Why babies cry during breastfeeding – and what to do about it

baby-crying-breastfeeding

The sound of her baby’s cry is heart-breaking for any mom…and even more so when those cries happen while you’re trying to breastfeed.

Understandably, you feel frustrated and hopeless when what seems like the most natural way to soothe and care for your child provokes only stress for both of you.

It’s easy to think that you must be doing something wrong or that it’s only your baby who balks at the breast.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

After doing some research on the web and talking to other moms who are in a similar situation, I have come to realize that crying during breastfeeding is actually a common problem with various causes.

Some reasons why babies cry during breastfeeding

Below I give you an overview of why breastfeeding might be causing your baby to cry along with suggestions for how to tackle the problem.

Read on…

The Evening Fussies

Many younger babies tend to have “fussy hours” in the evening when the baby is discontent and easily upset by everything, not just breastfeeding.

If you find that your little one is not crying when you breastfeed at other times of the day, it’s very likely that they’re just fussy and that breastfeeding isn’t the cause at all.

In those cases, most moms find that trying to calm their babies by creating a non-distracting environment can help lessen the fussiness.

If you feel yourself getting stressed from the crying, it’s also a good idea to hand the baby off to your partner or another family member so you can take a break.

Babies can sense your tension and that tends to just make them even fussier, which usually causes more crying.

Read this for more information about fussiness:

Too Much, Too Little

As natural and wonderful as it is, breastfeeding is not exactly the easiest way for baby to eat.

Breast milk flow is not always consistent and can vary from one breast to another or from one day to the next. This means that your baby may either get too much milk all at once or may have to work very hard to extract just a few drops.

In either case, this can cause your infant to cry out from sheer frustration when eating becomes a real chore.

To help with this situation, you might try reclining while breastfeeding to help control milk flow, so your baby doesn’t feel like they’re drowning. Or if it appears that they just can’t seem to get enough, try massaging your breasts and leaning slightly forward to help increase the flow.

Latch and unlatch

It’s also very important that your baby has a good latch onto your breast.

If they cannot seem to accommodate your entire nipple in their mouth or if breastfeeding hurts you, that may be an indication that your baby is having problems latching, which could be the cause for their crying.

To help your baby get a good latch on your nipple without unlatching shortly after to cry, you can try to squeeze a bit of milk out to start milk flow before putting your baby to the breast.

You may also want to try a nipple shield if you have larger nipples.

However, if latch problems persist more than a few times, it’s best to seek the advice of a certified lactation consultant, as there are numerous issues that could be preventing you from finding success breastfeeding.

Read this for further advice concerning getting a good latch:

It’s all just too much!

From the first moments after birth, babies begin a process of constant growth and discovery.

As they get a little older, these physical changes and all the new things they’re experiencing can cause babies to become overstimulated and irritable.

When this happens, even simple things like breastfeeding can feel overwhelming for your child.

If you feel like this might be the reason for your baby’s crying at the breast, it’s best to try to calm them down by reducing the things that may be drawing their attention away from the eating.

You should take your baby to a dimly lit, quiet room to just relax with you, then try offering them breastmilk. If they still refuse the breast or seem upset by it, however, do not force your baby to eat.

Read this for tips on how to calm your baby so they can breastfeed:

Something smells funny…

Infants, especially newborns, bond with and recognize their mothers through scent.

For this reason, many experts recommend that mothers avoid scented body care products altogether, as this can be confusing for your little one and may make it hard for them to find the source of their food.

On top of that, strong scents have the potential to irritate the baby’s senses or provoke an allergic reaction.

While it may not be entirely necessary to ditch all fragrance, it’s always better to not put scented products near your breast. Also try to avoid changing the products you use after your baby has gotten accustomed to how you smell. Not only will it be confusing for the baby, but it may also be irritating to their eyes or respiratory system.

Bellyaches

As strange as it may seem, it is possible that a baby who once happily devoured your breastmilk suddenly develops an aversion to it, because it makes their belly hurt.

This can be caused by a number of factors, including foods that you have eaten or even sudden lactose intolerance or reflux.

Strongly flavored foods like onions and garlic can sometimes cause breastmilk to have a disagreeable flavor for your little love and other foods like broccoli may cause them to become very gassy.

This is not a problem for all babies, but if you notice that your baby’s crying during breastfeeding seems to coincide with certain foods you eat, it may be worthwhile to eliminate those foods temporarily from your diet to see if that helps solve the problem.

On the other hand, if you suspect that your baby is suffering from lactose intolerance or reflux issues, it’s always best to seek the advice of your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Read this to understand more about why your baby’s belly may be upset:

Trapped air

Because less air is taken in during breastfeeding than with a bottle, breastfed babies often do not need to be burped.

However, it is also possible that your baby may occasionally need help getting rid of trapped air. If you suspect this is the case, stop feeding and try to burp them to see if that brings relief.

Too sleepy to eat

Getting hangry happens to the best of us when we are tired, hungry, and just not in the mood to deal with life.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the same thing can happen to your baby.

Being a baby is hard, exhausting work and sometimes your little one may just feel uncapable of managing it all.

When that happens, even eating can seem like an overwhelming chore, especially if baby must work extra hard to extract your breastmilk.

To help avoid exhaustion-related meltdowns at mealtime, you can try feeding your baby when they have just woken up in the morning or after a nap.

Whenever you choose to breastfeed, the main objective here is to associate breastfeeding with a time when baby feels good and not wait until they are already overtired and stressed.

Frequently Asked Questions – Doubts that many Mamas have

Should I just give up on breastfeeding and switch to the bottle?

While bottle-feeding a is a completely viable method for feeding your baby, there is no reason to give up on breastfeeding at the first bump in the road. Many times, the crying phase is short-lived and has a simple solution.

However, because babies can’t tell you what has them so upset, it often will require some trial and error investigation and lots of patience to sort out the source of the problem.

If you’re committed to breastfeeding your baby, try not to give up without first checking to see if the issue can be resolved.

Is my baby rejecting me?

When your baby cries during what is supposed to be a natural, bonding experience, it can feel like they must be rejecting you as a mother.

The mama guilt sets in very quickly and makes you wonder if your body is uncapable of sustaining your child or if you are just terrible at being a mom.

But trust me. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You, as your baby’s mother, are the single most important person in their life, and feeding issues cannot break that special bond that you share with your child.

There are numerous reasons that your baby may cry when you try to breastfeed, but none of those have anything to do with a rejection of your motherly bond. Crying is just their way to let you know that something is not ok.

How can I deal with the stress?

Whether your baby’s crying phase during breastfeeding lasts one day or several weeks, it can be understandably very stressful for you as a mom.

Because your main focus will be on finding a way to calm your child, it can be easy to just think about baby’s needs and forget to take care of yourself, too.

However, it’s very important for you both that you do take time to relax and breathe through the process.

Sometimes that may mean taking a day to just snuggle with your baby and leave household chores for other family members.

Other times, it’s necessary to let someone else try to calm the baby while you go for a walk or take a relaxing shower. Whatever you do, remember that you, mama, are important and if you’re not ok, your baby won’t be either.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is both a wonderful and challenging experience for most moms. If it turns out to not be as easy for you as you had hoped, you’re definitely in the majority group.

Here you have some of the most common reasons that your baby may be crying when you try to breastfeed along with some simple suggestions for remedies to get you back to fewer tears and more milky smiles.

Often, these simple fixes will help to lessen or completely stop the crying, but, of course, if your little one continues to be upset during breastfeeding, you should contact your pediatrician for professional medical advice

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Kendra Isaacs is originally from the state of Kentucky but moved to Mexico to study and ended up staying for love. She has a BA in Spanish with a minor in Communication Studies and has recently completed a master’s degree in Hispanic American Literature. In addition to writing and translation, she teaches English and enjoys photography and baking. Kendra is currently expecting her first baby and now uses the investigation strategies she learned while writing her graduate thesis to guide her in her newest and biggest project yet: preparing for her expanding family during a pandemic, miles away from her family. Here she shares her findings with our community to make it easier for other moms to find the answers to their most frequently asked questions.

Written by Kendra Isaacs

Kendra Isaacs is originally from the state of Kentucky but moved to Mexico to study and ended up staying for love. She has a BA in Spanish with a minor in Communication Studies and has recently completed a master’s degree in Hispanic American Literature. In addition to writing and translation, she teaches English and enjoys photography and baking. Kendra is currently expecting her first baby and now uses the investigation strategies she learned while writing her graduate thesis to guide her in her newest and biggest project yet: preparing for her expanding family during a pandemic, miles away from her family. Here she shares her findings with our community to make it easier for other moms to find the answers to their most frequently asked questions.

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