Hungry Baby: Feeding Cues and Stomach Size

Hungry babyOne of the most difficult things for new parents is how to determine what their baby needs based on their behavioral cues. More specifically, many parents have a tendency to miss the various hunger cues that babies exhibit and may overfeed their baby as a result. Let’s take a minute and explore how to tell if you have a hungry baby, hunger cues and stomach size.

Hunger cues

Many parents when asked, “how do you know if you have a hungry baby on your hands?” would answer, “when they are crying.” While short, low pitched cries are a later sign of hunger, the goal is to feed them before they get to that point. So the question remains, if crying is a later sign of hunger, how can I tell my baby is hungry before they start crying? While there are many different hunger cues, one of the main ones is the rooting reflex. If you stroke your baby’s cheek and they turn their head and begin to suck, they are most likely hungry. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding your baby, be on the lookout for lip smacking as baby will have a better latch if you feed them when you notice this cue.

Stomach size

When dealing with a hungry baby it is important to keep in mind your baby’s stomach size so as not to overfeed the baby. The day baby is born, their stomach is approximately the size of a shooter marble or 5-7 mL. By the time the reach one month, their stomach has grown big enough to accommodate 2-5 oz (59-148 mL). Baby’s stomach size is a crucial factor in determining how much to feed baby when they are hungry.  Also remember that the longer you wait to feed baby, the more likely you are to overfeed them as you may mistake cries of overstimulation with cries of hunger.

Waking a sleeping baby

After birth, babies will lose about 7% of their birth weight on average. Until your baby regains their birth weight, they need to be awakened every three hours to feed.  Additionally, if your baby loses over 10% of their birth weight, they will require supplemental feedings. Even if they are a hungry baby, If you allow them to, they will sleep right through these appointment feedings so it is important to wake them so they will feed. For breastfeeding mothers, the consistent nipple stimulation is necessary to maintain your milk supply. After your baby has regained their birth weight, they should gain 0.5-1 oz per day for the first few months according to the American Pregnancy Association.

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