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Signs Your Child is Hungry or Full

Even before your child can talk, he or she will show signs of hunger or fullness by using sounds and movements. Crying is often a late sign of hunger. Look for other signs of hunger listed below so you can put your child to the breast or bottle while he or she is still calm. As your child gets older, he or she will develop new signs for hunger and fullness. Understanding your child’s signs is important to help you know when and how often to feed your child.

Below are some examples of signs your child may show for hunger and fullness when he or she is a newborn to 6 months old and signs your child may start to show between 6 to 24 months old:

Birth to 6 Months Old

An infant turning her head to the side and putting her hand near her mouth.

Your child may be hungry if he or she:

  • Puts hands to mouth.
  • Turns head towards mom’s breast or bottle.
  • Puckers, smacks, or licks lips.
  • Has clenched hands.
A mother raising her infant towards her and kissing her. The infant has soft, tranquil face.

Your child may be full if he or she:

  • Closes mouth.
  • Turns head away from mom’s breast or bottle.
  • Relaxes hands.

To learn more about how to tell if your baby is hungry or full, watch Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

6 to 24 Months Old

An older infant placing food into her mouth with her hands.

Your child may be hungry if he or she:

  • Reaches for or points to food.
  • Opens his or her mouth when offered a spoon or food.
  • Gets excited when he or she sees food.
  • Uses hand motions or sounds for food to let you know he or she is still hungry.
An 18-month old leaning away from her mother and the offered food.

Your child may be full if he or she:

  • Pushes food away.
  • Closes his or her mouth when food is offered.
  • Turns his or her head away from food.
  • Uses hand motions or sounds for food to let you know he or she is full.

Let your child decide how much he or she wants. Your child does not need to finish a bottle or all of the food in the jar or on the plate. Food is not a good reward or punishment.

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse if you are concerned about how much or how little he or she is eating.

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