BEING a new parent, especially when it comes to figuring out your spanking new baby, can be quite difficult. One of the most common challenges described by parents is decoding when their child is hungry and since their vocabulary doesn't much more than some oohs and aahs, some parents often wait until their babies are crying before they offer them food. But paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith said that parents do not need to wait until their babies start crying to check if they are hungry because they send their parents several non-verbal hints long before it reaches to that point.
“Food is one of the most basic human needs, and even babies need to communicate this need as well as the satisfaction of this need. This is referred to as feeding cues,” Dr Griffith said.
She pointed out that this term encapsulates all verbal and non-verbal signals given by a baby of hunger or fullness. The identification and utilisation of the information are described as responsive feeding.
“Observing and utilising feeding cues allow for the establishment of healthy eating habits and interaction with food. It will also help you to respond to your child's needs quicker, which will lead to a much happier baby. In addition, your child can acknowledge when he/she is full and withdraw. It is important that you respect and trust that your child knows when he/she is full,” Dr Griffith explained.
She pointed out respecting when your child is full is particularly important because encouraging your baby to continue nursing or feeding beyond the time when they acknowledge that they are full you will teach the child to ignore their body's fullness cues. The children will practise this same feeding habit into childhood and adulthood and increase the possibility of obesity in childhood and adulthood.
Below, Dr Griffith shares common hunger and fullness cues for babies from birth to six months:
Signs of hunger
•Turning the head towards breast or bottle
•Rooting and positioning for feeding
•Making sucking noises
•Turning toward your breast while you're holding them
•Smacking and licking of lips
•Putting a hand in the mouth
•Cooing, sighing, whimpering, or making other little sounds
•Sticking out his/her tongue
•Chewing on fingers
•Sucking on the hand or anything available (this sign, however, becomes less reliable as baby gets older)
•Clenching of the hand
•Flexing hands and legs
•Baby becoming increasingly fussy
•Restless, squirming, fussing, fidgeting, or wiggling around.
• Crying — this is usually a late sign.
As they become older:
•Baby becomes excited at the sight of food
•Baby is receptive of spoon or food when offered by opening the mouth
•Baby reaches for food.
Signs of fullness
•Baby will spit out the bottle or breast
•Baby closes his/her mouth when attempts are made to feed
•Turns the head away
•Pushes bottle or breast away
•Loses interest in feeding
•Falls asleep on the breast or with the nipple bottle still in his/her mouth.
•Slows down feeding.
•Takes a relaxed posture.