You may feel a little crazy postpartum and when your newborn acts hungry but just ate can make you feel even more crazy. I have met many moms who have shared this exact problem.
This may make you question yourself as a mom as to whether you are feeding your little one well enough or if she has gotten as much food as needed. Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job as a mom. The issue of newborns constantly acting hungry even after eating is pretty common and several other amazing moms like you are looking for answers too.
In this article, we will be going through:
- Reasons why your newborn may act this way
- What are newborn hunger cues?
- How much should my baby eat?
- How can I help her?
Table of Contents
Why Does my Newborn Act Hungry But Just Ate?
Babies have one universal way of expressing themselves, and that is by crying or being fussy. This expression could mean a lot of things such as hunger, discomfort and pain. If you don’t know the other ways newborns can communicate their needs it may seem like they are just always hungry.
Going Through a Growth Spurt
Growth spurts are phases of rapid growth where your baby needs as much nutrients and food as possible to support her growth. You will likely notice your baby always feeling hungry and eating more when she is having a growth spurt.
WantS to Suckle
Sometimes, your baby is not hungry and only wants to suckle on something. Babies who are teething tend to have this feeling as sucking or chewing on something can help relieve the discomfort and in a way, distract them from the changes happening in their mouth.
In this case, pacifiers or chew toys/teethers usually come to the rescue to calm your baby down.
Babies can be dramatic sometimes. They easily feel lonely when no one is paying attention to them. Their way of getting your attention is by making a fuss or crying which may make it seem like they are hungry when they are not. It is important you know your baby’s hunger cues so you could easily differentiate between hunger and attention seeking.
Babies cry when they feel uncomfortable. This can happen when your baby has a soiled diaper, feels too hot or too cold or just feels bored. It is important to know the difference so you don’t just overfeed her with milk when she isn’t hungry.
When babies feel alone or in an unfamiliar place, it tends to make them feel anxious, causing them to cry or act fussy. This should not be confused for hunger as a familiar face will help calm them down, not food.
It is normal for your baby to cry when she feels pain in conditions such as colic and acid reflux. You can differentiate fussiness from pain and that of hunger as pain tends to make your baby move around and is not relieved by food.
How Can I Tell if my Newborn is Truly Hungry?
Understanding your newborn’s hunger cues is important in the care of your baby. Although it is virtually impossible to know what your baby wants at every given time, here are some signs to help you know she’s hungry and wants some food:
You can read more about newborn sleep and hunger cues in depth in our article here.
Sticks out Their Tongue: This is an early hunger cue your baby may display before becoming fussy. Your baby may stick her tongue out in attempts to suckle, but after many failed attempts, she gets frustrated and cries.
Turns Their Head Towards the breast or bottle: This is another early hunger cue that shows your baby is ready to eat. At this point, your baby is already used to meal time and where the meal comes from. As an instinct, your baby may turn towards the direction of her meal when she starts to feel hungry.
Opening Their Mouth or Smacking Lips: This is yet another early hunger cue that tells you that your baby needs some food. In anticipation of the food, your newborn may start to open her mouth. When nothing comes into her mouth, she will eventually get frustrated and get fussy.
Putting their hand or clothing in their mouth: This is a very common hunger cue among newborns. This shows she wants to eat, making her want to suckle on anything around her, including her hands.
Fussing or crying: Feeling hungry is no fun, and if you have missed the subtle hunger cues they will let you know they needs some food by crying and becoming very fussy.
How Much Should my Newborn Eat?
How much your newborn eats depends on a lot of factors, some of which includes their age, weight and if she is a preemie or full-term.
Preemies require more food as they will be undergoing more growth spurts and catch-up growth.
It is best to consult your pediatrician to help you determine the quantity of food best suited for your baby.
How do I Know my Baby is Getting Enough Food?
Unlike bottle feeding where the quantity of milk is measured, breastfeeding is a lot trickier as you can’t know for sure how much milk your little one has eaten. Here are tips to know if your baby has gotten enough food while breastfeeding:
Sleepiness: while suckling is a sign that she’s getting enough to eat and will soon be done eating.
Your Baby Properly Latched on and Sucking Well: If your baby is properly latched unto the nipple, there is a high chance that she is taking in enough milk. Also, if your baby suckles slowly and deeply, she is taking in enough milk.
Your baby shows cues that they are full: If your baby has eaten to her fill, she may begin to show signs of fullness such as turning her head away from the breast or bottle, falling asleep while suckling, unlatching from the nipple, closing her lips and getting easily distracted by the environment while suckling.
Your baby is gaining weight as she should: If your baby isn’t getting as much food as she should, it would eventually reflect on her weight. Babies need food to gain weight, and if she’s not getting enough, she won’t add weight. Make sure to contact your pediatrician if this happens.
How to Comfort a Hungry and Fussy Baby?
The key to comforting a fussy baby is to first understand the possible reason for the fussiness. If your newborn shows all the hunger cues, the solution is to feed her and she will feel a lot better.
If your newborn is not showing hunger cues, then it’s good to explore other reasons such as a full diaper, too cold or too hot, in pain, or other needs.
If you have checked all the boxes and your newborn is still fussy, try the following steps:
Pick her up
Most times, babies cry because they feel lonely. Picking up your baby and gently rocking her can make her feel more at ease.
Use a baby sling
Baby sling is helpful in giving you and your baby a little skin-to-skin time. Another benefit of the sling is that you can hold your baby and still carry out other tasks.
Take your baby out for a walk
Taking your baby for a walk in a stroller or baby carrier is a great way to soothe her. The change of environment and the adventure itself can keep her occupied and calm.
Swaddling, when done correctly can soothe your baby and help her fall asleep.
Dealing with a newborn who is hungry all the time can be difficult and stressful. It is important to figure out when she is really hungry and when it’s something else. I like to see being a mom as a super power where you have to read the mind of your fussy baby and give them exactly what they need. Don’t worry that super power might need some time to get stronger. It’s not an easy task, but seeing your baby happy and calm makes it completely worth it.
Make sure to inform your pediatrician when your baby becomes unconsolably fussy, as it could mean something more serious.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.