Dinner time can be considered the best part of the day. Unfortunately for quite a few mothers out there, that doesn't quite seem to be the case. Feeding is not only a great source of nutrition for your baby, it’s also a perfect time to bond. But what are you supposed to do when this bonding session turns into a screaming nightmare? You may be pleased to know that having a fussy baby while feeding is not uncommon. In this article, we have listed a few causes and solutions to help you and your baby enjoy dinner time once again.
(Note: It is important to avoid overfeeding and ‘force’ feeding your baby. If you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, please contact a doctor for advice.)
There are a few things to keep in mind when your baby is fussy at the breast, determining whether or not it is directly linked to feeding will help us figure out the problem in the long run.
All babies experience growth spurts frequently during their early years. They can happen at any time, but usually, they occur between 1 - 3 weeks and another at 6 - 8 weeks. You can also expect more at 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. During this time, your baby may seem a lot more irritable and fussy, therefore causing feeding time to become a little more difficult. Thankfully, these growth spurts only last a couple of days!
A Distracted Baby
Imagine a brand new world opened up before your very own eyes. So many new sights, smells, and feelings. You’re going to be a little distracted, aren’t you? Well, babies are no different. Usually, from 3 months onwards, curious babies have a hard time focusing, so when you’re trying your best to bring them back from a distraction, they may end up being a little irritated.
It’s quite possible that your baby might just be teething. During this time, babies may feel uncomfortable or discomfort in the gums while sucking. You may have noticed that the baby starts to feed, but gradually gets fussier and fussier while nursing. Read more about teething here, and learn how our Lil’ Tots Sensory Hollow Teether Tube may be the answer to all your prayers.
Oral thrush may also be a cause of a fussy baby while feeding. Your baby could be experiencing pain, which in turn causes crying and refusal to nurse.
So, What’s The Solution?
There are actually quite a few factors that may come into play when feeding a fussy baby. Whether it is too much or too little milk flow, or even your baby preferring one side, below are some helpful problem solutions.
Positioning and Attachment Issues
When breastfeeding, babies sometimes struggle to latch on or gulp too much air. This in turn causes them to become fussy at the breast. To help aid this, try to finish feeding on one breast at a time while making sure to position them correctly (an angle of 30 - 45 degrees)
When feeding by bottle, make sure to sit your baby upright to avoid swallowing too much air. Avoid over-shaking the bottle and ensure the bottle teat is always full.
The Flow of Milk
If you have a fast flow of milk, also known as an overactive let-down, some babies may have a difficult time, especially in their early weeks. It occurs when you have too much milk for the baby to handle. They may start coughing or gagging while feeding. To help fix this, it is important to keep an eye on your baby’s positioning and attachment. It’s also important to burp your baby often. Feeding your baby more often means less milk to handle in one go.
On the other hand, if you have a slow flow of milk, also known as a slow let-down, some babies may become fussy at the breast once the flow slows down. Switching from one breast to the other can be helpful, as well as using breast compressions to help stimulate the flow of milk.
For babies who are fed by both bottle and breast, they may become fussy while feeding due to having a preference towards the fast and constant flow of the bottle. If this is happening, it might be best to put the bottle away for a while. If that’s not possible, then stick to a newborn nipple. This means the baby will experience a slower flow of milk, while also having to work harder for it.
Preference to One Side
Sometimes babies just prefer one side to the other. This may be due to an uneven flow on either side of the breast. If this applies to you, you may notice your baby refusing to feed or fussing at the breast due to their preference for a faster/slower milk flow. They also may just feel more comfortable being held on one side over the other.
If you have found your baby to be suddenly refusing to nurse or being fussy at one side of the breast, it could be due to an illness such as an ear infection or injury. If you have any concerns with this, please consult your doctor.
A Full Belly
Babies become very efficient at the breast with growth. As parents, we may expect how much or for how long our baby needs to feed to have a full belly. Mothers who are worried that their babies are not receiving enough milk during feeding time may keep trying to bring the baby back to the bottle or breast. As long as your baby is showing signs of receiving enough milk, it shouldn’t matter for how long at a time the baby is being fed. Simply come back and try again later.
It’s also important to know that your baby may simply just be done with feeding at that moment. They may be in the mists of changing their nursing pattern, meaning fussing while feeding is just a sign they’re over it and want to move on.
Allergies and Food Sensitivity
While babies can’t be allergic to breast milk, they can in fact be allergic to the food their mother eats. Proteins find their way into a mother’s breast milk via the bloodstream, so, if your baby is allergic or has a food sensitivity, they could in turn be fussy at the breast. If you are noticing that your baby comes to the breast hungry and ready for a feed, but pulls off and refuses to eat after a moment, it may be because they have smelt or tasted something that doesn’t sit well with them. While this is very rare, it does happen. Usually, this is also accompanied by spitting up, vomiting, rashes, and diarrhea. If you notice this happening consistently after eating the same thing, it might be time to cut it from your diet for the sake of your baby.
If you are feeding by the bottle and your baby is experiencing an allergic reaction, it may be due to a milk allergy or being lactose intolerant. Your doctor will be able to recommend you a hypoallergenic, cows’ milk protein-free formula.
Some Tips and Tricks
What we Learnt
Today we learnt that there are quite a few things that come into play when your baby is fussy while feeding. It could be due to an existing problem such as teething or growth spurts, or it could be linked more directly to the actual feeding technique. It can be quite difficult to find out the exact reason your baby is fussy at the breast since they can’t tell us what they need or want. But it is important to look at the signs and see what they are pointing to. Try a few different techniques, and if you are still worried about your baby while feeding, take them for a check-up to make sure it’s not caused by any existing illness.
Stay healthy, stay happy.