Having a newborn baby is a big adjustment for parents, and living outside the womb is a big transition for babies. Everything is new for both parties, including feeding — and sometimes, feeding can be frustrating for both mom and baby.
If your little one is crying while they’re eating, there can be a lot of potential causes, which means there are a lot of different solutions. Many times, crying can be a sign of difficulties with the amount of food they are receiving or how quickly they are receiving it.
If you’re looking for ways to help out your little one while they are eating, here are some things you can do.
Why Is My Baby Crying While Eating?
There are plenty of different reasons that your baby might be fussy while they are eating. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong, but it can mean that your baby may need some adjustments for fuss-free feeding.
Although breastfeeding and bottle feeding come with their own challenges, there are also some common obstacles with each method.
One potential problem is that you’re trying to feed your little one at the wrong time. Babies follow their own time frame, especially when they are younger. If you try to feed your little one when they’re full, they’ll get fussy and refuse to eat.
On the other hand, if you try to feed your baby too late, they’ll be very hungry and may be too upset to latch or eat properly.
Sometimes your baby might just be in the wrong mood for eating. If they’re overtired, they may find it much more difficult to eat.
3. Gastric Discomfort
Your baby might also just need to be burped. If babies accidentally swallow air, they might have gas in their tummies that needs to get out. Reflux, which is when food comes back up from the stomach, can also lead to crying, but this isn’t as common among babies.
4. Growth Spurts and Physical Conditions
Babies may also be fussier if they are going through a growth spurt. They will want to eat more often, and they may also have difficulty sleeping. You may also notice that they’ll be a little unsettled and more attached at the hip.
Teething and illnesses can be another common cause of fussiness during eating. Teething is an uncomfortable and even painful time for babies, and sickness can make anyone unhappy. A stuffy nose may make it more difficult for your child to breathe while eating, which can make some babies reluctant to eat.
Why Do Babies Cry While Breastfeeding?
If you decide that you want to breastfeed, but your little one is fussing every time you try, it can be frustrating. However, there are many things you can do to help your little one breastfeed once you determine what the issue is.
A common difficulty for breastfeeding mothers and babies is latching. If your baby doesn’t have a good latch, they may find it difficult to get milk, which in turn causes them to fuss. This may be due to inexperience, or it may just be because your baby is too tired or too upset to latch properly. Physical conditions, like tongue-tie or a cleft lip/palate, could also be behind the difficulty with latching or sucking.
Your baby may also cry or fuss if they are getting too much milk at once. Sometimes, the milk gets released too quickly when the breasts are too full — this is called an overactive let-down. When this happens, your little one can’t keep up with all the milk that’s coming out.
Conversely, if the let-down (release of milk) is too slow, babies might get grumpy because they don’t want to wait.
Breast milk can also take on the flavors of some of the foods you eat, including spicy food. If you eat spicy food and your baby starts fussing while they nurse, it might be because your breastmilk is spicier than normal. (This doesn’t mean you have to avoid spicy foods as a rule when you start out breastfeeding. In fact, some babies prefer milk with a range of flavors.)
Why Do Babies Cry While Bottle Feeding?
Parents that decide to bottle feed can encounter different problems based on what type of milk they use — breast milk or formula (or a mixture of the two). Sometimes the issue may be that your little one’s bottle isn’t suited to their needs.
It’s possible that the bottle may release milk too quickly, or it may be difficult for your baby to feed from. Either way, your little one probably won’t be very happy.
Finding the right formula can take some trial and error. Sometimes a baby will be given a formula that doesn’t agree with them, which can lead to reflux, gas, or general discomfort.
Babies may also fuss because their formula isn’t the right temperature. Formula that is too hot can hurt your baby, and formula that is too cold may not be agreeable.
Some formulas have a cow-milk base, so if your baby has lactose intolerance, you may want to consider a formula that is hypoallergenic.
What Should I Do To Help?
Helping your little one have a satisfying nursing or bottle-feeding experience may take some practice and trial and error. We do have some tips that you can use to help your little one eat without feeling the need to express their displeasure.
One important thing you can do is pay attention to your baby’s cues. If they’re rooting around, sucking on their hands, and sticking their tongues out, it means they are hungry — but not so hungry that they will fuss.
If your baby is already crying because they are hungry or very tired, they need to be soothed before they can eat. Remain calm and ask a loved one to help when you need a break.
Once your baby is calm, they should be ready to eat. You can also try burping your baby during and after feeding so that they can get any gas out of their stomachs.
A calming and quiet room can make feeding easier, especially since your little one can be distracted by what’s going on around them.
If your little one is done eating, you can remove the bottle or breast from their mouth and try offering again. If they turn away, that means that they are full and don’t need any more food.
Growth spurts will usually only cause temporary fussiness. As long as you pay attention to your baby’s cues, you should be fine.
If your baby is sick or teething, you still have some options available! The best thing you can do for your baby is to continue trying to feed them when they show signs of hunger. If your baby has a stuffy nose, you can get a snot sucker and use that to remove any blockage, allowing your little one to breathe better.
To soothe teething babies, offer them a cooling pack, rub their gums, or ask your pediatrician about over-the-counter pain remedies.
How To Help Breastfeeding Babies
1. Ask a Lactation Consultant
Sometimes, all you need to do to help with latching is to soothe your baby. However, if it’s a consistent problem, you may want to talk to a lactation consultant. They can help you and your baby learn how to latch.
2. Do Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin is also a great way to help your little one latch and breastfeed better. With a Tabeeze Bottom-Up Baby Bodysuit, skin-to-skin time with your baby is super easy. All you need to do is unsnap the shoulder flaps and pull the onesie down — keeping your baby partially dressed if needed!
3. Change It Up
Changing sides or positions can also help your baby. Sometimes babies prefer a specific breast, so they may fuss if they are on the “wrong” side.
4. Feed First Thing in the Morning
It’s also a good idea to try feeding your baby after they wake up. Content and partially awake babies won’t be too tired to latch properly, and they tend to be much more peaceful as they eat.
5. Express Breastmilk First
If you’re struggling with too much let-down, you can express or pump some of the milk first before feeding your baby. This can prevent too much milk from flowing into your baby’s mouth.
Expressing milk can also help with a flow that is too slow. It gets the process started for your baby so that they don’t get frustrated by the lack of milk. Sometimes having a little milk on the nipple can also encourage your baby to latch.
How To Help Bottle-Feeding Babies
1. Change the Bottle Nipple
If your little one is bottle-fed, sometimes the solution is finding a new bottle, especially if the flow is too fast or too slow.
2. Change the Formula Type
Another possibility is switching formulas. Your baby’s doctor may be able to suggest some that would suit your little one.
It’s a good idea to keep track of when you feed your baby and what their reaction is. It may help you to figure out a pattern for what your little one does and doesn’t like. For example, some babies may struggle with lactose-based formulas; hives are commonly associated with this.
3. Spread Out Feeding Sessions
If reflux is an issue, you may be told to spread out feedings a little more. Instead of giving your baby a larger amount of food at once, you would feed your baby smaller portions more frequently.
If your baby spits up a lot of the milk, they don’t need more. Overfeeding could cause more spit-ups.
4. Check the Formula Temperature
To check to see if the formula is the right temperature, you can shake a droplet on the front of your wrist. If it feels hot to you, you should wait for it to cool down for your baby.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
You may feel that you need to call the doctor if your baby is having a hard time eating. After all, your baby is fussing while they're eating, so it seems like something they should be seen for.
Some parents need to call the doctor to put their minds at ease, which is perfectly fine. However, you may not need a doctor for each of these issues.
Latching difficulties and poor flow are good reasons to see a lactation consultant or a postpartum midwife. They will be able to help you figure out how to latch, and if you think you have trouble producing milk, they can help you determine that.
Generally, if your baby is fussy while eating and they are losing weight, it’s a good idea to call the doctor. Schedule a consultation with your baby’s pediatrician to figure out the best way to help them.
Allergic reactions to infant formula are another excellent reason for a doctor’s call or visit. You should also alert the doctor if your baby throws up, especially if it’s a greenish-yellow fluid or contains blood.
If you’re having trouble clearing your baby’s nose from a cold, it would be in your little one’s best interest to see a doctor.
Learning and Growing
Figuring out why your baby is crying during feeding time is the first step to finding the solution. Once you’ve figured that out, you can help your little one by adjusting things to suit their needs.
At Tabeeze, we care about your baby’s health, but we also want to help you take care of your baby without too much of a fuss. Even though feeding can be difficult in some ways, it does lead to a great bonding moment between babies and their parents.