As a parent, there are many things that you will go through with your baby. One of the more common issues is crying while eating. It can be very frustrating to try to figure out what they need when crying seems like their only form of communication! If your baby cries during feeding time, there may be an issue with latching on correctly, which can lead to sore nipples. There are also other factors that might contribute to crying during mealtime such as intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods.
Learn about these 10 reasons babies cry while eating and how you can fix them!
My baby fusses or cries when feeding – what’s wrong?
There are several reasons you might have a fussy baby at feeding time. It’s most common at around six to eight weeks, but it can happen at any time.
It’s possible that your baby is crying during feeding because they have an allergy, especially if he or she is drinking formula, but an allergy isn’t always to blame. Other reasons include a lack of appetite owing to illness, insufficient breast milk supply, a growth spurt, or GERD / reflux.
Before coming to the conclusion that your baby’s crying is because of an allergy, it is important to consider all of the reasons why he or she might be crying. Let’s look at the most frequent causes of your fussy baby while feeding.
Problem: My baby cries halfway through a feed
If your little one cries during their feed, it is generally caused by something more immediate;
Their latch isn’t correct
If your baby is crying halfway through a feeding, it could be that he or she isn’t latching on correctly. This can happen if they’re not opening their mouth wide enough to latch onto the nipple and are crying because of soreness from poor positioning. Your baby needs to open their mouth really wide in order for the nipple to fit inside comfortably.
They need to be burped
Your baby may be full or need to be burped if they start crying halfway through a bottle. You might find you need to feed your child while they’re sitting more upright instead of flat on their back in order to avoid causing them stomach gas. It may be helpful to change your feeding position during feeding to keep them comfortable. While it is normal for babies to spit up during or after feds, excessive spitting could be cause for concern. Reach out to your healthcare provider if this is an ongoing issue, and read up on reasons why baby would spit up after feeding in my other article here!
They’re not getting enough milk
If you’re bottle feeding, make sure that enough milk or formula is coming out of the nipple. A defect in the bottle nipple may prevent the liquid from flowing properly, which could be the reason baby is fussy. Check the milk flow by turning the bottle upside down, and look for any other signs of damage to the nipple.
They’re tired or overstimulated
When was the last time that your baby had a nap? A tired infant might become irritable and fussy during a bottle feed. Try to calm your child by holding him or her and rocking them before and after feeding. Many babies will respond well to a darkened, quiet room to feed in, especially if there are other young family members in your house.
It might seem strange, but sometimes a baby crying halfway through feeding is actually because they’re hungry and need to be fed more. You might find that your baby becomes fussy after being on the breast or bottle for just a few minutes – it’s possible that they’re impatient to get that food down!
Problem: My baby refuses the breast or their bottle completely
Sometimes baby just isn’t interested in trying to feed at all, and simply cries while refusing their bottle, or the breast.
If your baby is crying because they’re sick, it might be a good idea to let them rest while you feed them. If they’ve got the flu or another bug and are feeling unwell, letting them curl up in bed with you while bottle feeding may make things more enjoyable for both of you. It is natural to lose your appetite when you’re not feeling well.
Their milk is too hot, or too cold
If you’re bottle feeding, baby might cry and refuse a bottle because the milk is too hot or cold. You can warm baby formula by putting it in a bowl of lukewarm water, and test how warm it is on your wrist or use a milk thermometer before giving it to them. My sons would only have milk on the warmer side when they were younger but took to cooler milk as they got older.
Baby is too hot, or too cold
Some babies don’t like drinking when they’re feeling too warm, or too cold. It might be a good idea to dress them in lighter clothes and remove any blankets. You can also try turning up the air conditioning or putting on an extra layer of clothing before feeding if you think this may be the case.
The formula has gone bad
If you’re bottle-feeding, make sure that the milk has not gone off. Formula fed babies often become accustomed to the taste of their formula, since it is more consistent than breast fed babies are used to. If there is a strong, unpleasant smell or your baby refuses to drink it despite crying for food, try again with a newly mixed bottle. Formula has both an unopened shelf life and an opened shelf life, as well as an expiry once it has been prepared. Check the instructions on the tin to make sure your formula has not expired.
Problem: My baby cries after feeding, but they’re still hungry
Especially if they also refuse the breast or bottle, a baby who cries but is still hungry could be feeling pretty uncomfortable. It might be that:
They’re suffering from GERD or reflux
GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) is a common condition that can cause crying after feeding, and might also happen during or between feeds. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that baby has when stomach contents come back up from the stomach into their esophagus – which often causes them to cry inconsolably as they feel sick. Acid reflux might not be the cause here – seek professional medical advice if you think that your baby is suffering.
They have a gut bacteria imbalance
Bacterial imbalances in the gut are also known as dysbiosis and can cause crying after feeding. You may find that crying is more common when they have a bowel movement soon after eating – this could be because of how their food has been digested by bacteria in the gut. Consider a baby probiotic to help relieve these symptoms.
You might find that crying after feeding is due to your baby being overfed. If they’re crying and you think this may be the case, it’s important to work out how many ounces of milk they typically drink at a time in order to address whether or not there is an issue with their intake. Typically a younger baby cannot be ‘overfed’ since they only know ‘hungry’ or ‘full’ queues, but as they get older babies might have eyes bigger than their stomachs!
They’re having a growth spurt
If your baby starts crying and feeding more often (or refusing feeds) around the same time, you might find that it is due to a growth spurt. During these periods they need extra food in order to grow and develop bigger muscles – crying after feedings can be expected during this period.
Mom’s milk supply is low
During the first few weeks, crying after feeding can be due to low milk supply. If this is happening you might find that your baby feeds for longer than usual and still cries after they’ve finished – it’s possible that they’re not getting enough food in order to quench their appetite at feedings. Breastfeeding mothers often feel like they don’t have as much milk as baby needs, but more often than not they actually do! A lactation consultant will be able to help you confirm if this is the issue. (you can read up on pumping while breastfeeding in our article here)
Problem: My baby isn’t swallowing their milk
You’ll find your baby fussing if they’re not getting any milk! It could be because:
The bottle nipple is too small
If you’re bottle feeding, baby might be crying because the nipple on their bottle is too small for them to get enough milk from. When you turn a bottle upside down, the milk should come out at around a drop per second for a size one nipple. If it exits more slowly or quickly, try using a different bottle nipple – this one might be too small, or damaged.
Mom’s let down reflex isn’t effective
Sometimes if breastfed babies are crying after feeding is due to your baby simply not receiving enough milk. This might be because the let-down reflex (milk ejection) didn’t work properly, or isn’t stimulating it at all. Reach out to a lactation consultant who can offer specific advice for you and your baby. Keep in mind that your letdown reflex can also be affected by your own health, how much water you’re drinking, and your stress/sleep levels.
Mom has a forceful let down
If your baby is crying after feeding, you might find that they are struggling with the force of milk ejection – too much milk is flooding baby’s mouth. If this is happening it’s best to work with a lactation consultant for help while you feed your baby. Most babies will drink milk from a breast that lets down properly (soft), but if you have a more forceful let down baby might have feeding problems including excessive gas, because they’re gulping air while trying to keep up with the flow.
They’re already full
If your baby is crying as well as not swallowing milk, it could be that baby has already had enough. It might be that they’re crying because their tummy is too full to take any more milk, or just simply uncomfortable. Remember that baby’s stomachs are small and don’t need much food! (I wrote about baby skipping a feeding over here!)
In some cases crying after feeding might be because baby is distracted. If you think this could be the case, try lowering your voice and using a soothing tone to help calm them down when they need their next feed. Consider moving to a room where you won’t be interrupted, and keep the sounds from your phone or whatever you’re doing down low, or off.
If crying after feeding is happening regularly, young babies, in particular, might be tired. My eldest would fall asleep mid-feed, or cry while turning his mouth away – sometimes with a mouth full of milk he’d not swallowed! If you find your baby is crying then falling asleep mid-feed, try shuffling their feeding routine around to make feeding something they do after waking from a rest.
Problem: My baby is fussy while bottle-feeding breast milk
If your baby is crying while bottle-feeding breast milk, it could be that:
The temperature of the milk
Babies should always have their bottles at room temperature or slightly heated. If you’re giving them cold or frozen milk, they might not like it and become irritable and fussy when feeding – crying will likely follow! Make sure to heat the milk up in a bottle warmer or run it under warm water for a few minutes before feeding.
They’re not burped after eating
While breast milk is often a bit thinner than formula milk (which means less bubbles in the bottle) baby will still need to be burped. You may need to do this several times during a feed. If baby is crying and you think this might be what’s causing it, try burping them before they cry or fuss during a feed.
They’re not used to a bottle / prefer the breast
Babies can be fussy when they get used to a bottle and then you try and feed them from the breast, or vice versa. If your baby is crying while feeding from a bottle it could be worth experimenting with a different bottle / swapping out the bottle’s nipple and seeing what baby prefers. I’ve got a list of the baby bottles which are most like the breast on the site here!
They have a cow’s milk allergy
If your baby is crying while you’re bottle-feeding breast milk, they might have a cow’s milk allergy or another food sensitivity. Breastmilk can be affected by the dairy mom eats! If this seems to be the case for your baby, try removing dairy from your diet or seek medical advice on how best to manage it.
The milk tastes different
If you’re bottle-feeding baby breast milk and they cry as soon as the feed starts, it could be that they taste a difference in the milk. Particularly when you’re expressing for your baby, you might run into a situation where you end up with more fore or hindmilk in a pumping session, which changes the consistency and taste of the milk. Your diet can also impact the taste! If you can, keep a note of what you’re eating to see if there is any connection between your diet and baby’s fussiness. (and read up on what breast milk tastes like!)
In conclusion – crying is normal, but if baby is crying a lot it might be time to see baby’s doctor
write a conclusion paragraph for the article above Babies crying while eating is normal, but if they are crying a lot it might be time to see baby’s doctor – baby’s health is on the line. Excessive crying can also be normal, but it is better to be safe, than sorry.
Hopefully some of these reasons will help you discover why your baby is crying while eating. If crying continues, consult with their doctor for guidance.
Remember to put your baby down for a few minutes if the crying starts to get to you. It is better to step away for a moment than to get frustrated with your baby.