Hungry? Tired? Bored? If only newborns could just tell us exactly what they were thinking! Since brand new babies aren’t able to express their needs with language, we rely on their cues to determine what they need. Refer to the list below to help you decipher whether your newborn is ready for a meal, a nap, or play!

Some cues (especially crying) can apply to more than one category of needs! As you get to know your baby, you will be able to more easily decipher your baby’s various cries. 

I’m Hungry:

  • Rooting: baby turns his head from side to side with mouth open
  • Bringing his fists to mouth and sucking
  • Smacking and licking his lips
  • Crying (late hunger cue)

What to do: Offer a feeding!

I’m Full:

  • Lets go of breast or bottle nipple
  • Closes her mouth or turns away when offered the breast or bottle
  • Relaxes her hands and body
  • Drowsy

What to do: End the feeding, offer some awake time or a nap.

I’m Tired:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Blankly staring off
  • Flutter sucking at the breast or bottle with heavy eyes (no longer taking in milk)
  • Rubbing his face into your shoulder or arm
  • Red eyebrows
  • Yawning
  • Fussing/crying

What to do: Put your baby down for a nap in the bassinet or crib. Baby fighting sleep today? Let them sleep in the carrier, or head out for a nap on the go!

I’m Uncomfortable:

  • Arching
  • High pitched crying
  • Her body is rigid and tense 

What to do: Check their temperature by feeling the back of their neck. Are they warm or sweaty? Remove a layer of clothing. Check their fingers and toes for hair tourniquets (hair tightly wrapped around a digit). Try changing outfits in case a scratchy tag or tight elastic band is bothering them. If it seems like they are uncomfortable due to gas, try laying them belly down across your arm, applying a bit of pressure to their tummy. 

I’m Ready for Play

  • Making eye contact 
  • Fussing relieved by a change in scenery 
  • Cooing (older newborn)
  • Turning his head towards engaging objects (older newborn)

What to do: Offer an engaging awake time activity like the playmat, tummy time, watching a mobile, or playing peek-a-boo. 

Always remember, the newborn stage is a lot of trial and error. Every baby is different, and may not show every cue in each group. Soon enough it will be easier to interpret their gestures, and eventually their language! Are you looking for extra support with your newborn? Struggling with feeding, sleep, or both?  Contact your local Mama Coach to find out more about Newborn Support Packages!

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