As a mother, we know there can be many reasons why our little one is crying. It could be down to tiredness, hunger, wind, or just wanting her nappy changed. Here, I will explore some of the reasons why your baby cries while breastfeeding and continues to be unsettled even when he is feeding.
Here are some reasons why your baby cries while breastfeeding. Crying and becoming unsettled during breastfeeding can be due to wind or colic, a forceful letdown of milk, slow milk flow, breast preference, overstimulation, allergies, or teething. Your baby may also cry at the breast if he has just had enough milk. Sometimes if mom may try to reattach baby at the breast, he will protest and cry if he has had enough. Crying is also one of the last hunger cues where your baby needs to be fed right away. You may have to soothe him first, so he is calm enough to latch on effectively.
Babies from birth to eight weeks can fuss and cry quite frequently. They are still learning how to attach effectively which takes some time and practice. However, an unsettled and upset baby can occur at any stage due to other causes. There are many reasons why babies behave this way. Some of these include:
Need to burp
Babies get uncomfortable with the excessive gas in their stomach after feeding and may want to release it by burping. Your baby might be gulping in too much air while breastfeeding or having difficulty latching on correctly. To prevent excess air from getting into your baby’s tummy, the NHS UK advises finishing a feed one breast at a time. Ensure that your baby is positioned correctly at a 30-45 degree angle.
Burp your baby regularly twice during a feed and once after. Hold your baby upright or against your shoulder where you can gently rub or pat their back until they get the wind up.
Too much noise or stimulation in his environment can make a baby become distracted. Trying to get your baby back to the breast to feed can be difficult, sometimes resulting in him becoming irritated with tears. If possible, go to a quiet room where there is less activity to feed your baby. Less stimulation in his immediate environment will make him focus better to feed.
This is characterized by milk that is forcefully ejected shortly after your baby has started to feed. Some babies can handle this, but for others, it can be too much to handle. Your baby can become upset and cry while nursing. Other symptoms include arching the back while breastfeeding, spluttering, gassy, irritable, and generally restless. She can also have green, thin, and frothy stools. You must get advice from a lactation consultant to manage the overproduction of breastmilk.
Slow milk flow
A slow flow of milk can be frustrating for some babies. This is especially true for babies who are also being bottle-fed. Milk from the bottle flows much quicker than from the breast. This can leave some babies frustrated when they nurse at the breast.
One breast usually has a larger output of breast milk than the other. Babies may prefer the breast where there is a more abundant supply. They may become fussy or start to cry when trying to feed on the other breast. Other reasons may have a medical cause such as torticollis making it painful and uncomfortable for your baby to feed. With the appropriate treatment, your baby will begin to feed comfortably and without any tears.
Baby has finished nursing
It could also be that your baby has finished nursing and has had enough milk to keep him satisfied. Trying to reattach him if he is not hungry can trigger fussy behavior and upset him to tears. It can sometimes be difficult to gauge when your baby is full in the early weeks when you are still getting to know your baby. You will soon get to know his unique personality and when he has had enough.
In some rare cases, your baby may have a sensitivity to a particular food you consumed. This can cause fussiness and sometimes lead to your baby crying while breastfeeding. If your baby senses something different that irritates him, he may pull off and cry. If crying is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, rash, excessive gas, or runny nose, then you can suspect that he may have a food allergy. If this happens, bring him to the doctor immediately for an appropriate diagnosis. This article also discusses what to do if a breastfeeding mother suffers an allergic reaction while breastfeeding.
Low milk supply (delayed lactogenesis II)
There can be many reasons why a mother would have a low milk supply. A mother’s milk usually “comes in” at around day 2 to day 5. Also known as lactogenesis II, your “milk coming in” can be delayed for reasons such as a retained placenta, a cesarean birth, premature delivery, obesity, and high levels of stress in the mother and baby following a difficult birth. Low milk supply in a mother could also occur due to previous breast surgery or breast hypoplasia. A newborn baby will become very unsettled and could explain why your baby cries while breastfeeding. He is trying to get what he needs from the breast but is unable to get adequate amounts. It’s vital that you get assessed by a trained professional such as a lactation consultant if you feel your baby is not feeding well or getting an inadequate supply of milk.
While teething, your baby’s gums will feel tender and sore, making feeding time uncomfortable. Some babies will start feeding well but can later become fussy and cry while at the breast and pull away during a feed. However, for some babies, nursing can give them some relief when they are teething. The suckling action of feeding can be a comfort along with skin to skin contact to comfort your baby.
Illness and other conditions
This can be a major reason why your baby cries while breastfeeding. Fussiness can also be a sign that your baby is not feeling well, and this can affect his breastfeeding routine. Babies may cry while breastfeeding due to the discomfort brought about by conditions such as oral thrush and common colds. If your baby has a tongue-tie or reflux, this may also affect the way your baby feeds.
When the early cues of hunger have been missed, your baby will start to become unsettled and will eventually begin to cry. Crying is one of the last indicators of hunger in a breastfed baby. To prevent this from happening, observe your baby for the early hunger cues. These include sucking on her fist or fingers, eyelids fluttering and moving arms or legs. Then she will start to root towards your breast and start whimpering. Crying will become intermittent, eventually becoming a full cry with her face becoming red. It’s not always easy for busy mums, especially in the early weeks. However, feeding your baby when you notice the first signs of hunger will prevent your baby from crying, making a feeding session a lot smoother for both of you.
Growth spurts occur when babies are around 7 to 10 days old. They can also happen at about 2 weeks, 4 to 6 weeks, and during their 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 9th months. Growth spurts can also make a baby appear unsettled, fussy, and may cry a little even while breastfeeding.
If your baby continues to cry and is hard to soothe it’s always best that you consult with your doctor or get the advice of a lactation consultant to examine and assess your baby.