That’s Your Cue

Infants can give non-verbal signs of hunger, even before they cry

Seeking expert advice on breastfeeding is a great idea. It can be a challenge for any new mom and even for moms who have been there before. Your doctor, nurses, lactation consultants, and yes, even friends and family, are ready to help.

When the question is when to breastfeed, one of the best experts you can consult is your newborn.

A baby’s hunger is well-tuned to his energy and nutritional needs, so he knows when it’s time for a fill-up. But because babies can’t use words yet, there are other signs they give to parents. These signs are known as cues.

“Feed as soon as the baby gives you a cue, and feed as often as the baby cues,” says Marybeth Milton, RN, a board-certified lactation consultant at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Telfair BirthPlace.

Your baby is hungry when he or she:

  • Licks or smacks their lips
  • Brings their hands to their mouth/sucking on their fist
  • Moves their head back and forth, searching for the breast
  • Cries

Crying is actually one of the later cues for feeding. If possible, try to respond to earlier cues so that your baby is not too stressed to breastfeed easily. On the other hand, don’t get too discouraged if you do happen to miss a cue.

“Breastfeeding is a journey,” Milton says. “It’s a new skill and it takes practice. Moms need to be patient, get plenty of rest in between feedings, and not be afraid to ask for help.”


Looking for more tips on how to be successful at breastfeeding? You can find them on our Living Smart blog.

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  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000