Rooting Cues


ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT REALIZATIONS I learned as a new mama was that I wouldn't automatically know my own baby's rooting cues for nursing. I'm not talking about crying – nope – that's way past the time of subtle cues. I'm talking about the almost undetected-to-the-naked-eye rooting cues.

I mistakenly thought, along with a million other things, that understanding his cues were hardwired into mama-hood. Not so fellow mamas, at least not for me. For me the biggest rooting cues that I needed to recognize were the ones which were the most subtle. Where, unless you're one of the primary caregivers to baby, or have been there with your own little, are so slight they're easy to miss or pass off as something else. Here's what I learned from my son;

Subtle Rooting Cues to Look For
  • Closed lidded eye movement
  • Eyelids fluttering
  • Head slightly turning to the side
  • Hands coming toward face
  • Mouth movement

What I'm about to say sounds insane to me now, but, at the time I was skeptical these things were even cues. I mean seriously, they could be about anything, or they could be absolutely nothing, right? As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure the reason I dismissed these cues in the first place was because everyone around me dismissed them too, especially when they were holding the baby. It was almost like they didn't want to give him up, which is sweet, but not what he needed. I suppose you could say learning his nursing cues was the spring board from which I began my training on how best to advocate for my son and his needs, as well as for me and my needs.

rooting cues
rooting cues

Comfort nursing is as serious and important as nursing to feel full. People would get seriously bent out of shape if I engaged them when I noticed his rooting cues. It was a good lesson to learn early on because I promise you Mama, after 14 years of kids, learning to advocate for your child is a skill that needs to be put in place early, practiced often, and engaged in during times that will be way more uncomfortable than when you have to take baby from 'great-grandma in-law' to comfort nurse.

Nursing is not just about a full belly. Nursing is also about connection and feeling safe. It's about baby checking in with you, his only source of protection that he knows.

I found breastfeeding to be so much more enjoyable, relaxing, and productive when I attended to my son's needs early on. For us, waiting until he became fussy, or worse, crying, just led us down a frustrating and never ending rabbit hole. I had to learn quite a few skills along the way but it was worth it then and it's worth it now.

For more information on nursing cues, check outLa Leche International&KellyMom – two of my most favorite resources for understanding breastfeeding and so much more.