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Babies are generally sleepy the first few days of life and often need to be encouraged to feed about every three hours. After the first few days, it’s best to feed your baby when he or she is hungry. Feeding needs are unique so each baby will feed differently.

Feeding cues

It is important for you to become familiar with your baby’s sleep-wake cycles and feeding cues.

Early Feeding Cue – Your baby will wake up, become alert, look around and then bring his hands to his mouth and begin rooting and sucking motions. When you see this, pick your baby up and being feeding. Take this time to bond with your baby.

Late Feeding Cue – Crying is a late feeding cue. If your response is delayed your baby may begin to cry. The crying may become louder and your baby will become more difficult to console. He may even arch and pull away when you try to feed him. In this case, remember to stay calm. Console your baby and ask for help if you need it. Never shake your baby.

Here are other feeding cues to look for:

  • “I want to eat” cues: Crying, mouthing, rooting, and hands to mouth. Try feeding your baby. If your baby doesn’t feed, change his or her position or adjust the nipple.
  • “I need a break or rest” cues: Crying, spitting up, choking, arching of back, pulling away, and looking away. Allow your baby time to rest. He or she will turn back to you when ready to feed again.
  • “I am full” cues: Arching of back, pushing away, falling asleep, open or relaxed arms alongside of body. Stop the feeding. If your baby just needs to take a break, he or she will give you cues when ready to feed again.
  • “I just want to be with you” cues: Smiling, looking at your face and eyes, turning head toward you, and reaching out to touch you. Allow time during feeding to play and talk to your baby.
  • “Suck/pause” cues: During the feeding, your baby will suck about 10 to 15 times and then pause for three to five seconds to rest before sucking again. This pause is a good time to talk to your baby and allow him or her to look at your face.


  • Hold your baby upright with his or her head on your shoulder, support the head and back, and gently pat your baby’s back.
  • OR, sit with the baby on your lap, support the chest and head with one hand, and gently pat your baby’s back with the other hand.
  • Don’t be alarmed if your baby spits up a few drops when being burped.

Spitting up

  • Your baby may spit up if he or she has eaten too much at one time.
  • Place your baby in an upright position or infant seat for five to 10 minutes after feedings to reduce the chance of spitting up.
  • Do not play with or over-stimulate the baby immediately after feeding.
  • Frequent or large amounts of spitting up may indicate a problem and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.


Babies often have hiccups, especially after feeding. Hiccups usually stop on their own in about five to 10 minutes.

Using a bulb syringe

A bulb syringe should be somewhat close by in case you need to remove excess mucous from the back of the mouth, such as after spitting up. If so, follow these steps to remove the excess fluid:

  • Only squeeze the bulb syringe when pointed away from baby’s face and before placing it in the mouth.
  • Gently insert the tip into the corner of the baby’s mouth or nose and release pressure on the bulb; do not insert the tip too far as this will cause gagging or sneezing.
  • Remove the tip and squeeze the bulb to expel collected mucous onto a baby wipe or towel.
  • Do not repeat this process too many times as it can cause irritation.
  • Use warm, soapy water to clean the bulb syringe after each use; check to make sure it doesn’t have water in it before using it again.

VirtuaBaby content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you’ve read on VirtuaBaby. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your  doctor or 911 immediately.

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