Parenting is bliss and it’s even more worth it, if we note that the baby’s stomach is full and they are content. Whether the baby is breastfed or formula-fed, every mom ensures the baby is fed the right amount and the proper nutrition reaches the child. There are a few reasons you feel that your baby is always hungry, and that’s when moms lookout for signs of an underfed baby — especially when the baby is restless or keeps crying for long.
When the baby is not properly fed, it often leads to malnutrition — a condition where the required nutrients don’t reach the baby through their food intake or the body does not absorb the necessary nutrients. Malnutrition could also lead to a host of health issues where there could be many health implications for the child and the immunity of the child is usually poor1.
Read on further to know more about signs if your baby is starving and also how to know if the baby is hungry while sleeping.
Yes, there are many possibilities for a child to be underfed. Most parents think crying is the only sign the baby exhibits when it is hungry and often miss out on other signs of an underfed baby. There always exists a doubt in every mom’s mind if their baby is getting sufficient milk or not, especially right after the birth of the child — when the little one would be sleeping all day.
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Underfeeding a baby means the baby isn’t consuming enough calories that are required for proper growth. Many parents even lookout for signs of an underfed 3 months old baby as they do not know if the baby is full or not. Feeding your baby whenever the baby wishes is the best way to respond to the child’s hunger. There is no limit to breastfeeding the child.
A child may drink a little less someday and a little more on the other day. Your baby knows a way of communicating what they need. You’ll soon learn to understand what they’re saying!
After the tiresome delivery, back you are as a mom — happy for the baby’s arrival and too anxious to know certain things such as — is my baby underfed, how to know if the baby is hungry while sleeping, and you start watching out for signs the newborn is underfed.
Babies cry even after feeding, and that’s why crying is not the only way the baby communicates to mom for food, there are other cues your baby uses to tell you it’s time for a feed. Crying is the last of the signs your baby is starving. However, before crying, the babies usually send signals that they need a feed using different cues.
It’s time for you to learn those common hunger cues and early hunger signs which might help you detect signs of an underfed baby.
1. Poor weight gain or loss of weight is one of the signs of an underfed baby
Babies lose weight right after birth and it is not something uncommon. The retention of fluids from their body is the reason for losing weight. However, newborns are expected to gain weight two weeks after they are born. They should meet their birth weight. By 6 months the baby must have doubled the birth weight and at the end of the first year, the weight must have tripled. If the weight is less in the timeframe, it means the intake is less.
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For breastfeeding moms, the concern if the child is feeding full always exists as the amount of milk the baby gets from the breasts cannot be determined. The length of the feeding session is an indicator of how well the baby feeds. Newborns must take a feed of 7 to 9 times a day, and not less than 10 minutes (which reduces once the baby becomes a pro) each breast, during the initial 2 months. Count the number of feeds to know if the baby is short of feed.
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Wet diapers are a good indicator and signs of an underfed baby. Your baby will have 5 wet diapers on the fifth day of his birth. Right from the 6th day, the baby should have consistently 6 wet diapers in 24 hours. If it is less than this, it is an indication the baby is underfed. In case you are breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician for a top-up feed or if the baby is formula-fed, try increasing the quantity.
One of the most common signs of an underfed baby is dehydration. And one common symptom of dehydration is fewer wet diapers. The baby’s mouth and eyes also appear dry in this case. If the baby’s eyes and lips look excessively dry, it is dehydration as a result of being underfed.
A newborn baby’s skin is usually dry. Applying moisturizer could help to keep the skin better. If you find your little one skin dry even after applying lotions, it is an indication or one of the signs of an underfed baby. The baby doesn’t receive adequate protein and is down to the required amount of nutrition. The skin becomes extremely dry and flaky in this case.
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Marasmus is a severe form of malnutrition that occurs when the baby is not fed adequately. This condition occurs when a child loses a large amount of subcutaneous fat — the fat that lies underneath the surface of the skin along with its muscle mass. There could be a significant change in the baby’s appearance because of this. The baby’s eyes may appear as if they are bulging out of their sockets as the skin on the face becomes so extremely thin2.
When there isn’t sufficient muscle development, the baby usually appears very tired. Breastmilk and formula milk comes with protein which is vital for the growing baby. When there isn’t sufficient protein for the baby muscles, the movement becomes less whereby the baby becomes inactive and lethargic. For older babies, this could lead to missing out on their milestones3.
Finger sucking is one of the easily identifiable signs of an underfed baby, especially after the feed session. Babies usually suck fingers to soothe themselves when they are hungry. It is also a signal they are looking for food. If you find the child always sucking fingers and is in an irritable mood, it is time you feed them.
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Rooting is a common sign of an underfed baby where the baby gets stimulated even by a gentle touch or with the rub of the blanket and starts to open its mouth with a sucking motion. If the baby is given food after she roots, the baby will stop searching for it and be content. However, if the baby is still constantly rooting, it is time you feed the baby more as it is a sure sign of hunger.
Few dirty diapers aren’t happy news, mommy. It is a sign of an underfed baby as newborns generally keep dirtying the diapers frequently. If the baby is on breastmilk, the baby will have a healthy bowel movement every time after feeding. That’s because breast milk contains a natural laxative. For formula-fed babies, the number may be less. However, formula-fed babies must have at least one dirty diaper per day4.
The immunity of the baby affects to a greater extent when the baby is underfed. Falling sick frequently is a sign of an underfed baby. This is because the body doesn’t get an adequate amount of nutrients. As long as the newborns are receiving proper nutrition, the growth of the baby happens at a steady pace. However, if your baby is prone to frequent illnesses such as cold or fungal infections, your baby could be underfed.
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While crying is the most obvious sign of an underfed baby, there are many more ways through which you can ascertain if the baby is hungry or not. Whether they are fussier than usual or keep sucking their fingers and toes more often, babies are smart in exhibiting their hunger.
The below signs could help you ascertain if the baby needs more food.
-Baby not gaining weight
-Opening their mouth while feeding
-Mom is yet to produce milk
-You don’t hear the baby swallow
-There is no letdown reflex
-Baby constantly misses feeding/eating sessions
When a baby is underfed, you may find the baby sleeping for extra hours than the usual hours of sleep. Babies who are fed well are active and alert. The amount of milk the mother makes depends upon the amount of milk the baby requires.
Babies who aren’t fed well are usually fussy and cranky. Also, breastfeeding jaundice is a sign of an underfed baby. It occurs when the baby is underfed and isn’t getting enough milk. This could be due to a shortage of Mom’s supply or a poor latch or another issue. This leads to a buildup of bilirubin due to a lack of bowel movements.
Yes, a breastfed baby can be malnourished when it doesn’t receive adequate nutrients. Though breastfeeding comes with a lot of benefits — when the baby’s demand is not met by the mother due to factors such as low milk supply or poor latch, the baby can become malnourished.
Some common symptoms of a malnourished baby include the below.
-Nursing sessions are either very short or extremely long
-Your baby still seems hungry after most feedings
-The baby doesn’t gain the required weight
-You experience severe breast engorgement
-Severe pain interferes with breastfeeding3