what causes a breastfed baby to be fussy

Many breastfeeding moms have questions about why their babies get fussy at the breast. It’s important to rule out medical concerns like reflux, an infection or food allergies before worrying. An IBCLC lactation consultant can help.

Babies often become fussy if they have a strong let-down or overactive release of milk (1). Pumping before feeding or slowing down the let-down can help (2).

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1. Latching Issues in a breastfed baby to be fussy

Many breastfeeding babies can become fussy when they don’t latch properly or are unable to control the flow of milk from their nipples. This can lead to them not eating enough or spitting up a lot after each feed. If this is a regular occurrence, it’s important to speak with a lactation consultant or pediatrician for advice.

In some cases, a baby may need to be stimulated before they can get the letdown reflex going. Pumping or hand-expressing a little bit of milk before nursing can help to lubricate the nipple and start the flow. It’s also a good idea to try a warm compress on your breast before and during each feed. This can help the flow of milk and make for a less fussy baby.

Babies may also be fussy during certain times of the month such as when they are teething or during ‘Wonder Weeks’. This is normal and usually only lasts a few days before feeding patterns return to their usual pattern (6). They might also be fussy if they are hungry but are having difficulty chewing or swallowing due to an infection like thrush or a blocked nose (7).

2. Milk Flow Issues in a breastfed baby to be fussy

Babies who are hungry will become frustrated if they can’t get enough breast milk. This will make them fussy, pull off the breast and may lead to low weight gain (see Understanding Your Baby’s Weight Chart).

If a baby is fussy right before let-down or a few minutes into nursing, they are impatiently waiting for the fast flow of milk that comes with the let-down reflex. To help slow this down, try to have your baby lie back comfortably while breastfeeding and suck on the nipple for several seconds before the let-down starts.

If your baby is fussy immediately after a meal, they may have food sensitivities. Try to keep a diary of what you’ve eaten and when your baby becomes fussy when nursing to see what foods upset their tummy. You can also feed them foods that are easier to digest such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, yogurt and hard-boiled eggs. This will help with their digestive system development and reduce any food sensitivities (1).

3. Growth Spurts in a breastfed baby to be fussy

Sometimes, a baby goes through a growth spurt and this can cause them to be fussy during breastfeeding. If you notice that your baby is suddenly wanting to eat every hour or two, especially during the evening before bedtime, this may be an indication that they are experiencing a growth spurt (1).

Growth spurts typically don’t cause pain or discomfort, but they can make a breastfed baby feel frustrated because they aren’t getting enough milk. It is important to follow your baby’s hunger cues during this time and to remember that they will eventually go back to their normal feeding schedule (2).

Another reason your baby might be fussy during breastfeeding is because of food intolerances or allergies. Babies can get upset by foods that the mother eats that have a strong scent or flavor such as spicy foods, onions, garlic, and peppers. Keeping track of the foods that your baby is most upset by and how they respond to them can help you identify which foods are the source of their irritation (3).

4. Developmental Stages

When babies reach certain developmental stages, they may become more fussy. This often occurs when they are adjusting to breastfeeding and can also be triggered by things like teething, an ear infection or the onset of winter. Babies can also be more easily distracted by noises or activities while they’re trying to nurse.

It’s common for a baby to go through a period of being fussier than usual when they’re around four months old. This is sometimes referred to as “the four-month fussies,” and it’s usually a normal part of the breastfeeding journey.

Fussy breastfeeding babies don’t always require further investigation unless there are concerns about their weight gain or other signs of illness. However, there are some tried-and-true ways to soothe a fussy baby and help them to get back on track with their feedings. If you’re not sure what to do, consider seeking advice from a lactation consultant or pediatrician. They can help you to brainstorm other possible causes of a fussy breastfed baby. They can also give you advice on how to best manage breastfeeding when your baby is fussy.

5. Food Allergies or Sensitivities

If your baby is particularly unhappy and fussy at feedings it may be due to a food allergy or intolerance. Some foods like dairy, eggs, beans, garlic, and peppers can cause gastrointestinal issues for infants and might make breastfeeding uncomfortable. If you notice your baby gets extra gassy after a particular meal, it might be worth trying to cut that food out of your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference.

While it’s very rare, some babies have allergies to the food proteins in their mother’s milk supply. This is why it’s so important to watch what you eat when breastfeeding as the proteins from your food pass straight through to your baby. It can also be helpful to keep a food journal so you can note if your baby seems unhappy and fussy after certain meals.

Conclusion 

Breastfeeding issues, such as an improper latch, insufficient milk supply, or a fast or slow milk flow, can lead to fussiness. An incorrect latch can cause discomfort and inefficient feeding, while low milk supply may leave the baby unsatisfied. A fast milk flow can make it challenging for the baby to keep up with the flow, leading to fussiness and gassiness. On the other hand, a slow milk flow may frustrate the baby.However, if fussiness persists, consult a pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical issues and to receive guidance on managing your baby’s specific needs and developmental stages. Patience, attentive care, and seeking professional advice when needed are key to helping a fussy breastfed baby and ensuring their overall well-being.

Why is my breastfed baby suddenly fussy?

Fussiness in breastfed babies can be caused by a variety of factors, including hunger, discomfort, a need for burping, or developmental changes. It’s essential to try to identify the specific cause.

Could a poor latch be causing my baby’s fussiness during breastfeeding?

Yes, an improper latch can lead to discomfort and inefficient feeding, causing a baby to be fussy. Ensuring a proper latch is crucial for both baby’s comfort and effective breastfeeding.

Can a breastfed baby be fussy due to a low milk supply?

Yes, if a baby isn’t getting enough milk, they may become fussy. It’s important to address any concerns about milk supply with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant.

Is it possible for a breastfed baby to be fussy because of a fast milk flow?

Yes, a fast milk flow can make it difficult for some babies to keep up with the flow, leading to fussiness and gassiness. Adjusting positioning during breastfeeding can help.

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