• 3 Hunger Cues That Tell You It's Time to Breastfeed Your Baby

    A pediatrician and lactation counselor shares why it's crucial to anticipate your baby's hunger.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • 3 Hunger Cues That Tell You It's Time to Breastfeed Your Baby
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  • The onset of breastfeeding challenges can be overwhelming. It's different when you're just reading or learning about nursing in a workshop or seminar (which is still great, by the way) to the time to breastfeed your baby.

    Doctors and breastfeeding or lactation counselors stress that you have to feed your baby before she's starving and upset. You'll need to anticipate feeding time and to do that, you need to observe your baby and recognize hunger cues. 

    "A crying baby is a late cue [he's already] a hungry baby," said Dr. Teresa Maria Ribaño, pediatrician and lactation consultant at Makati Medical Center. "An overly hungry baby is an overly stimulated baby and will have a tendency to bite, push you away, and just cry," she explained during Makati Medical Center's "Pregnancy & Beyond," the first leg of the series held last February 24, 2018. 

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    The good news is there are signs that your baby needs to be fed. When your baby starts showing hand-to-mouth movements, rooting, moving their arms and legs, making sucking sounds, or exhaling deeply, it’s time to feed him. Act on these feeding cues right away. Don't let your baby be "hangry" (hungry and angry or upset). Here's what you need to keep in mind:

    Early cues
    The early cues means you have a baby who is hungry. "He is starting to move, the baby's mouth is opening, sometimes they’re licking, and then sometimes they’re turning their heads and actively searching for the breast," Dr. Ribaño enumerated. Your baby may also start sticking out his tongue or puckering his lips.

    "At that point, your baby, if you put them to the breast, sometime they’ll kind of fall asleep again, but often they’ll start latching on," Dr. Ribaño said. 

    Mid cues
    Mid cues say, "I’m kind of really hungry now. You really have to put me to your breast." The actions are a little bit more noticeable, such as making bigger movements, such as stretching or yawning, and he's more actively moving his mouth. The baby could start sucking their thumb or sucking their entire fist. He could also be squirming a lot, hitting you in the arm or chest repeatedly, positioning himself to nurse, and fussing or breathing fast.

    "When you see [mid cues], run if you have too, you really have to feed your baby," Dr. Ribaño stressed. 

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    Late cues
    "The baby is crying, screaming, sometimes the baby’s all curled up into a ball, they’re all red, they’re not happy," Dr. Ribaño said. Your baby may also be moving his head frantically from side to side. 


    At this point, you need to calm your baby first. "Undress them to their diaper, put them skin to skin, if you need to," she said. You can also have Dad or Lola distract your little one. "Once the baby is calm, time to bring the baby to the breast," Dr. Ribaño advised. "It's still better to comfort a crying baby before putting him or her to the breast."

    If your baby is already "hangry," even if you know he's hungry, it's going to be more challenging to try and latch him onto your breasts. You could end up getting frustrated and so is your baby, and this can impact your overall breastfeeding journey.

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