I turned to my trusty Baby Whisperer Books and have come up with a list of common signals that a newborn baby is hungry (in chronological order):
- Licking Lips: Hogg says this is one of the first signs of hunger. Of course, for a parent following an EWS cycle or EASY routine, you most likely will not be looking right at baby when the "lip licking" begins.
- Rooting: This is when the tongue comes out, the head turns, and your baby resembles a baby bird looking for food. Baby turns head to the side, opens mouth and cranes neck.
- Fist Hitting Face: Hogg calls the area between the nose and the bottom lip the feeding triangle. Baby will try to suck that fist but be unable to really get it in the mouth, so it will hit that area. But do take into consideration that baby might just be wanting to suck on something.
- Coughing Sound: The cough preceding the cry is really reliable as a signal for hunger. If you listen carefully to your baby's cries, you will come to recognize different sounds in the cries.
- Crying: the crying starts short and builds to a steady "waa waa waa"
- Lips pursed
- Curls tongue at sides
- Arches back and looks for food
The information above is found on pageses 196-197 in The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems and page 92 in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.
If you are still unsure if baby is hungry or not:
- Try feeding baby. If baby eats like she normally does at a feeding, then there is a good chance it was hunger. If not, then she wasn't hungry.
- Try a pacifier. See if that soothes him back to sleep. Be aware, though, that some babies will suck on a pacifier even when hungry--so the falling and staying asleep are important in this equation.
- Try soothing to sleep in another way. Not all babies will take pacifiers and not all moms want to use pacifiers. Try soothing baby back to sleep in your own way. If baby falls asleep and stays asleep, then it likely was not hunger. If baby wakes within one hour, it most likely was hunger.
- Consider the timing of the cry. You are following an eat, play, sleep pattern. If baby ate and played, then crying is likely because of a need for sleep. I have written this post under the assumption that the crying you are deciphering is happening mid-nap or in the night.
- See Naps: Troubleshooting--Revised and Updated: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/12/naps-troubleshooting-revised-and.html
Sometimes you will get it wrong. Sometimes you will think she just wants to suck when she really was hungry. Sometimes you will try to feed her when all she needed was to fall back asleep.
When these times happen, think carefully about her body language and the sound of her cries. You might even want to take notes. This will help you get to know her sooner. It is unrealistic of you to think you will get it perfect every time. Think of your mistakes as learning experiences and move forward.
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