Answers to very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist

Answers to very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist

What are hunger cues in newborn babies? How do we recognise when our baby is hungry? How often should we feed our baby?

These are very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist. And so I thought I would write a blog on it.

A mother holding her baby on one arm in her lap while holding a cup
Image by Freepik

First-time parents’ journey

First-time parents often imagine that feeding, particularly breastfeeding, will be an easy and natural process without too many problems. It can be a rude awakening to find that feeding our newborn is not at all easy and can be fraught with complications. It is fair to say that in most cases by the time our baby is about eight weeks old most mums have got the hang of feeding, either by breast and/or bottle, and things are falling into place.

But until that time it can be a difficult journey:

  • getting to know one’s baby,
  • getting to know their feeding rhythm,
  • falling in with it,
  • TRUSTING that baby knows what they need and knows when they have had enough,
  • TRUSTING and not going crazy with going down an on-line rabbit hole of information and guidance mostly unnecessary and often quite simply FALSE!

Many mums I have met set out with the best intentions to breastfeed for as long as possible. However, they arrive in my clinic anxious and often have given up with the breast; now we are on bottle feeds and things are still very tricky for several reasons. There are too many reasons for this blog to cover but I thought I would start with the basics and ‘reading hunger cues’ is one of those early basics.

Reading hunger cues

So let’s dive in:

Newborns communicate hunger through a variety of cues. Here are some early signs to look for:

  • Early hunger cues: These are the best times to respond to baby’s hunger for a more peaceful feeding. Look for things like:
    • Becoming more alert and active
    • Turning head from side to side in the cot
    • Rooting (turning their head towards your breast or a bottle, especially when stroked on the cheek)
    • Putting hands/fists to mouth
    • Sucking on fists or lips
    • Opening and closing mouth, smacking sounds
TOP TIP: THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD GET READY TO FEED. Breast or bottle. Either way get ready. We do not want our baby to get into later hunger cues, which are below:
  • Later hunger cues: If we miss the early cues, babies will progress to more insistent hunger cues. These include:
    • Fussiness or whimpering
    • Rapid sucking motions
    • Increased squirming
    • Head bobbing

Generally, remember that we do not want our baby to cry for their food. Because once they are riled and cry they are not relaxed enough to latch, especially when latching is hard!

Feeding on demand vs. scheduled feeds

We now know and have researched how babies are fed best and safest, how weight gain is ensured best, both for breastfed and bottle-fed babies.

It’s generally recommended to feed on demand—unless your baby is tube-fed or has some other pressing health concerns or is failing to thrive.

What are the benefits of on demand feeding?

  • We need to respond to baby’s individual needs and hunger cues because every person is unique!
  • Babies need to learn and regulate their own hunger and satiation cycles
  • Promotes better weight gain and growth
  • Leads to more peaceful feeding experiences

Scheduling can come later

A loose schedule might emerge naturally when your baby is around 2–3 months old, but it’s best to follow your baby’s lead.


  • Some newborns may feed every 2–3 hours, while others go longer stretches. Pay attention to your baby’s cues and feeding habits.
  • Crying is a late hunger cue, and frequent crying can make feeding more difficult. Responding to earlier cues is best.
  • If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding patterns or weight gain, consult with a Speech and Language Therapist/Dysphagia Therapist and/or Lactation Consultant.

Check out these useful resources on  the topic of Demand Feeding:

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.