Recognizing Infant Cues - Guest Blog

So, let’s talk about that amazing newborn and how your baby starts to interact with you and the world around her.  At first, your baby is fascinated with the newness of her new environment. Once your baby adjusts to the brightness, your baby will look around and make smacking or licking motions with her mouth, and usually your baby will seek a familiar friend, her hand!  If your baby is placed on your tummy and allowed to “do her thing”, your baby will gradually crawl towards your chest and place herself on the breast to explore and enjoy her first meal, all by herself!  Your baby will stay wide-eyed and curious for up to four hours before she crashes from her first birthday party!  Your little one will be pretty out of it for the next twenty hours or so; coming out of the party hangover at about twenty-four hours of age and ready to nurse, nurse, nurse!

Your baby will give you signs that she’s ready to eat – seeking the breast by lifting her head and moving towards the breast if your baby is skin to skin with you. If your little one is sleeping in the crib, you’ll notice some body movements and maybe some hand-to-mouth activity.  Most telling will be what’s called the rooting reflex – if you stroke her cheek your baby will turn her head to that side with mouth open and seek something to suck on if it gets in her mouth – your cue to have the breast near and ready! When hungry, her entire body is active, and your little one will clench her fists.  As your baby gets full, her body will relax, hands may start to push away, and your baby may even fall asleep.  It’s important to respond to those cues of hunger before your baby starts to cry, because she will need to calm down in order to have a good meal.

As a newborn of a few hours to days, your baby will usually cry when your baby is wet or dirty, or if your baby needs to burp, or is trying to poop.

As your baby gets a few more days into life, she’ll demonstrate other cues. Your baby may become fussy OR completely shut down if there’s too much going on – like too many visitors handling her or too much commotion.

Sometimes your baby just wants to interact with you. When you talk to her or sing to her, your baby will follow you with her eyes and you may notice her body move in rhythm with your voice!

Most importantly, both of you benefit from skin to skin contact. It stimulates healthy hormones that help with your milk production, it helps her regulate her sleep and ability to self-soothe, body temperature, respiration and heart rate.  And you can never do too much skin to skin.  Daddies can provide skin to skin time as well – your baby won’t mind any fur if you’re wondering!


Tanya Singleton is a High-Risk Perinatal Certified Nurse, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator with over forty years of hands-on experience in maternal-child healthcare.  She is the mother of three adult children, all breast-fed, and Nana to three grandsons.  Her private practice is The Baby Whisperer – in Spotsylvania, VA