Babies don’t often cry for no reason at all, though it certainly seems like they might sometimes. Usually, your baby will be wailing because he or she needs something. Even when he simply becomes frustrated that he can’t communicate, he might start crying. However, one common cause of an upset baby is hunger. Before you had your baby, you might have thought that you’ll know when to feed him because he’ll be screaming in anguish. This is definitely a good sign that he needs something, but feeding your baby before he gets to that point is much more effective.

If you wait until your baby is screaming and crying to try to feed him, you’ll both become endlessly frustrated. Your baby will become hungrier while feeding him becomes more difficult. In the first few weeks home, you should be breastfeeding your baby between eight and twelve times every day, and formula feeding six to ten times each day. One of the easiest ways to determine whether or not your baby is hungry is to watch and see if he puts his hand to his mouth. Chewing or sucking on he fingers is a good indication that your baby is hungry. From an adult perspective, it looks as if he’s just playing with his hand, but babies don’t have such habits yet. He might also move his mouth and tongue a lot, or even make suckling motions with his mouth. If you notice your baby giving any of these signs, check the clock, because there’s a good chance it’s feeding time. Feeding your newborn baby when he or she gives these signals will me a much calmer experience than waiting for the tantrum to get the bottle ready.

If you feel as though your baby is hungrier than he should be, speak with your pediatrician. Once you’ve finished feeding for the day, he should calm down and not give you any more signs of hunger. If he does, it’s important that you stay strong, because obesity can be dangerous. Similarly, you should notify your baby’s doctor immediately if you notice that he or she seems uninterested in eating. A lack of appetite could be a sign of a more serious problem, and so make sure you get it taken care of as soon as possible. Even if your baby isn’t ill, the lack of nutrition could hinder his or her development.

Source: Eric Hodges et al: Maternal Decisions about the Initiation and Termination of Feeding. Appetite Volume 50 Issues 2-3 pp. 333-339 May 2008

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