All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

We don't DEMAND feed, we CUE feed...


    • Insist on having
    • A very firm statement that you want something
an outraged public demanded retribution.

Recently we have heard a lot about "feeding on demand", but I really don't think it accurately describes the breastfeeding relationship. Demand suggests insistence, provoking an almost hostile image of a mother with no choice but to yield to her baby's demands! Why not request feeding, or need feeding?

A far more accurate term is "cue feeding". We now know that crying is in fact a late sign of hunger, and by this stage young infants can easily have become uncoordinated and disorganised - making feeding more difficult when it does ensue.   Instead what research has shown is that infants run through a sequence of cues when they need to feed:  Regardless of how your baby is fed (breast or bottle) you can feed responsively.

    1) Mouthing (Early cue): opening and closing the mouth rather like a goldfish. The infant then starts sucking their hand/fingers (sometimes a shirt collar if there's one handy)  Get ready to breastfeed...

2. Rooting (Active cue): Eyes open, baby begins "rooting", some try and lay themselves down into the feeding position,  others try and attach to the nearest thing (noses and chins seem particularly popular!). Baby's breathing may also become more rapid and he is likely to begin squirming and fussing if he cannot locate his food source.  This is when baby is primed to feed.

3.  Crying (Late Cue): If his earlier cues are ignored, baby moves on to his last cue, from squirming and fussing to crying.   This burns calories baby needs and can make latching on more difficult.  If he's very distressed sucking a clean upturned (ie nail down) little finger for a few seconds can help re-organise his suck.

Remember you can't overfeed or "spoil" a breastfed baby.  It will not create bad habits, nor create a "snacking" baby always at the breast - as they grow things naturally change and he will find a regular feeding pattern for himself.  If you are concerned about any aspect of feeding contact a lactation consultant, breastfeeding counsellor, or



  1. great post, and all those gorgeous pics make me even more impatient to meet my bum :-)

  2. urm bump! not bum.... rofl...think I need to get some sleep!

  3. I made this same argument about 20 years ago--I taught all of my peer counselors to talk about feeding babies on cue or on request. Then, I realized that this was very much about the mother's perspective. From the baby's perspective, it is much more simple. A demand has every expectation of being met. A cue or request may or may not be met. But, babies need to eat. It is not a request that you feed them--it is indeed a demand, and while they certainly cue--they do not cue, hoping we will feel like responding. I think demand is accurate. I think of it like an agreement that is unbreachable. In her amazing book, The Game of Life, Florence Scovill Schinn, the early 20th century metaphysician, talks about manifesting our realities by making a demand of the Universe. A demand, after all, leaves no option--it must be met--so of course she teaches about the importance of choosing our demands consciously. But, once we do--be clear--make the demand--and expect the outcome.

  4. perfectly said! and im enjoying my cue fed toddler ;) almost 21 months!

  5. Great post, once again!!!

  6. Another great post. Maybe we shoudl call it baby-led breastfeeding. Whatever we call it I love it.

  7. Loving the pictures. If only I had seen them before I had my daughter things might have gone a bit more smoothly in the beginning.

  8. Absolutely!! I remember learning about this linguistic distinction during my lactation educator training and thinking, "Oh YES! This makes so much sense!"

  9. So right you are! Day one with my son started with a room filled with student midwives while the lead midwife said "now here is the mother who is feeding on demand." Move to day 3 when a well intentioned but ill informed family member said, "too much of a good thing . . . " Words are so vital to the breastfeeding relationship. I love my little cue-feeder, he was (and is) such a clever little guy to know exactly what he needed.

  10. I love the picture of the baby-mouth wide open- at daddy's neck.

    My little one attempts to suckle on daddy's chest when she's hungry. He says "no, wrong one" and hands her over. :) It's so adorable!!

  11. A much needed post. I've added the link to one of my blog posts:

  12. Thanks all :)
    Jennifer - I'm not entirely sure to be honest that "cue feeding" is the same as "request feeding" (I was being tongue in cheek at that point of my post, I'm not sure the words are really interchangeable in this context?) - and I don't think cue feeding suggests something isn't a need? I just feel it's more accurate definition in terms of highlighting how a baby shows they want feeding.

    "Demand" for many means when baby cries - the cry is perceived as the demanding (and I suspect if we polled pregnant or new mums as to how their baby would let them know they needed feeding, crying would be the number one answer). One mum on Facebook said today "Claire: That's a good way to put it and learning that recently - has helped me get my baby from bottle fed to almost exclusive breast. IF I DEMAND FED SHE WAS TOO CROSS TO TAKE IT but keeping her close and putting her on as soon as her hands went near her mouth meant she was happy to take it.

    Demand feeding also carries negative implications - as another mum said on Facebook "'Demand' puts such negative associations in people's minds, I'm sure it puts many people off, and fuels the baby being 'manipulative' ideas." and I think she is absolutely right. In a society full of baby tamers telling mothers baby can manipulate from just a few months of age - many parents feel even a book knows better than them when their baby should be fed! I read a comment on a group falling into this category recently, that suggested how crazy people were letting the baby decide when to eat, sleep, feed and play! How chaotic and unhealthy their lives must be - one mum stated.

    The reason one particular author gives for schedule feeding is that a new mum simply can't understand her babies cries! Nowadays many peoples first experience of babies is their own, and these poor no nothing new mothers are feeding the baby when he's not even hungry because they can't tell a hungry cry from any other cry (her advice saves them from all this confusion!). Ultimately it's reinforcing a baby cries to demonstrate hunger.

    Cue feeding highlights that a baby knows perfectly well when they need feeding, because they give us specific signs they want feeding - and the term cue feeding I think provides more opportunity to engage in dialogue re what these cues are - which as Clare highlighted on Facebook is important: "I always feel so sad when I'm out and I see a tiny baby in a pram showing all the feeding cues and the parents have no idea. Its not their fault, nobody teaches them this stuff, but its still sad that they can't understand their own child's language."
    Sadly many mum's can ignore a demand - with a pacifier or other distraction because the book says it's not time to feed. I totally agree with you that it IS a demand, I'm just not sure terming it such is the best way to get our message across? I'm not sure reinforcing it is a demand makes that need any more likely to be met?

    I also think demand feeding is very heavily linked with breastfeeding - yet all babies should be fed responsively, all mums can feed their babies "on cue"?


  13. I love this! I just had a baby on Friday and she is a great feeder! Clear cues, great latch, super cute! I'm getting ready to feed her right now actually!


  14. I agree, feeding on demand sounds like a hostage situation. My friend Krista and I used the terms Parent Led vs. Baby Led feeding.

    I think cues may be too overwhelming for a new mom to be concerned figuring out. Baby led doesn't have as much pressure. But great concept! :)


  15. I think NEED feeding, is best description. I found a combination of need, or demand feeding , and schedule best. Would feed when my daughter cried, but also sometimes woke her for feeds, when I was too full.

  16. Does this hold true also with formula fed babies? I have a FF baby (from birth as I was unable to breadtfeed - not a giver-upper but actually physically unable) and have always fed on cue.... even now at 23 months... but have a lot of people telling me that it's ok for BF but not FF - any advice on that?!


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