Every parent has been there. One minute your baby will be happily sitting, giggling and quietly looking around, and then suddenly you start noticing the signs.
They might start clenching their fists. Then, they bundle their tiny hands into their mouth and start chomping furiously.
They look at you, squirming and fidgeting. Then, they open their mouth and the sound hits you at full force - an ear drum bursting scream. You check your watch and you realise… it’s five minutes past feeding time.
It’s common for new parents to get caught out when hunger strikes. After all, babies can go from hungry to hangry in a matter of seconds.
And now, following new advice from experts at organic baby food brand Piccolo, parents have been taking to Instagram to share images and stories of their hangry meltdown moments.
But one nutrition expert who specialises in babies and infants has revealed a few simple steps parents can take to make sure they’re armed and ready when hanger kicks in.
Infant nutrition expert and co-founder of Piccolo, the UK’s fastest growing baby food brand, Alice Fotheringham has spent her career studying babies, their cues and how best to feed them.
Alice says there’s one common error parents can make when they start weaning their babies - forgetting about the power of milk (whether that be breast, expressed or formula).
Alice said: “When parents start weaning their babies onto solids they often start to use milk as a sideline, but actually in the first year of a baby’s development, food is more about exploration and learning rather than nutrition.
“It’s important parents don’t take milk away too soon. Just because babies are showing an interest in different types of food during the weaning process, it doesn’t mean milk becomes less important.
“A teaspoon of breastmilk or formula is more nutrient dense than for example a teaspoon of carrots, and because babies ingest milk quicker it satisfies a hangry baby much more effectively than food. Being organised with milk can be the secret to targeting hanger.”
Hanger is described as the mood change that takes hold after a period of hunger. When both adults and babies haven’t eaten for a while their blood sugar gets too low, triggering a cascade of hormones including cortisol, a stress hormone, and adrenaline, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone.
“Babies get hangry in the same way adults do,” explains Alice. “In fact, babies can go from hungry to hangry much quicker than adults because their tummies are so small.
“A hangry baby can be stressful for both baby and parent, but there are other ways to make sure it doesn’t get to that point.
“Preparation is key. If you’re at home I recommend cooking extra vegetables from your own dinner and leaving them unseasoned, but maybe drizzling with a little olive oil for some good fats which keep babies full. Then, you can store the vegetables in the fridge overnight in some tupperware and have them on-hand to keep your baby busy when hanger strikes.
“You can also cook some extra pasta and keep it in the fridge, and it’s not as messy as something like yoghurt.
“Sometimes a new type of fruit or a vegetable your baby hasn’t tried before will distract them and keep them interested and engaged before hanger strikes, but remember the magic ingredient… milk is simply the best thing for keeping hanger at bay.”
Alice’s six tips for keeping hanger at bay:
Look out for the signs. Is your baby clenching their fists, sucking their fingers and starting to get restless? They could be hungry
Peas please! When it comes to snacks, the best thing I can recommend is a handful of peas. Having a small tupperware of pureed peas (cooked in a dash of olive oil) is a super simple snack. Peas are also a great source of protein, keeping little ones fuller for longer and helping with their growth
Creating a routine is important when it comes to feeding. Every baby is different and parents should feed them when they feel is right, but I would advise two snacks a day as a general rule of thumb, and giving them their evening meal no later than 5pm (to allow a few hours for their tummies to digest the food before their evening routine).
Be prepared! Cook extra vegetables with your dinner, let them cool down and store in the fridge ready for when baby hunger strikes. Pre-cooked pasta also keeps babies full and occupied when you’re on the move
Creating a distraction for babies can really help to prevent hanger. This can be a toy or even the tupperware boxes that you packed their snacks in. Having an object that keeps them occupied and happy can help prevent a hangry meltdown
Remember milk is the most important source of nutrition for babies under one. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, milk will keep your babies full, satisfied, and make sure hanger is kept at bay
To find more of Alice Fotheringham’s recipes for growing families, go to mylittlepiccolo.com/recipes