My baby is always hungry (or is she?)
One of the most common concerns I hear from parents is that they say their baby is always hungry. Often these parents question whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat, and breastfeeding moms may begin to question if they are making enough breastmilk. However, parents can be comforted to know that frequent feedings are often the way of it with babies- newborns in particular.
Little baby = little tummy = drinks small amount = Little tummies need filling more frequently.
Breastfed Newborns and Cluster Feeding
So, let’s start at the beginning. Cluster feeding, also known as bunch feeding, is when your little baby feeds several times over a period of a few hours. More often than not, cluster feedings appear in the evening hours. These bunched feedings serve the purpose of ramping up mom’s milk supply and also tanking up your baby on the nutrition that she needs. This is also why Power Pumping mimics cluster feedings and served as an important tool to increase milk supply.
What you need to realise is that
1) cluster feedings are completely normal,
2) they serve an important purpose in breastfeeding, and
3) thankfully, your baby will grow out of them (though they can reappear during periods of baby growth spurts.)
Bottle-fed Newborns and Spitting Up
Parents are often surprised to know that, generally speaking, newborns only need about 1 to 2 ounces of formula per feeding. Depending on the amount in the bottle, they may need to be fed anywhere from 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
If you notice that your baby is spitting up excessively, then a sound suggestion is to decrease the amount of milk in the bottle but increase the number of bottles you offer in a day.
Understanding Baby Hunger Cues
Sometimes the problem is that parents are mistaking every fuss and whimper to be a sign that their baby is hungry.
Babies fuss for all sorts of reasons.
- They are tired.
- They are bored.
- They are overstimulated.
- They are uncomfortable.
- They pooped.
- They are having tummy ache
- They are too hot
- They are too cold
- They need comfort
- The list goes on and on.
Sometimes what parents need to do is be sure that something else is not causing the crying, and use different strategies to calm their fussy baby. All babies are different, and have different little ways of letting their parents know that they are hungry. Therefore as you and your baby gets to know one another, you will soon recognise your baby’s way of letting you know that that they are hungry.
However here are some of the typical hunger cues.
Common infant hunger cues include:
Crying. Every baby is different so, a mother needs to learn to interpret her own baby’s cry ( you will know ). A hunger cry is usually short, low-pitched, and rises and falls. But crying is actually one of the later signs of hunger. By the time a hungry baby is wailing, she may be too stressed to start eating easily.
Waking up and acting restless. Before your baby launches into a full-throated hunger wail, she’ll wake up and move around in her crib. She may also move her mouth and raise her hands to her face.
Sucking on her fist, smacking her lips. If you feed a breast-fed baby when you see these signs, rather than waiting, she’ll latch on more easily.
Rooting. During your baby’s first weeks, when you stroke her cheek, her natural reflex will be to turn toward the bottle or breast and make sucking motions with her mouth. After 4 months of age, rooting becomes a voluntary action rather than a reflex.
Opening her mouth while feeding. Translation: “More, please!” A hungry baby may continue to show interest in sucking even after finishing the first breast or bottle.
Smiling during feeding. Babies older than 4 months will show their interest in continuing to eat by looking at you and smiling as they feed.
Signs That Your Baby Is Full
Closing lips. Just as a hungry baby suckles readily, a full baby zips her lips, as if to say, “No more, thanks.”
Turning her head away. A more forceful version of closing her lips is to move her entire head away from the food source. If your baby turns away from your breast or a bottle, you shouldn’t force her to eat.
Decreasing or stopping sucking. Some full babies will stay latched on to the nipple but not suck any more—at which point, it’s time to gently end the session.
Spitting out the nipple or falling asleep when full. After about 15 to 20 minutes of feeding, a full baby will often act drowsy and may even fall asleep.
Showing increasing interest in surroundings rather than eating. At around 4 months old many babies begin to get distracted during feedings, as their awareness of the world around them grows. A hungry baby will put this curiosity on hold long enough to feel sated. When she begins looking around more distractedly, it’s a sign she’s had plenty.
How Often Should Baby Be Fed?
Until your baby has regained her birthweight, the recommendation is to feed about every two hours. Keeping in mind that cluster feeding is normal, and breastfeeding more frequently than that is okay. Demand feeding which is the practice of feeding a baby when it cries to be fed rather than at set times is recommended as well.
Hungry Babies and Solid Foods
Once your baby is eating solid foods (sometime between 4 to 6 months), again you need to tune into her cues to determine if she is hungry or not. These cues can be subtle. Your baby will turn his head away, lean back in his high chair, may refuse to open his mouth, or has stopped making eye contact with you (or the spoon!).
Your baby’s appetite will vary from meal to meal and from day to day. Do not bank that your baby will eat a certain amount at every breakfast, lunch or dinner. Simply watch your baby’s signs and feed him accordingly.
The Importance of Wet Diaper Counts
A very important part of knowing whether your baby is getting enough breastmilk or formula is to keep track of her daily wet diapers. Depending on your baby’s age, she should have a certain number of wet diapers and soiled diapers each day. If that number drops below the expected amount, it could be a sign that she is not getting enough to eat.