This is a question I get asked ALL.THE.TIME. Unfortunately, babies don’t come with a handy little readout or monitor screen declaring their levels of “Hungry”, “Tired”, “Bored”, etc. – wouldn’t it be SO NICE if they did, though? This post will be first in a series of reasons why your baby MIGHT be crying.
Reason #1: Hunger
This is the most obvious reason, but it’s one that is often overlooked. It’s also a very easy one to fix, which is why you should check for it first. Even if you just fed him, or feel like he’s been eating all day, it’s possible that your baby STILL wants to eat more, especially during a growth spurt.
Growth spurts are those super fun periods that occur around 1 week, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months, to start, when your baby seems to be latched on around the clock. Don’t worry – they only last or day or so! (Though it may go on for up to a week). If your baby was premature, he may have a different growth spurt schedule, though I find that they catch up to their actual age pretty quickly in this regard. Your milk supply will adjust itself accordingly – there’s no need to start supplementing during a growth spurt!
Babies may also “cluster feed” in the evenings. They nosh on frequent small “meals” rather than one big one every 3 hours or whatever his rhythms are – they’ve probably read too many diet books in the womb ;). So it’s perfectly normal if he seems hungrier at certain times of day.
To check for hunger, there are a few things you can do. This is where breastfeeding comes in very handy – you can try latching him on and see how he responds. If you don’t have that option – I don’t suggest going to all the trouble to make a bottle if you’re not sure he’s hungry – try this: Stick a pacifier or clean pinky (nail side down) into his mouth. If he calms down and stays calm, he just needs soothing. If he does what I call the “Suck, Suck, Cry”, where he is calm for a few seconds and then begins crying again, he’s hungry. It’s as if he’s saying, “WAHHHH…. Oh good, Food! … Wait a second… there’s no milk coming out of this! What are you trying to do to me here?… WAHHHHHH!!!” This is when it’s time to get him a
Big Mac and fries boob/bottle/etc.
What do you do when you’re not sure if your baby is hungry? What are his/her hunger signals?