometimes, an increased appetite in babies leads many parents to wonder whether this is a sign that their baby is ready to wean.
However, weaning isn’t recommended until your baby reaches around six months because, until then, your baby's digestive system simply isn’t ready for and doesn’t need anything more than breast milk or infant formula5.
To find out more about weaning, and spotting when your baby is ready for their first tastes of solid foods alongside their breast or formula milk, take a look here.
Is it really hunger?
In the early days after your baby is born and you're establishing breastfeeding, it’s important to feed your baby on demand. It’s not possible to over-breastfeed your baby1, so try not to watch the clock. Just relax and let your baby take what they need. If your baby is being formula fed, remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and talk to your GP if any questions arise.
Some babies, both breast and formula fed, like to suck simply for comfort’s sake, even if they’re not hungry. Some babies find it hard to differentiate between their need for food, and their need for comfort. This in turn can make it difficult for parents to do the same when it comes to working out what their baby wants as opposed to what their baby needs.
Bear in mind that, sometimes, demanding milk may actually be a request for comfort or attention, so if you suspect that your baby is already full up but continues to fuss, try giving them a cuddle instead4.
If you have any concerns about your baby being continuously hungry, or not having enough milk, talk to your midwife or GP for more information and the best advice for you and your baby.
Oriana Hernandez Carrion
Oriana has a BSc (Hons) in Nutrition and Food Science (1st class) from University Iberoamericana in Mexico, the country where she completed an internship in a Children’s Public Hospital (HIMFG) and later on worked in a private nutrition clinic.
- The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (NHS). Feeding cues and rooming in. [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.royalwolverhampton.nhs.uk/services/service-directory-a-z/infant-feeding/feeding-cues-and-rooming-in/. [Accessed April 2021]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Signs Your Child is Hungry or Full. [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/mealtime/signs-your-child-is-hungry-or-full.html. [Accessed April 2021]
- National Health Service (NHS). Breastfeeding: is my baby getting enough milk? [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding-problems/enough-milk/. [Accessed April 2021]
- National Health Service (NHS).Early Days your baby & you. [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.cambscommunityservices.nhs.uk/docs/default-source/leaflets---luton-breastfeeding-and-infant-feeding-service/baby-feeding-booklet---final1---cmyk-with-m-amp-b---july-2019.pdf?sfvrsn=8#:~:text=Around%20three%2C%20five%20to%20six,and%20will%20need%20more%20milk. [Accessed April 2021]
- WHO. The World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation [Online]. 2001. Available at: www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding_recommendation/en/ [Accessed April 2021]
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