20 Reasons Why Baby Fusses Or Cries While Breastfeeding

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You may often notice that your baby cries while breastfeeding. Babies may cry when breastfed for various reasons, ranging from simple distractions to a significant feeding problem.

While occasional weeping during nursing is normal, persistent crying and reluctance to breastfeed may necessitate medical treatment or a consultation with a lactation consultant-IBCLC (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners).

Read on to learn why newborns cry during breastfeeding and ways to avoid it.

Causes Of Crying In Babies While Breastfeeding

The following factors or situations may make babies fussy or cry during breastfeeding (1).

1. Overactive letdown 

Sometimes, if the mother has an overactive or forceful letdown of breast milk, the baby may tend to bite the breast or cry since they cannot swallow too much milk. An overactive letdown may cause colic symptoms for the baby. Hyperactive milk ejection reflex and oversupply may cause gagging or choking while breastfeeding, making your baby cry while nursing.

2. Slow letdown

Slow letdown reflex could cause a slower or inadequate milk supply. Babies may become irritated or cry if they do not get enough milk while breastfeeding.

3. Slow milk flow

Babies can be impatient while waiting for the milk to flow while feeding. Slow milk flow can be due to various reasons, including a slow letdown reflex. Sometimes, a fast milk flow due to overactive letdown followed by a slower flow could make your baby cry since they become frustrated by the changes in the milk flow.

4. Done with feeding

Babies should be the ones ending a feeding. If you continue to feed even when they are refusing, it is normal for babies to cry.

5. Want to burp

Babies may cry or pull off the breast if they want to burp while nursing, especially during the first few months. Most babies do this while changing the breast or after feeding, and a few may not burp without the assistance of the parent. Older babies can relieve gas while they move, and it is rare for them to burp while nursing.

Bottle-fed infants may burp more than breastfed infants as they are fed too fast. Paced bottle feeding method should be used to help baby get the what he/she needs at that feeding not more.

6. Not hungry

Babies who are not hungry may cry while feeding since they do not want to be fed. Crying can be a means of communication for the baby.

7. GERD or acid reflux

Regurgitation of stomach acid to the food pipe could make babies gag or throw up often. Acid reflux may cause irritation or cough and often make babies cry while feeding due to the discomfort.

8. Unusual body odor

Babies may refuse feeding and often cry when they smell a new perfume, soap, or lotion on the breast while feeding since it is unusual for them.

9. Changes in the taste of breast milk

Babies may cry or refuse feeding if the taste or texture of the breast milk changes. Maternal diet, periods, high lipase levels in the milk or second pregnancy may cause changes in the milk.

10. Growth spurt

Growth spurts or frequency days are times when your baby has more intense growth. Babies can have many growth spurts during infancy, usually during two to three weeks, six weeks, three months, and six months.

The duration of growth spurts may vary in babies, and it may last for a few days. Babies may appear hungrier and feed more during this time. The baby can be fussy and may cry when feeding while experiencing a  growth spurt.

11. Preference for bottle-feeding

Babies who are mostly fed from a bottle may prefer bottle-feeding to breastfeeding due to the bottle’s instant and continuous milk flow. They may also find it is easy to feed from a bottle since it involves minimal effort than feeding from the breasts.

12. Preference feeding from one side

Some babies tend to prefer one-sided feeding due to various reasons, and they may cry if you offer the other breast or change the breast during nursing sessions.

13. Cluster feeding in the evening

Babies may feed more before sleeping in the evening hours, and they can become fussy and cry if you end feeding before they feed enough. A slow letdown of milk during cluster feeding may also irritate the baby and make them cry.

14. Teething

Teething may cause swelling and pain in the gums. It can make the baby cry while nursing due to the discomfort in the gums.

15. Thrush

Thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans. You may notice whitish coating of the tongue and oral cavity in this condition. Babies with oral thrush may have difficulty breastfeeding due to mouth dryness, burning, or lack of appetite.

They may cry or become fussy due to thrush while feeding, and often the candida infection can spread to the mothers’ breasts while nursing if it is left untreated.

16. Stuffy nose

Babies may cry while breastfeeding due to breathing difficulties caused by nasal congestion. Common cold or flu can be the reason for congested or stuffy noses in many babies. Blocked nose due to an inappropriate breastfeeding position may also cause feeding problems.

17. Food sensitivity or allergy

Babies with food sensitivities or allergies may cry during breastfeeding due to gastrointestinal discomforts. Colic, vomiting, gagging, excessive gas, diarrhea, or skin rashes can be symptoms of sensitivity to foods in mom’s diet.

18. Ankyloglossia or tongue-tie

Tongue-tie is a condition wherein a tight and thick band of tissue tethers the tip or any part of the tongue to the mouth’s floor. Lip and buccal ties can also cause feeding challenges. This condition could affect babies’ ability to suck, and they may turn fussy or cry while breastfeeding.

19. Stress

Babies may feel stressed for various reasons, such as teething, physical illnesses, or even psychological problems, such as fear of being away from the caregiver or parent (separation anxiety). Stress may cause the baby to be irritated and often cry more than usual, including during the nursing sessions.

20. Tiredness

Illnesses or lack of sleep could make babies cry while feeding, and you may also notice them being more irritable in such situations.

Babies may become fussy or cry while breastfeeding due to various reasons. Some babies may go into a nursing strike or breastfeeding strike due to these factors. Breastfeeding strike is a sudden refusal of breastfeeding for several days. It is essential to identify the exact reason behind crying while nursing since adequate feeding is required for your baby’s growth and development.

How To Prevent Crying While Nursing?

Sometimes, it can be difficult for parents to find and resolve the cause of crying while nursing. If your baby frequently cries while breastfeeding or if you are unable to identify the cause, seek help from a pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

The following ways may help calm a crying baby while nursing (1).

  • Nurse when the baby is relaxed. You may choose before their sleeping time since babies are less likely to be fussy during this time.
  • Take the baby outdoors and feed afterward.
  • If the mother is stressed or depressed, the other family member or caregiver may carry the baby until the mom relaxes since babies can often sense emotions.
  • Find a calm and dark feeding room or area to reduce distraction.
  • Express and bottle-feed breast milk if the baby refuses to feed from the breast. Shift to formula milk only when there is not enough milk supply and after seeking advice from a lactation consultant or pediatrician.
  • Do not force the baby to feed if they refuse to feed.
  • Feed from both breasts, and switch the breasts if they cry.
  • Maintain an appropriate feeding position and change if required.
  • Burp the baby in between breasts and at the end of each feeding.
  • Opt for surgical repair of tongue-tie after consulting a doctor.
  • Treat stuffy nose, thrush, etc. to avoid feeding difficulties.
  • Use comfort measures to calm and soothe the baby before continuing feeding.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and drink enough water if you are a lactating mother. The maternal diet could be linked to food sensitivity in breastfed infants. Speak to a doctor if you suspect your baby is reacting to the maternal diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it normal if a baby cries while breastfeeding?

Babies may cry when breastfeeding if they feel uncomfortable. Improper airflow, acid reflux, satiety, and altered breast milk taste could result in a baby crying during nursing.

2. What should I not do when my baby cries while breastfeeding?

Do not stop breastfeeding immediately after the baby starts crying. Instead, offer them the other breast or try a different feeding position to see if it subsides the crying. In many cases, a change in breast or feeding position may work. If your baby continues to cry, express breast milk and offer them the bottle.

If your baby cries while breastfeeding, look for the causes such as acid reflux, overactive letdown, slow letdown, or not hungry. Some babies may also cry and fuss after they are done feeding. Teething, thrush, growth spurts, and preference for bottle-feeding or one breast can also be the reason for crying while nursing. You may feed the baby when they are hungry and relaxed. Seek suggestions from lactation consultants to manage overactive or slow letdowns with various feeding techniques. You may express and feed using bottles if the baby prefers to be bottle-fed.

Key Pointers

  • A baby can cry or become fussy while breastfeeding for various reasons such as overactive or slow letdown, not hungry, or acid reflux.
  • Stuffy nose and teething can cause babies to fuss or cry while feeding due to nasal congestion or pain in the gums.
  • You may feed on demand and address health issues to prevent cry or fussiness. Expressing and giving bottled breast milk can also help some babies.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Crying and feeding issues;  The Children and Young People Urgent Care Advisory Group
2. Breastfeeding; The World Health Organization
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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Yinés Garcia-Taylor

(BSN, RN, IBCLC)
Yinés Garcia-Taylor is an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), registered nurse (RN), mother, and founder of Prenatal Yini; a private in-home and virtual lactation consulting service. She supports breastfeeding families in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Through private virtual lactation consultations, she empowers breastfeeding families worldwide. Yines has earned a bachelor’s degree in International Business from St. Peter’s University and... more