When babies are ready to feed they will show some signs, such as licking their lips, turning their head, trying to suck their hands and searching for a nipple with their mouth open! After some time they get agitated, go red and start to do that hungry baby “mwaaahhh mwaaahhh” kind of cry. Try to offer your baby the breast when you see the first feeding cues, rather than when they are already very upset. Some babies cry really quickly, so don’t worry if this is not always possible.
As a rule of thumb, if your baby is waking after a sleep they will be hungry. As baby receives both food and comfort at the breast, and it is rarely possibly to overfeed or spoil a breastfed baby, it is always appropriate to offer the breast if your little one is searching for it. This is part of being responsive to your baby, and helps baby to learn to trust you. Your baby might ask to go to the breast for a cuddle, to help them to go to sleep, because they are lonely or feel under the weather, that is all fine. It is not appropriate to try to get a newborn into a feeding routine, or to stretch out the time between feeds. Your baby will do that themselves as they mature.
If your baby is really agitated, it might be necessary to calm them before offering the breast. Try putting baby skin to skin on your chest and talking gently, stroking or shhhhh-ing them. Some women offer their baby a clean finger to suck on while getting them into a breastfeeding position. This can calm their baby and get them into “suck mode” ready to feed.
Please see my video page for more information on recognising feeding cues.