When are Babies Ready to Feed?


Posted by vera | Posted in Parenting | Posted on 01-02-2010

Guest Column by Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator
Multiple Births Prenatal Education & Bereavement Support

First-time Moms especially worry about not recognizing their babies’ cues.  There are several ways a baby lets you know when s/he is ready to feed.  As they are waking they may stretch a little, maybe arch their back, smack their lips and/or tongues against the roof the mouth, or put a hand to the mouth and suck.

Babies who are NOT ready to feed will be quieter, move less, show very little mouth movement, and there may be movement noticeable under their eyelids (from REM sleep).  If your baby is in this state, it is not advised to wake him to feed but to let him continue to sleep until he is ready to wake on his own.  If woken too soon and not ready to feed due to sleeping soundly, it could become frustrating for both of you.

Babies are programmed to turn their head towards a nipple when held across the front of you, so another way to know if baby is ready to feed is if she is fussy, turning her head side ways trying to “root” for a nipple to feed. If this is the case and baby is not fed in a timely fashion say, because you are busy changing another baby, the situation could erupt into some full blown hollering to get your attention.  If a baby gets too worked up or angry, it can be a challenge to get her to settle down to feed.  Watching for the signs that each babies is ready to feed can help things move smoothly.

Think about how you feel when you are angry
and someone offers you a sandwich.

If you don’t manage to get to the baby(ies) before things get out of hand, focus on calming the baby down before trying feeding. Shushing, small bouncing while holding against your chest can work.  So can swaddling and shushing.  Don’t try to feed a baby when she is upset as she will just bring it all up again due to being agitated. Think about how you feel when you are angry and someone offers you a sandwich.  You won’t feel hungry until the feelings of anger have passed.  Calm baby down first and then offer the breast.  The breast is a familiar calming factor, once a baby is settled.

It won’t take long for you to read each baby’s cues so that you are able to recognize when each needs to be fed.  Best wishes.

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