Hi Mamas! So, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about babies crying during feeding times, and I thought I should make a post about that. After all, I remember quite well the exhaustion I felt with both of my daughters.
It is so frustrating when the baby is screaming at your breast. Is it you? Is something wrong? Not to worry because this is all quite normal. Let me jump right in with these questions since there were some good ones, and the answers will all shed light on why you have a fussy baby while breastfeeding.
Why is my baby fussing while breastfeeding?
First, there is no one answer to this. It’s going to be a bit of trial and error to find out the exact reason why the baby is fussy while nursing. You can’t just ask your baby, so you’ll have to pay attention to some subtle cues.
Here are a few things to check:
- Your position – baby might not like the flow she’s getting here
- Your milk flow – is it too fast or slow?
- Baby is finished feeding
- Baby might not want to eat right now (which means try again later)
- Teething (go see my post on that)
- Baby might be exhausted
Is my breast milk making my baby fussy?
Let’s go on to your breast milk. If the baby latches, unlatches, and cries, it is very likely you have a milk flow problem. Some babies find it’s flowing too fast for their liking. This was the case with my eldest. I remember my letdown was so strong; it sprayed her in the face. She was NOT happy about that.
Other babies get upset because that milk isn’t free-flowing. You’ll have to correct that by trying to relax. I had that problem when we were on outings until I got used to breastfeeding.
What you can do is change your position and soothingly talk to your baby to help her calm down. That will surely help!
Why does my baby get fussy at night?
Again, there are many reasons for your baby becoming fussy at the breast at night. Sometimes it’s gas. Other times it’s a growth spurt. Baby could be overtired and overstimulated. There are so many reasons that lead to a baby fussy at the breast in the evening.
You’ll need to run through your checklist…check the diaper, dim the lights, be soothing, and simply be calm. Babies pick up on that, you know, and it’s very likely something very simple causing the problem.
What foods cause fussiness in breastfed babies?
One of the best things about breastmilk is that all the wonderful nutrients you consume pass through your breastmilk to your baby. Unfortunately, some babies can be more sensitive than others when it comes to what you eat.
If you are looking for a list of lactogenic foods, click here.
Here’s my story:
With my eldest, she was particularly upset with gas after I ate broccoli. Cruciferous veggies like that (cauliflower and brussels sprouts too) can set off a sensitive baby. Onions, dairy, and chocolate are other common culprits.
If your baby seemed fine until you ate one of these items, try eliminating them from your diet temporarily to see if that was the cause. You’ll be able to eat those things soon enough once the baby gets bigger.
Do you have a fussy baby while breastfeeding on your period? For some mamas that get their period back early enough, the change in your hormones may be noticeable to the baby. Your milk supply may temporarily lower but nursing her more often will build it back up.
Why is my baby pulling away and crying during breastfeeding?
Don’t take it personal if the baby pulls away and cries while breastfeeding. Most of the time, this can be attributed to proper latch and milk flow. You can change your position and see if that helps. But if you’re sure that’s not the cause, the baby might have gas and need to be burped.
Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to check for a cold. Sometimes when those little noses get stuffed up, it makes it harder for the baby to breathe, and she will get frustrated by this.
Don’t rule out teething either if your baby is getting a little bigger. Those first teeth are a nuisance and a half!
Why does my baby get angry when breastfeeding?
Babies are so cute when they’re angry, but when you’re trying to breastfeed, it’s worrisome. After all, she needs to eat and gain weight and grow, so what’s going on?
It’s possible that if your baby has a sensitivity to a certain food or even an allergy, she can sense it when she smells the milk or tastes it. Please know that this is much rarer. You’ll see other symptoms like lots of spitting up, colic, diarrhea, lots of gas, and congestion too. If you suspect this is the cause, make sure you schedule an appointment with the pediatrician.
For the rest of you, it’s so highly likely your baby is going through a growth spurt, teething, or is annoyed by the flow of your milk.
Is it bad to breastfeed when the baby cries every time?
Crying is a late hunger cue. That means if the baby is already crying, it’s too late. You’ll want to learn to watch for those early hunger cues first. This should eliminate that crying.
What are those cues? Little fists move to the mouth, that cute little head turns to look for your milk boobs, baby sucks on hands or smacks lips, and opening and closing the mouth too.
In the newborn phases, you will be the boob slave, feeding 12 or more times in a 24-hour period. But that will level off. As the baby grows, she won’t eat quite so often and will be quicker about it. Once the milk supply is established, it should be more comfortable for you, but if the baby is still crying a lot, it might help see if she’s got a tooth coming in or going through a growth spurt.
Can smoke while breastfeeding makes a baby fussy?
Here’s the only thing I’ll say about this…please don’t smoke! Not just for your health, but for your baby’s health too! It can reduce your milk supply and make your baby much fussier too. Please look for ways to quit for your sake!
Tips for Handling Fussy Baby While Nursing
Yes, there are several reasons why your baby is fussy while nursing. But there are also ways to handle it and get things going smoothly again. Most of these things are not serious, so please try not to worry about it and focus on these tips.
As I learned from my breastfeeding coach, Vivien, skin-to-skin in those early days and weeks really builds the bond. Use that to your advantage. Even as the baby gets a bit bigger, she’ll remember that contact and how soothing it was. And it will serve to soothe her even when she’s bigger too, helping her regulate her breathing and staying calm.
- Pull the ol’ switcheroo
If the baby is bigger now or you never did skin-to-skin, you can try to shake things up by either switching sides for nursing or changing your position. I recommend trying both. With both of my daughters, this was one of the easiest solutions of all to correct the problem.
Whenever I’d move into a side-lying position, it was like magic. Both of them hushed and nursed. We had some bumps in the road during teething, but honestly, it was the easiest fix to try, so I recommend doing this first.
- Get your partner involved
Sometimes it’s not baby…it’s you! We forget that we need breaks at this point. You’re not shirking responsibility or a bad mom for doing so. Babies are very sensitive creatures that pick up on our cues. Take a break and let hubby or Grandma and Grandpa take over for a bit. You’ll likely see that baby breastfeeds just fine after a small break from you.
- Mimic the womb
I always loved Dr. Harvey Karp’s explanation of the 4th trimester. Basically, babies are still developing after birth. We’d never be able to birth them if their heads were fully fused together with those fontanelles several months after birth.
So from the baby’s perspective, she’s been in this nice, noisy, and cozy environment, and suddenly, she’s not being held all the time. And it’s SO quiet. All it takes is recreating the womb, and you might find she nurses without a fuss from now on.
- Help baby let go of gas
Gas pain is so unreal when you have it, so imagine what it’s like for a baby. I wrote a post about that recently with burping tips, so go read that. But if your baby is screaming while breastfeeding, it’s a very likely sign that gas is to blame.
You’ll want to hold her vertically and pat her back. My other tips can help you help a difficult gassy baby burp.
Sometimes it might be a fart trapped in there too. Babies gulp lots of air when they cry, so be on the lookout for gas and get ready to help with relief!
- Feel baby’s gums
If the baby is twisting and pulling while breastfeeding, screaming, or anything like that, it might be teething. This is more common after 4 months. You can check with a clean finger, running it gently along the gums. You’ll feel the teeth underneath there (they’ve been there the whole time!) and if you feel them coming to the surface, you can use my teething tips to help her get some relief.
Some babies are more comforted by breastfeeding during this time, while others get more upset. Mine was greatly comforted by nursing during teething, but I had plenty of friends where the opposite was true.
- Your hormones might be to blame
If you got your period back or you’re ovulating, this change could affect the breastmilk. It’s hard to tell if you haven’t had your period yet, but check the calendar if you have. It might just coincide with your dip in hormones, which can cause a dip in milk supply.
Since this usually happens when the baby gets bigger, you can supplement with solid foods (after they sit up on their own, around 6 months) and see if that helps.
Other Things to Know About a Fussy Baby While Nursing
While I never experienced it personally, my friend Elena couldn’t nurse her son when he was tired. He would freak out and fuss like crazy. She finally got the upper hand by feeding him when he would just wake up or while he was still active at night before bedtime.
As for both of my daughters, they always wanted to nurse until they were toddlers, and I weaned them. Sleepy or awake, they were happy eaters but for a few bouts with gas and such.
Every baby is different, so it’s a lot of trial and error here. The good news is that nothing is wrong with your baby or with you. It’s very common to go through this, and it just takes patience on your part to determine the cause of the fussiness. Like everything else, you’ve got this, Mama!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.