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15 Reasons Why Your Baby Cries While Nursing

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Does your baby pull away from the breast or cry before feeding time is over?

Having a squirmy, fussy baby when you’re trying your best to breastfeed can be frustrating.

Thankfully, there is help for you and your little one!

When it comes to babies crying during feeding, there are several possible reasons causing your little one to fuss.

Let’s see if we can pinpoint why your baby is reacting like this so you can get back to soaking up all those sweet new baby cuddles.

Are babies crying while nursing normal?

Are you tired of people telling you that breastfed babies shouldn’t cry?

Each child is different, and just because you breastfeed doesn’t mean you won’t have any issues.

A baby crying while breastfeeding is not always concerning. Infants can have clear reasons for protesting during feeding times that you can help eliminate.

Why does my baby cry while nursing?

1. Gas/burping

Young ones that eat quickly, will swallow air as they nurse, causing gas. If your little one has a growing bubble in their tummy, it can cause some severe discomfort.

Try to burp them often throughout their feedings and immediately afterward. Burping may come easier to babies if they are stopped halfway through their meal before they swallow too much air.

2. Food sensitivities that pass on through the milk

Some children can develop food sensitivities to the foods that moms eat and pass on through the breastmilk. Foods with allergens can create severe discomfort for infants during and after breastfeeding.

If you suspect your infant is reacting to something you ate that passes through your breastmilk, you will have to modify your diet. Eliminating allergen foods like dairy, eggs, nuts, fish, gluten, and even caffeine or some spices can help reduce fussiness.

3. Low milk supply or the milk letdown is too fast

If your baby is fussy while nursing, it could be that your milk supply is the culprit.

Low milk supply will make your infant struggle to get more, causing them to cry or fuss. They will instinctively push, struggle, and pull to try to have more milk to drink.

When your letdown is too fast, it could be too much for them to swallow, and they will turn away from the breast. This behavior can happen if there is a long break between feedings and milk is abundant, or you are experiencing breast engorgement.

If you believe low milk supply could be your problem, you can try boosting your milk supply naturally or supplementing with formula. Getting your infant the nutrients they need is the most important thing.

On the other hand, if you believe your your milk flow is too fast for them to swallow, you can try pumping for a short time before offering them your breast. This method can help take the letdown from you so they can continue to nurse at a slower speed.

4. Nipple confusion

Has someone given your baby a bottle or pacifier lately?

Nipple confusion can be the result. Many bottles and soothers will not be the same shape or size as mom’s breast. If you have a fussy baby while breastfeeding, there could be confusion with latching.

If you notice your baby is having problems at your breast after using a pacifier or taking a bottle, eliminate those in the short term. You may need to wait until they are older before you try again.

5. Overstimulation while feeding

A baby squirming while nursing can mean they are too many distractions.

Loud noises, busy people around, and even a different room can cause your little one to squirm or fuss. They are curious little beings and want to see everything, even while eating.

If you suspect your baby is distracted, try breastfeeding in a quiet, dark room away from people or external noises.

Or, sometimes using a nursing blanket cover is enough to keep them from squirming around.

6. Tiredness

Have you ever been so tired that you don’t want to do anything? Babies can have similar feelings.

If your baby cries at the breast, they may be overtired. Tasks like eating can be exhausting when an infant is already exhausted.

If they are overtired, try calming them down first before breastfeeding. If they refuse to settle, try feeding them lying down in a more relaxed position. This method may help soothe them, so they will not fuss at the breast.

7. Teething

Getting teeth can be very painful. Whenever a new tooth comes in, your baby’s gums, mouth, and jaw can be quite sore.

Teething can make feeding times uncomfortable for your infant, causing them to fuss when it’s time to eat.

Although some mothers want to use a numbing cream for some relief, this can cause your infant to not properly nurse if they can’t feel their tongue, lips, or gums.

Instead, cold teething toys can help to help numb their gums naturally before feeding times. A cold washcloth or teething ring 10 minutes before nursing can mean a much happier breastfed child.

8. Extremely hungry

We’ve all heard of the term “hangry.” That’s when you are so hungry that you are angry, and it’s definitely no fun!

Adults experience this often, and babies are no different. If your baby is feeding later than usual, or if they are past the point of normal hunger, this can result in crying during nursing.

Since famished babies can become inconsolable, try not to let them become so hungry that they can’t calm down to nurse. If they are really hungry, try to calmly offer them your breast and keep them from overstimulation while eating.

9. Growing pains

Imagine how you feel when you work a muscle that you haven’t used in a while. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes makes you cranky, right?

Babies can act in much the same way. Fussing during growth spurts is common and can show signs at mealtimes.

Infants grow considerably in their first year of life. It’s normal for your little one to experience aches and pains as they grow, and muscle aches can interfere with relaxing at feeding times.

A warm bath before feeding or a warm blanket can help soothe your infant’s sore muscles and help them relax to eat.

Related: How to Survive Your Baby’s Next Growth Spurt

10. The nursing position doesn’t suit them

Sometimes little ones simply become uncomfortable during nursing. Lying or sitting in the same position for a length of time can make them complain.

Crying can also occur when feeding if they cannot latch properly due to an uncomfortable feeding position.

What positions worked for them before may not be as effective as they grow. If your little one has started fussing during feeding, try a different nursing position.

11. Not latching correctly

Proper latching gets your child the milk they need when they breastfeed.

If they can’t latch correctly, you could have a very grumpy baby and eventually experience symptoms yourself such as sore nipples.

If you have breast engorgement, there can be latching problems. If you find this is the culprit, try pumping before breastfeeding to help relieve some of the milk pressure so your baby can latch effectively.

It may be helpful to consult a lactation consultant or your medical professional for help with their latching methods if you suspect an issue.

Or, taking a virtual breastfeeding course can also be helpful since you can learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

12. They are full

Babies have small stomachs that will grow as they develop over time. If your infant crying while nursing is a concern, it could be that they are full and do not want anymore to eat.

Older babies or toddlers have often mastered the art of eating, while newborns have not. If you have a fussy breastfed baby, they could have gotten enough milk in a short time.

Examine their behavior and see if they seem content away from the breast and keep notice of how long they eat. 

13. Sick with a cold or has symptoms of thrush

Do you feel like eating when you are sick? Probably not.

If your baby has a cold, they could be fussier than usual during breastfeeding.

During nursing, when latched correctly, your baby will breathe through the nose. Colds can interfere with that.

Thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth caused by an overgrowth of yeast. It is quite common in infants but can be very uncomfortable. Having thrush symptoms can make breastfeeding painful or hard for your little one, causing them to cry or fuss.

If your infant has a cold, be sure to try using a nasal aspirator to clear any buildup that could interfere with breathing while nursing. If you suspect they have thrush, talk to your healthcare professional for help to eliminate any symptoms that may be present.

14. They want comfort from you, not food

Sometimes your baby only wants to be held for comfort, rather than feeding. The cues they give you can be similar to ones that resemble hunger.

If you try to feed them and they refuse to eat but seem settled in your arms, they may be seeking comfort from you rather than food. There’s no need to force your baby to eat if they don’t want to.

15. Acid reflux problems

Babies can have acid reflux issues just like adults can. Having this painful sensation in your chest and throat does not make eating much fun, especially for infants.

This medical issue can be an underlying problem for some babies during breastfeeding.

Some symptoms you may see that may indicate an acid reflux problem:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Refusing to eat or problems while eating
  • Gas or abdominal pains
  • Stubborn coughing

If you suspect your little one has acid reflux problems during feeding or immediately after, talk to your pediatrician or healthcare professional for some solutions that will best work for you and your baby.

When should I be concerned with the fussiness?

Of course, there are times when you should be concerned with a child who fusses when eating. The only way your baby can tell you there is a problem is through crying or fussing. You should pay attention to these cues and discuss them with your pediatrician.

One concern you should be aware of is when they are not gaining weight as they should. This may be an indication that they are not getting enough nutrients during feedings.

At the end of the day, it’s never a bad idea to have your pediatrician check them over if they seem unnaturally fussy. A mother’s instinct is strong and if your gut is telling you something isn’t normal, talk to a medical professional about it.

No parent likes to see their child struggle, especially at mealtimes. But try not to stress too much if your baby has been crying while nursing. There are many reasons for this and many of them are very common and normal.

Remember that a fussy breastfed baby will not last forever. This is just a phase your little one is growing through, and you will both get through it together!