Let’s be real; we all envision nursing in that picturesque way. Baby suckling calmy, you relaxing as they feed — all in the world is right. The reality, however, is that feeding your little one can be tricky to get the hang of when they are a newborn.
Just like our babies are learning the rules of fine dining, so are we. Each baby nurses differently, with different habits and preferences. There’s no way to predict what our little ones will do; one child might tend to fall asleep while breastfeeding, and their sibling takes this as an opportunity to learn some new dance moves.
Being a new parent isn’t always easy, but we look forward to the challenge. If your baby seems to have ants in their pants (or diaper) when nursing, relax — that is much more normal than you think. Babies squirm while nursing for various reasons, including milk flow, latch position, growth spurts, or common early childhood conditions like colic.
At Tabeeze, we’ve got some ideas as to why your baby might be so squirmy while nursing. Below are ten common reasons babies move while feeding. We hope they help you get to the bottom of it with your little one.
You Have an Overactive Letdown
Ah, homophones. Let’s talk about “letdown.” While “letdown” can mean a disappointment, in this case, we’re talking about breast milk flow.
What Is Letdown?
Letdown is the technical term for the reflex that encourages the flow of breast milk brought on by two hormones: prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is what makes the milk, and oxytocin pushes the milk from the nipples.
At the start of any feed, your baby will suckle faster to encourage your body to produce more oxytocin and literally “let” your milk “down.” Some moms report tingling or feelings of fullness. Right after giving birth, brand-new mamas might feel their uterus contract at this point.
Sometimes, your milk comes down faster than your baby is prepared for or faster than they would like. This is called an “overactive/forceful letdown.” If your baby is coughing or squirming, it could be a sign that the letdown is a touch too fast for them.
How To Slow an Overactive Letdown?
Luckily, there are a few techniques to keep in your toolbelt if this is the case. Some mothers with an overactive letdown prefer to hand express or pump before their baby nurses at the breast. Especially if your breasts are engorged, this can reduce the pressure in your breast, thereby slowing the letdown.
Another technique is to gently push your hand into your breast or hold your nipple between your middle and forefinger as your baby drinks. Nursing positions that can make it a bit easier for your baby to nurse include the laid-back position and the football hold.
How To Correct Bottle Flow Problems
If you’re bottle-feeding and your baby is squirming, the reason could be somewhat related. If the milk flow from the bottle nipple is too rushed, try swapping it for a slower nipple type or helping your baby into a sitting position while bottle feeding.
Your Letdown Is Too Slow
Babies can be a tad picky sometimes, looking for the Goldilocks of breastfeeding situations. There is a chance that your baby is squirmy and wriggly because your letdown is slower than they would like — they want their food, and they want it now!
If your baby is crying, refusing the breast, or wiggling (or worst of all, biting the nipple), your letdown might be a bit slow for them. This can lead to some fussiness if your baby is hangry and doesn’t want to wait.
What Causes a Slower Letdown?
Slower letdowns can be caused by a number of things. Some possible lifestyle contributors include caffeine, smoking, or alcohol use. Other possible causes could be cold temperatures or breast surgery. Mental health issues like stress, exhaustion, and depression may also be behind this struggle.
If you’re bottle-feeding and the milk seems like it’s lagging, try swapping the bottle nipple or changing the baby’s position.
How To Help Speed Up Your Letdown
Some mothers find it helpful to stimulate their letdown by briefly pumping or hand expressing before breastfeeding. Breast massages and warm compresses might also be your new best friend. With time and some help (reach out to a local lactation consultant for advice), you and your baby can work together to get this feeding thing figured out.
Your Latch or Feed Position Needs Adjusting
In movies, it seems like babies instinctively know exactly how to breastfeed, instantly settling into the nook of their adoring mother’s arms.
Unfortunately, this is often more movie magic than real life. Some babies take to breastfeeding like a duck to water. Others might need a little bit of guidance. A good latch is something new to both you and your baby. If you’ve got a squirmy baby who can’t seem to find a comfy latch, you’re definitely not alone.
If your baby can’t seem to get a good latch, they probably aren’t getting as much milk as they should either. Your baby may be squirming because they’re uncomfortable or are struggling to access their dinner.
How To Adjust Your Latch
Think of this as a sign to adjust positions. Again, you and your baby are getting to know each other in a new way. Taking some time to figure out a comfy latch position can make a world of difference.
Just like we said: You’re not alone. Ask your healthcare provider, lactation consultant, or midwife to show you a few other latch positions that might be the perfect fit (literally).
Nursing in a calm, quiet place is also a great tip; even without the ability to check their email or Instagram, babies can get very distracted by the world around them.
Starting your feed with skin-to-skin contact may also help your baby breastfeed to the best of their ability.
What Are the Signs of a Good Latch?
Some indicators that your baby has a proper latch include:
- You aren’t in any pain.
- Your baby’s lips are turned out, and their chin rests on your breast.
- Your baby’s mouth isn’t clamped solely on the nipple but extends further around your breast.
As you keep trying new feed positions with your baby, you’re bound to find one that works for both of you and prevents any wiggling due to an improper latch.
Your Baby Is Full
We all know that “too full” feeling after a huge meal, and it is so uncomfortable. Our babies know this sensation as well.
Your baby might be squirming all around because they’re full. Their adorable squirming might be their way of letting you know they’re done.
Of course, we get used to how long our babies typically feed, but like our own hunger, this can vary. Your baby may be less hungry at some times than others; this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, just something to keep an eye on.
They Have Tummy Issues
Squirming can signify some sort of bodily discomfort. Sometimes, breastfeeding is more art than science, and no matter how hard we try, not every feed is likely to be perfect.
Feeding can lead to some air in your baby’s belly, which means gas and burps are on the way. Trapped gas can make feeding itself and latch positions uncomfortable or even painful for your baby.
How To Burp a Baby
If your baby is squirming and it seems like gas might be the issue, practice some methods of getting that gas out. Pull your burping cloth out of your diaper bag (because you can never truly know how much spittle will come out).
There are several techniques for burping a baby, and only time and practice will let you know which works best for your family. Some babies will need to be burped more than others.
Keep in mind that gas might also be a product of other things like food sensitivity or overeating. If you suspect that to be the case, it’s time to have a chat with your pediatrician.
Once that gas is passed, you should find yourself with a much more content feeding baby. If their belly is happy, they are bound to squirm less and give you that award-worthy toothless smile once again.
Voila! Happy you and happy baby.
Your Baby Might Have Colic
If your baby is squirming with no solution in sight (especially if a lot of crying accompanies this), it could be the phenomenon known as colic. Colic is characterized by excessive crying from an infant who is otherwise perfectly healthy.
Colic vs. General Crying: Which Is Which?
Your infant may be experiencing colic if they follow the rule of threes. If the crying persists for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, and occurs for more than three weeks at a time — there’s a chance it’s colic.
Colic can be an extremely frustrating thing to tackle both for new parents and for your baby. This excessive crying can ultimately be painful for your baby and can increase some discomfort while feeding.
Any discomfort, whether emotional or physical, can cause squirming in your little one. Your baby may also be hungry but crying too much to want to eat: a terrible Catch 22.
When Does Colic Go Away?
Colic will eventually go away on its own. After three months of age, some babies will stop the unprompted crying spells. Most cases of colic dissipate by a baby’s six month birthday.
Sadly, there isn’t much we can do as new parents other than being patient, keeping them soothed, and ensuring you’ve crossed off any other possibilities as far as baby health and safety.
They Are Sick
Naturally, we don’t ever want our precious babies to get sick, but life happens. If it feels like you’ve exhausted any other options for why your baby is squirming, or you have a bad feeling about your baby’s health, it is possible they may not feel good. Even as adults, eating is the last thing you want to do when you feel sick.
If you have this worry, bring your infant to see their doctor. Even if it’s a mild bug, a doctor will be able to tell you how to proceed and how to keep your little one comfortable and on the mend.
Once they are feeling better, you should see your baby go right back to normal. Feeding patterns should return, and any squirmy behavior should subside. If this behavior doesn’t change once they are all healed up, consult a doctor or revisit other reasons for the squirming.
They Are Exploring and Curious
Your newborn is adjusting literally every day to being earthside. As they continue to grow, so does their awareness, which adds to curiosity about what is happening around them.
Feeding is such a comfortable and consistent thing in their lives that they feel safe and relaxed enough to explore their surroundings while eating. This can add to extra wriggling and squirming while they are feeding.
How To Minimize Distractions
Nursing in a dimly lit, quiet environment can help a baby zero in on the goal at hand: growing big and strong. Your baby might find a nice moment of zen with soft, peaceful music or a white noise machine in the background.
If you’re breastfeeding outside, a nursing cover can help your baby resist the temptation to partake in one of humanity’s favorite activities: people-watching while eating lunch.
Another reason your baby might be squirming is if they are teething. As we’ve already established, any form of discomfort can lead to extra movement while your baby feeds. Teeth coming in are definitely no exception.
Teething is painful for your tiny angel, and feeding could potentially intensify this pain. When teeth are growing in, a baby’s gums get extremely sore. This soreness and inflammation can make your baby’s mouth pretty painful when they’ve got to eat.
How To Soothe Teething Pain
If your baby is starting to teeth, causing lots of movement and wiggles in your feeding routine, you have some options. For example, your baby might like a frozen teething toy right before feeding. Opt for gentle, chemical-free options, like our personal favorite 100% organic cotton.
Your Baby Wants To Switch Breasts
That’s right… it really is possible that your baby is just picky. If your baby is fussy and you can’t figure out why it is possible, they may want to get switched to the other side of your chest. It can be that one breast produces more milk, or your baby is finished on one side and wants to eat more.
We know this sounds silly, but if you’ve got a little one who tends to be fussy, it may be that they want their favorite side. Generally, there’s no real harm in that, as long as you are able to keep your other side comfortable and pumped if necessary.
If your baby gets wriggly on one side but still seems to be hungry, it could be that they are ready to swap sides to get more milk as well.
Your Baby Feels Stressed
From time to time, things like feeding can be stressful for a newborn due in part to all its newness. If your baby feels stressed or frustrated, they might start to squirm.
One of the best remedies for a stressed baby (and parents) is a session of skin-to-skin contact or “kangaroo care.” Skin-to-skin contact helps promote healthier weights, slow rapid heart rates, boost the immune system, and more. Plus, it increases the presence of oxytocin, so baby and parent get a nice dose of the love hormone.
We suggest the Bottom-Up Bodysuit for easy access to skin-to-skin contact. This suit’s patented design allows you to undress your baby from the bottom-up since no calming session has ever involved maneuvering your baby’s head through the tiny gaps that onesies usually have.
You’ve Got This!
Whether the answer is a teething toy, a growing pain, some burping, or a comfier outfit, your baby will be calmer and happier, and you can be more anxiety-free.
At Tabeeze, we believe in making everything as stress-free for you, and as fuss-free for your baby, as possible. Good luck, parents – you’ve got this, and we are here to help.