Is my baby hungry or overtired?

Is my baby hungry or overtired?

The most common question on every mama's mind: Is my newborn hungry or overtired? We often think that baby is hungry when they cry but in fact, we may overlook their fullness or tired cues. 

The truth is, reality is not always so obvious and there will be times when we question if the cues we're reading are hunger or tired or something else. To the mama who just fed your baby an hour or even half an hour ago, and wondering if baby wants more or just tired or uncomfortable, this post is for you. 

Hunger - early signs

  • Pursed lips
  • Rooting gesture
  • Moving tongue a lot inside their mouth
  • Sucking on anything within reach. Newborn babies (birth to 3 months) have strong sucking reflex and may have limited ability to regulate their dietary intake. If you're bottle-feeding, be careful of overfeeding. With my firstborn, I often misinterpreted her cries as hunger cues and fed her milk to settle her. And because she would be settled after milk, I assumed I was doing something right. Turned out she just wanted to comfort suck. 

Hunger - late signs

  • Moving head from side to side and craning neck back with mouth agape
  • Crying. If your baby has had a recent feed, she might be tired. If you're not sure if she wants more milk, offer a feed. If she takes only a little milk and is still grizzly, she needs a sleep.

Has wind - baby just ate, but instead of looking sleepy, relaxed and milk-drunk

  • Creaky noises
  • Squirming
  • Pulling legs to tummy
  • Grimacing
  • Makes an expression that resembles a smile

Tired - baby has been awake for an hour or more

  • Yawning
  • Moving head from side to side
  • Eyes slowly closing and springing open, again and again
  • Strong, uncoordinated kicking

Overtired - baby is sensitive to any sort of sensory stimulation

  • Crying despite parents' best efforts to soothe them
  • Flailing and very uncoordinated 
  • Stiff body
  • Overactivity
  • "Seven mile stare" eyes wide and unblinking for an extended period of time

When baby gets overtired, their cries can go on and off and it gets difficult to soothe them. Choose a calming technique that is repetitive and stick with it for at least 5 minutes. Sometimes as anxious parents, we are in such a hurry to calm our baby down that we try 10 different calming techniques in 5 minutes. Instead, that causes more stimulation and stress to overtired babies. 

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Dechen Zangmo

Dechen Zangmo said:

Thank you for sharing your was really helpful.

Dr. Anam

Dr. Anam said:

Wobderful read


Reece said:

I would say this is a common question on every parent’s mind, not that moms. As a mom, I’m not the default parent. Our baby’s father is just as involved in his responsibilities as a parent as I am, and I find it pretty exclusive and, quite honestly, sexist that all these articles about raising kids automatically refers to moms. We need to change the narrative where the mom is always the one who’s expected to care for the kids while the father is not held accountable for HIS role (and he often misses out on the many joys of parenthood). I am not the default parent and fatherhood is not secondary to motherhood. Stop using language that perpetuates it.

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