Baby’s Hunger Cues

Cropped shot of a girl being breastfed by her mother

Your baby can’t talk yet, and trying to understand what your little one needs can be a constant struggle. As a mom or caregiver, providing for your baby is always of the utmost importance. Thankfully, there are cues your baby gives that can help decipher when they are hungry. As their hunger increases, so does the intensity of their cues. In addition, when they are full and have had enough nutrients, they will let you know through certain signals. Read on to become an expert on baby talk.

Early Cues – “I’m Hungry”

In the early stages of hunger, your little one will exhibit signs of slight stirring. They will open their mouths and seek the nipple or bottle, also called rooting. Licking lips or smacking and sticking their tongue out is another early sign of hunger. If there is something nearby, your baby may try to suck on it thinking it will give them food.

Mid Cues – “I’m Really Hungry”

When your baby continues to go without food, they will get hungrier and more agitated. These cues will continue to progress. When your little one is really hungry they will exhibit signs of fidgeting, squirming, and stretching. You’ll also notice your baby putting its fist to the mouth. This is a clear sign that your baby needs food – and now!

Late Cues – “I Need to be Calmed, then Fed, NOW!”

Finally, as time goes on, your little one’s actions will grow and become extreme agitation. At this moment your baby will be so worked up that before you can feed them, you will need to calm them down. These late cues include crying, turning red, and frantic movements. 

Cues Baby is Full

As you’re feeding your baby, look for these clues that your baby has had enough and is done eating. When full, your baby will relax their hands and have open palms and floppy arms. They will also appear content and calm, turn their head away or spit out the nipple, and could fall asleep.


If your baby is having trouble latching, is not able to be calmed to feed, or has other issues, our lactation experts can help! Make an appointment to discuss your specific nursing needs and get the help you deserve.

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