10 Ways The Baby Is Trying To Say They're Hungry (And 10 Ways They Say They're Full)

If someone had the option to either have a baby that was born knowing how to use the toilet, or knowing how to talk, odds are many would choose the talking option. Sure, changing diapers isn’t much fun, but it is a lot more frustrating to not know exactly what a baby needs.

It can be the hardest part of taking care of a baby, not knowing what they want. It can break a person’s heart to see a baby crying, and not knowing what to do to fix things. It would be much easier if they could just say what is wrong so that mom and dad could fix it. Sadly, this is not how the world works and this is not how babies work. Babies are not able to verbally communicate with us, leaving mom and dad to try and decipher the clues that they are being given. A lot of these fall around feeding. When to feed the baby and how much are constant struggles. However, it doesn’t have to be.

If parents pay close attention, their babies are trying to tell them things. They are saying when they are hungry and when they are done. Parents just miss a lot of the cues because they don’t know what to look for. We have everyone covered. We are going to go over the 10 things babies do when they are hungry, and the 10 things they do when they are all done.

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20 Crying (Duh!)

We are going to get this one out of the way because it is probably the most obvious sign that the baby is hungry. That is crying. Crying is the only way our baby has of communicating with us, when they have a need that has to be met, they will cry. Their cries will all sound different as well, and over time mom will begin to recognize what her baby wants by the sound of their cry.

A cry out of hunger is normally short, low-pitched and it rises and falls. The problem is, crying is one of the last cues of hunger and if mom has missed the signs earlier, her baby will start to cry. Mom may need to calm her baby down before they will want to eat.

19 Restless Baby

OK, so your baby may not begin doing push-ups or sprints, but another sign of hunger is a baby who can not stay still. If you notice your baby is getting extra fidgety, it is probably a sign that they are hungry. This will normally be observed when the baby wakes up from sleep. They may begin moving around in their crib trying to signal to mom that they are hungry.

Hunger cues are easily spotted in a formula fed baby because they are often on a much clearer schedule than a breastfed baby. Babies who are breastfed can want to eat at any time and it can be unpredictable, so mom will want to keep an extra eye out for cues.

18 Sucking On Fist

You may also notice that your little one brings their fist to their mouth and tries to shove the whole thing right in there. This is another early clue that your baby is getting hungry. When baby is hungry, he wants something in his mouth and anything will do. This means that the moment the hand comes near the mouth, the baby will open wide.

There is a flaw with this one though. There are some other reasons why babies put their fists in their mouth. They may be teething, and they are trying to put some pressure on their sore gums. They also may just want to figure out how to suck their thumb as a way to comfort themselves. Mom should look for other signs on this list as well.

17 Open Mouth

It makes sense, when we are hungry, and we eat we open our mouths. Babies will do this when they are hungry. They do this in anticipation of a bottle or breastmilk being placed in their mouth. This is a clue they send mom to say, ‘hey, I’m hungry, can you please put something in my mouth, so I can eat.’

If a mother sees these cues early enough, and she is breastfeeding, she should try and feed her baby as soon as possible. Noticing hunger cues early can mean an easier and better latch than if you wait for your little one to be really upset. It can be quick though; some babies go through the hunger cues quite fast before they reach meltdown mode.

16 Smiling!

It can be hard to determine when a baby is done feeding, especially if the baby is breastfed. We are reluctant to remove the chest. Especially if they come unlatched during a feed, we often wonder if they are done or if they are taking a little break. We don’t want to end the feed too soon because that means it will be a shorter time period between feeds.

One of the best ways to make sure your baby is not done feeding and is still hungry is if they smile. By the time your baby is 4-months old, they have the ability to give genuine smiles. If your little one smiles up at you while nursing, or when coming unlatched, chances are they are content and letting you know they are not done eating just yet.

15 Rooting

Rooting is one of the best hunger cues out there and it starts right from newborn. It is a reflex that they are born with. Rooting is something that babies do when they are hungry and trying to find the breast. If something touches their cheek, they will turn their heads and try and locate what they think is the nipple to eat.

This was always the way I found out if my baby was truly hungry. I would gently touch their cheek and see if they rooted. It was also how my husband would let me know the baby was hungry if I was doing something else and he was on baby duty.

14 Pulling On Shirt

Babies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and they are always trying to tell us things. We just have to make sure we are there to hear them. A great sign that baby is hungry is if they start pulling on mom’s shirt. If the baby is breastfed, it doesn’t take them long to learn where the food is stored, so they will pull at the shirt in an attempt to get to the food.

This is another great way of seeing if your baby is done eating too. If they are in the middle of a feed and they start pulling on your shirt, chances are they are having a great time and are nowhere near ready to be done just yet.

13 Moving That Head

The primary need of a baby is to eat. When they are a newborn, they don’t really need much more than that. They need food, sleep and to be loved. Since this is one of their only needs, they are pros at it. They already know how to suck and swallow then they are born so they are ready to go. They also know how to make it easier on them.

When a baby is hungry, they will turn their head towards the food source. It is their way of saying they are ready to go. If mom breastfeeds, the baby will turn their head towards the breast. If the baby senses a bottle coming, the head will go towards the bottle.

12 Making Faces

Our babies make all kinds of faces, and it is really adorable. We have to watch out though because sometimes they are making faces because they are hungry. When our bodies are in the process of getting hungry, certain things happen. Our stomachs grumble, they may cramp a bit and we get a bit uncomfortable. The same thing happens to babies.

All of these feelings can make a baby pretty uncomfortable, and since they are so expressive, it can come out in some pretty weird facial expressions. These feelings are all new to them and they don’t really know what’s going on yet, so if you see the weird faces it is time to feed the baby.

11 Arms And Legs Are A Go!

We talked a bit before about how a baby who is getting hungry will start moving rapidly. This normally occurs with their arms and legs. Their limbs will start moving out of control as they try and tell mom and dad that it is time to eat. They will look like they are on a mission to get somewhere, and they are, right to the food source.

It really is important that mom and dad pick up on all of these hunger cues in order to prevent their baby from getting really upset. A baby who has already reached the stage of crying will be too worked up to eat and mom and dad will have to spend some time comforting before they can feed the baby.

10 All Done: Closed Lips

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We have covered the top ten signs that a baby is hungry, so it only makes sense to cover the top ten signs they are done eating. The first of these is closed lips. If we are done eating, we close our lips, seems simple. If someone tries to shove food in our mouth, we close our lips tight. The baby will do the same.

If they are not hungry, or they are done eating, they will close their lips tight. It is their way of telling mom that they are done eating and they would really like it if you took the bottle away now. It really can be as simple as that.

9 All Done: Turning Away

Sometimes parents confuse the hunger signs for something else and they may attempt to feed a baby who is not really hungry. This is when they will want to look out for these cues, so they can rest assured that their baby is really not hungry. Another thing babies will do when they are full is, they will turn away from the food source.

That’s right, it is the exact opposite of one of the hunger cues. We talked about how a hungry baby will turn towards a food source. Well, a full baby will turn away. They are telling you they don’t want or need what you are offering them. A hungry baby would very seldomly refuse food, so if your baby does this you can be calm knowing they are not hungry.

8 All Done: Stopped Sucking

This one seems so simple we wonder why it has to be on a list. If a baby is not hungry, they will stop sucking. It doesn’t matter whether the food is coming from the chest or the bottle. If the baby is full, they will stop eating. Now, a formula fed baby has the ability to overeat, so they may continue to finish a bottle when they don’t really want it. Mom will know by the amount of times her baby spits up.

A baby who is breastfed will very seldomly overeat. They tend to just take what they need and then they are done. Mom can try and offer breastfeeding again when the sucking stops, but chances are the baby may such a few more times and stop again. That baby is full.

7 All Done: Falling Asleep

This is one of the biggest clues that your baby is done eating, they fall asleep. Women who breastfeed often wonder if their baby is getting enough milk because they are constantly falling asleep while eating. This is quite common in the newborn days and moms are encouraged to try and wake their baby to eat. As the baby grows, mom doesn’t need to worry so much.

If a baby is uncomfortable in any way, they would not sleep. Can you sleep on an empty stomach? Probably not. Chances are, if they are falling asleep at the chest or bottle, after they have been feeding for at least 15-minutes, they are full and ready for a good nap.

6 All Done: Something Else Is More Fun

When a baby is hungry, the only thing that matters to them is getting food. That is the only thing they are interested in and no attempts at entertaining are going to work. If a baby is full, and not the least bit hungry, they will find something else more interesting. Once their primary need is met, food, they will find the world a lot more interesting.

We work much the same way. If we are starving, the only thing we will be able to think about is food. How we can get food and how much we can eat. It is very hard to think about anything else. Once we eat, and fill that need, we can then focus on other things.

5 All Done: More Crying

Crying has also made its way onto this section as well. The reason it does is because crying is their only way to communicate. They will cry when they are hungry, but they will also cry when they are done. If mom goes to place the breastmilk or bottle in the baby’s mouth and they start crying shortly after, chances are they are either done eating or they are not hungry at all.

It is their way of telling you that is not what they want right now. Mom should try other things to help baby if they continue to be a bit fussy. Mom could also try to burp the baby before attempting to offer the food again.

4 All Done: Stretching

Many people think that we only stretch in the morning or after we work out. That stretching is the way of warming up our bodies or working out any kinks it has. While this is true, we also stretch when we are content and satisfied. A baby who stretches is probably not hungry. If the stretching happens after a feed it is a good sign that the baby has had enough.

If the baby is stretching right after a nap that is probably due to them sleeping and should not be seen as a sign that they are not hungry. Young babies tend to wake up hungry and it would be odd for them to not want to eat as soon as they wake up.

3 All Done: Pattern Changes

When someone has a baby, it is important that they really study how their baby does things. This could be great information. If we know how our baby does things, we can tell when something is off which can let us know how our baby is doing. A breastfed baby will have a specific rhythm in which they suck, a bottle-fed baby may do the same.

If mom notices during a feed that the movement, or pattern, of the feed has changed it is a good indicator that the baby is done eating. If the sucking motions slows, or has a weird pattern to it, the baby is probably nearing the end of his feed.

2 All Done: Hunger Cues Are Gone

Here is another one that seems pretty obvious. If we went through all of the hunger cues for baby indicating that our baby is hungry, if we don’t see any of those cues it is safe to assume the baby is full. If the baby is not rooting, turning their head or opening their mouth chances are they are full and are ready for a rest.

The absence of hunger cues can tell us a lot. When babies get a little older, mom can check for the rooting reflex. If she is unsure if her baby is really full, she can place a finger on their cheek and see if they turn towards it. If they don’t, then they are one full and happy baby.

1 All Done: Clamping Down

If we are done eating, we remove the food and stop eating. However, we have free-will and we are not relying on someone else to feed us. Babies are always fed, someone is always offering them the bottle or the breast, so they need their own way of telling us that they are done. One of the things they will do is they will clamp down on the nipple, whether human or plastic.

This is their way of shutting off the food supply. They do not have the ability to move the bottle away, or even to push mom’s arms away and say no. They need their own way of saying ‘no more’ and removing the food. They will clamp down so that no more milk gets into their already full bellies.

References: Strong For Life, En Famil, Very Well Family 

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