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How can I tell if he is hungry

(13 Posts)
RaisingMrC Fri 26-Nov-10 11:30:58

This is a bit of a ridiculous question, as DS is 17 weeks - but I feel I have developed the habit of putting him on the breast a lot of the times when he grizzles and I've lost the ability to know when he actually wants feeding. I used to go by him trying to suck things but now he has found his hands, everything goes into his mouth! He will also always accept the breast, so I have become in the habit of always offering it as a failsafe way of calming him. But I'm also starting to get worried about all the feeding to sleep I am doing and complete lack of routine.

Sorry this post is becoming rambly, I guess there are a lot of issues bound up in this and I feel like I am losing my way with parenting at the moment, but as an immediate thing I wondered if you could let me know some of the signs of hunger for an older baby. Am feeling really bad that I still can't tell what he needs.

MamaChris Fri 26-Nov-10 12:00:46

When ds1 was little a midwife told me to put him to the breast every time he cried, and that he would let me know if he wanted something different. I know what you mean - as he got older I expected I should be able to read him better, but that didn't actually happen until he was able to sign a bit. Also, remember that the breast is comfort as well as food, so may well be what he needs even when not hungry.

ds1 fed to sleep for almost every nap and several times at night for a long time. We did have a little routine though - if he hadn't slept for over 2 hours, or started to act tired (eye-rubbing, yawning and grouchy), I would try and get him to sleep somehow. He has grown up into a lovely independent minded toddler, now goes to sleep on his own in his own bed.

So, I'm not answering your question at all, sorry. But trying to say that ds1 did this, and I did what you're doing, and it worked out really well for us (although it was hard work at times).

MoonUnitAlpha Fri 26-Nov-10 12:03:56

If he accepts the breat then he's hungry imo! My ds is 16 weeks and I tend to do the same (offering the breast as a failsafe) but it works. If he's hungry he feeds, if he's tired he sucks a bit and falls asleep, if he's bored it distracts him for a while.

I know how you feel about the routine and feeding to sleep though - I'm starting to feel like I want a bit more structure to our day. Every time I think I have feeding/sleeping patterns sussed though he changes them. At the moment I've trying to sit down for a "big" feed, both sides, every 3 hours (though sometimes he wants feeding in between too). I'm trying to work on not always feeding to sleep too by having DP actually put ds to bed - so I feed him in the living room in the evening and then hand him to DP to take into the bedroom.

I would love to be able to reliably know what time ds will eat and sleep but it's not happening yet.

mousesma Fri 26-Nov-10 20:00:18

I can't offer any advice as such but I have the same issue with my DD (19 weeks).

I'm rubbish at spotting any cues with her and never know if shes crying because she's hungry or windy or tired or bored or wet or teething.

I worry that because I put her on the breast at the first squeak I haven't developed the other soothing techniques other mums might have.

She also never refuses the breast but I'm sure it's not always for hunger i.e. today I gave her a 7oz bottle then within 30 mins she was crying again so I offered her the breast and she sucked for a further 30 mins.

We've got no structure to our daytime naps but bedtime is always 7pm and we have a routine leading up to this to make sure she knows its sleep time. Unfortunately she then wakes up somewhere between 11-1 and can stay awake for up to 2 hours (or until 4.30am if shes being awkward like last night ). Not perfect but its a start at least.

beancounting Sun 28-Nov-10 14:15:23

Same issue here too! DD is 19 weeks and I feel like I've gone backwards in terms of being able to "read" her as when she was very new she had very clear hungry cues; now I can't tell whether she's tired (in which case she often wants to suck anyway), whether her gums are hurting or whether she just wants to shove things in her mouth.

What I found though was that I was feeding every hour or so and she would always accept but only for a few minutes, so I think I'd inadvertently got her into a snacking habit. So, like MoonUnit, I'm now trying to do a proper feed every 3 hours and only feed her in between if nothing else will do.

I did hope this might help with her waking every 2 hours in the night to feed as well but so far no luck (although I'm too tired to try just soothing her and just bung her on the boob instead as it's quicker). I don't know now whether spacing feeds in the day is making this better or worse or having no impact at all on the night feeds - it doesn't seem to get any easier, does it?!

marzipananimal Sun 28-Nov-10 16:26:14

I could have written your exact post except ds is only 3 months old. He sucks his hands and pokes out his tongue loads in a hungry looking way but it can't always be hunger. I just tend to feed him when it's becoming difficult to calm/entertain him but that ends up being every 1-2 hours. hmm

seeker Sun 28-Nov-10 16:32:07

If he isn't hungry, he won't feed. Always offer the easiest option first - and feeding is the easiest option! He will soon tell you if that's not what he wants, and you can try something else.

beanlet Sun 28-Nov-10 17:55:07

This may or may not help, especially if you're anti-routine (which, mostly, I am), but I found one thing the baby-whisperer woman said quite helpful. Which is that no baby really NEEDS to be fed at intervals shorter than 2 hours. What I took from that is that basically if my DS cries before 2 hours are up since his last feed he's probably not hungry and therefore he's crying for some other reason. This "timing" rule helped me to hear for the first time that his hungry cries really do sound different.

Petsville Sun 28-Nov-10 22:26:05

Watching this thread with interest - DS is 15 weeks old and we're having similar problems working out whether he's hungry or not. He gave very clear cues when he was smaller but now is teething and chews his fists all the time, and he's a windy baby who cries a lot so crying doesn't necessarily tell us what's wrong. We've been very go-with-the-flow and demand-led, but I'm wondering whether we should introduce some kind of pattern to the daytime feeds as MoonUnit mentions. (We've been lucky in that at night he doesn't wake unless he's hungry, usually once or twice a night, and then he generally feeds and goes back down without fuss.)

Is Tiktok or another breastfeeding expert around? Any help on this one?

AngelDog Sun 28-Nov-10 23:09:17

OP, I have had the same problem since about 4 months (DS is 11 months). I can't tell the difference between his cries, although since about 7 months he's been predictable in when he needs to sleep, which helps me tell whether he's tired or hungry.

I work on the basis that I feed after every nap, an hour before solid meals (which won't apply to you yet) and any time he seems grumpy. It works out at around every 2 hours, although it varies from 1-4 hours in practice now. I used to feed to sleep too until that stopped working for naps.

I also use it for comfort e.g. if he's upset, or falls and bumps himself. IMO that's one of the lovely things about bf - it's not just about nutrition but gives them so much more.

I wouldn't agree with the Baby Whisperer on the not needing feeding in less than 2 hours. I can think of lots of situations in which DS has needed feeding in a shorter time e.g. teething, suffering from trapped wind, just wanting reassurance.

If feeding to sleep is causing you a problem, then it might be worth trying to work on that, but really don't worry about it because other people say it's a Bad Thing.

AngelDog Sun 28-Nov-10 23:11:23

I guess for me, it didn't use to matter that I couldn't tell the difference between a hungry cry & tired cry, as bf fixed both. DS was more predictable in when he needed to sleep by the time feeding to sleep stopped working in the day.

beanlet Mon 29-Nov-10 20:05:09

I meant "need" as in "starving to death" rather than "needing comfort".

MoonUnitAlpha Mon 29-Nov-10 20:13:23

A baby won't starve to death in 2 hours, but they can be hungry/thirsty within 2 hours - I'm often hungry/thirsty within two hours too grin

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