Early feeding cues
Many of us may believe that a baby lets us know they are hungry by crying. Actually, they let us know long before crying in many other subtle ways – called early feeding cues.
Examples of these are when babies move their eyes rapidly, put their fingers into their mouth, begin ‘rooting’ or become restless.
Feeding a baby before they cry, when they are showing these early feeding cues, is much easier then waiting until they have become upset.
Learning and spotting these helpful yet subtle cues is much easier when baby is with you.
Keeping your baby close to you initially will help you to recognise when your baby needs feeding and see a pattern as it gradually forms.
Initially a baby’s feeding pattern may vary considerably, as they stimulate your breastmilk supply.
You may experience shorter gaps between some feeds, particularly in the evenings (sometimes called ‘cluster feeding’) and longer gaps at other times, however it is normal for a breastfed baby to feed at least 8 times a 24-hour period.
Each breastfeed may last a varying amount of time also – just like us, a baby’s appetite can vary throughout the day too.
Safer for baby
Keeping baby in the same room as an adult, day and night, is safer for your baby too. The Lullaby Trust recommends placing your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months, as well as breastfeeding your baby, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Click here to download a copy of the Baby Friendly Initiative’s “Caring for your baby at night – a guide for parents” leaflet
Normal infant sleep
The Baby Sleep Info Source (BASIS) provides information about normal infant sleep based upon the latest UK and world-wide research, for parents who wish to make informed choices about infant sleep and night-time care or health professionals who wish to share evidence-based information with parents about infant sleep.
Through their early feeding cues, baby will tell you whenever they need feeding.
If you are breastfeeding, it’s impossible to over-breastfeed your baby, so it’s OK to offer your baby a breastfeed at other times too, for example if your breasts are beginning to feel full or you’re just about to go out.
Once you and baby have got the hang of breastfeeding, you may be surprised to learn that babies can breastfeed whilst almost asleep, so it’s no problem to offer baby a breastfeed at any time – breastfed babies rarely refuse a feed.
Click here to view the Baby Friendly guidance on responsive feeding.
If your baby is very sleepy, premature or on medication…
If your baby is very sleepy, premature or on medication you may not always be able to spot their early feeding cues.
As new born babies need to feed frequently, rather than waiting it is important to stimulate a baby to feed by having long periods of skin to skin, hand expressing your breastmilk and feeding it to baby frequently.
For information on how to tell your baby is having enough feeds, click here to view our “How can I tell that breastfeeding is going well” guide.
To find out more about early feeding cues, rooming in and responsive feeding…
Ask your midwife, a Breastfeeding Support Worker or Breastfeeding Peer Supporter for more information or visit our Getting to know your baby webpage.