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Feeding interactions and the importance of cues

Feeding your baby is one of the most important interactions between you and your baby. It’s also the most frequent - 2000 feeds occur in the first year!

During these feeding times, babies are awake and ready to interact which can teach you a lot about your child’s different cues. Both the caregiver and child react to each other during feeding; researchers have found there are about 80 different types of cues exchanged during feeding.

How to use cues to feed well

There are three particular aspects of caregiving during feeding which help to support a successful experience:

  1. Sensitivity to cues
  2. Soothing distress
  3. Fostering development

Use your senses

Given a baby can’t verbally communicate, being in-tune with their senses is helpful in reading their cues. Listed below are some simple examples of how you might use different senses to interact with your little one.


  • Look at your baby and let them look at your face.
  • Marked mirroring. This involves trying to match your facial expressions with your baby’s, showing you understand them.
  • Your baby will see you at 30cm. This is the same distance between you and your baby if you are breastfeeding.
  • Mutual gaze. Don't "chase" your baby to look at you. If they turn away or close their eyes, for example, they need a break.
  • Introduce things to look at slowly and with curiosity, at a safe distance. Hold the object still, giving your baby a chance to focus.


  • Read to them, sing to them, and talk to them - they will listen!
  • Babies particularly like melody. Use a sing-song tone when talking to them and be playful.
  • Your baby will learn to tune out noise and sounds - it’s called habituation. They’ll learn how to sleep through noise.
  • Infants may startle if a new noise is loud or unexpected.


  • Skin-to-skin contact.
  • Touch your baby while you are talking to them to help reassure and contain them.
  • Let them touch and hold other things.
  • Babies like a firm but sensitive touch; they're not very keen on tickling.


  • Your baby will be curious about taste. They know what tastes good and what doesn’t.
  • Watch a baby’s cues when trying new food. They’ll show you if they are ready to taste certain foods.


  • Babies recognise their mother's scent and smell.
  • Leave a piece of your clothing with your baby so they have your scent close by.

Get in Touch

For more information on your baby’s feeding and their cues, please contact us online or call (03) 9881 9516. Alternatively, click here to find out more about our Early Parenting Centre Program.

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Feeding interactions and the importance of cues