How do you know your baby is hungry or not?

Dr Sophie Niedermaier

Knowing if your baby is hungry or not can be a bit tricky some times. What does it mean if your baby is pushing away the spoon of the nice broccoli puree you prepared – does this mean that your baby doesn’t like it or is not hungry? Should you encourage your baby to eat a little extra to fuel up on healthy veg and make sure she doesn’t get hungry later on? Or might this have an impact on her eating behaviour later on in life and lead to obesity?

Studies say today that ‘responsive feeding’ lets parents take their baby’s cues of hunger and satiety in consideration. These studies have actually shown that this feeding style is the best way for babies to learn to regulate their appetite – which has a long-term impact and can reduce the risk of obesity later on in life.

So how do we feed responsibly? The core principle of responsive feeding is that your baby is leading you with her appetite in terms of feeding times and portion sizes.

Responsive feeding is not necessarily only done with finger foods. You can spoon-feed your baby, offer finger foods or leave both options to your baby at the same time. It depends more on what your baby prefers and most likely preferences will change over time. Just look out for a few signs of hunger and satiety during your baby's mealtime.

Signs of hunger:

  • Your baby is getting excited. She is waving her arms and kicking her legs at the sight of food.
  • She is leaning towards the spoon or food, opening her mouth, maybe trying to grasp it or point at it.
  • She makes cooing sounds while you feed her.
  • She is sucking her lips, hands or fingers intently.
  • Yes, crying can be a sign of hunger, and by now, you are probably already an expert in your baby’s hangry cry.

Signs of satiety:

  • Your baby keeps her mouth closed or turns her head away.
  • Your baby spits her food out.
  • The pace of feeding slows down. Your baby might start playing with food or get distracted.
  • The food lands on the floor, in your baby's face or is pushed away in any other direction.

As you have already figured out: No one is born an expert and it will take some time until you have understood all your baby’s cues (and then they change, of course). Just remember: You and your baby are a great team and no one knows your little one better than you! So keep going, you have got this.