Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Baby's Signs of Hunger


This poster, created by the Women's and Newborn Services of Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, highlights a human baby's hunger cues - her way of communicating to parents that she needs to eat.

As highlighted in the 2010 article, 7 Breastfeeding Fact You Should Know, parents are reminded that stirring, mouth opening, turning a head (to seek a nipple) and rooting are signs that your baby is hungry. Stretching, becoming agitated, and sucking on her fist, fingers or thumb is your baby's way of telling you that she is really hungry. By the time fussing and crying start, your baby is experiencing hunger that is physically painful. It is the type of hunger you experience after your belly has been empty for 14-16 hours. Your baby's belly is very small - this is the reason she gets full so quickly, and then hungry again so soon. Her tiny stomach cannot handle more than this, and does not have any place to 'store' some for later. She is entirely dependent upon you to provide that fill-up according to her cues that she is hungry.

Too often new parents believe they should schedule feedings or wait until their baby cries to nurse. But crying is a late indicator of extreme hunger. Always eating when you are so famished, when your belly hurts and stress hormones from being anxious to eat are at an ultimate high, leads to things like reflux, gas, stomach aches, 'colic,' and general agitation and general withdrawal from the world around - especially if you are brand new and helpless in this world.

Don't wait until your baby is in pain to nurse. Instead, feed at the first cue of hunger, and everyone will be much healthier and happier all around.

For related reading, see the Breastfeeding Resource Page.




A little tiny tummy wisdom from Baby Wisdom (UK):


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10 comments:

  1. Not all babies will demand feed - my son slept for 14 hours when 3 days old. As a first time mum I was then advised that he needed to be woken and fed 3 hourly (except for 6 at night) and so it remains (he is now 8 months). The only time he demand fed was during a growth spurt at 4 months for 2 nights (increasing the milk supply) and one night when he was sick (comfort). Apart from that we trialed demand feeding at 5 months - I had a grumpy, whingey baby for a couple of days.. then I fed him without him having to ask on the third day and he sighed with complete relaxation and happiness. Its nice to be trusted to run the schedule.

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    1. Feeding on cue works for the majority of babies. (Note that it is 'on cue' - not 'by demand' as babies are merely responding to their own hunger urges, not demanding anything from adults). Rarely does a baby who had a gentle birth, was not subjected to post-birth trauma (such as genital cutting or medical interventions), and who is kept close to mom (via babywearing, sleep sharing, etc.) not rouse to eat on a regular basis. But if this is the case, then yes, feeding around the clock is key to early health and development.

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    2. What I've found through my work as a lactation consultant and newborn care educator is that most parents miss the early cues, and as a result, their baby eventually stops giving them. They go right from hunger to crying because those early cues were ignored - not intentionally, but because parents were never given this information in the first place, and they did not grow up witnessing their own parents responding to newborn cues. It's a cycle that needs to be broken via education and experience.

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  2. This is an excellent article. I knew nothing about this and now that I do, I would spread the info! Thanks!

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  3. I found this poster completely confusing with my first and about to have my second it still makes me anxious. Some of those signs are also for tiredness or other reasons like normal exploration of their bodies (hand in mouth). Then during a home visit I was told by the nurse I was missing my sons sleep cues and that was why he didn't sleep much during the day. So now I was also armed also with no confidence in myself. :(

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    1. The poster is not meant to be confusing - it is encouraging mothers to tune into their babies and recognize first signs of hunger. This is entirely different from sleep - as long as a baby is worn close to mom, and has easy access to milk during the night, s/he will sleep when s/he is tired - there is zero reason to try and force a baby to sleep. Go with the flow. <3 Not all of those who claim to be 'experts' know what they are talking about either... ;)

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    2. BTW - there are oodles of *good* sleep resources here: http://www.drmomma.org/2009/06/truth-about-co-sleeping-how-stats.html

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  4. where can I buy this poster? Love it as a teaching aid! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. The first poster was made by the Queensland government and the Brisbane & Women's Hospital for educational purposes. You may wish to have a copy printed at your local print store. They may have one available at their website: http://kemh.health.wa.gov.au/services/breastfeeding/feeding-cues.htm Or you can email DrMomma.org@gmail.com for a higher resolution copy to print.

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