How to Calm a Fussy Breastfed Baby
One of the hardest parts of having a newborn is trying to figure out why they’re crying and how to calm them down. When an infant cries, it’s usually for one of several reasons. Maybe they’re hungry, have a wet diaper, or just want to be held. A newborn baby uses their cries to try to tell their parents something. Unfortunately, sometimes baby talk is a tough language for adults to understand!
If your baby is breastfed, while they may cry for some of the same reasons as any baby, they can also have other reasons why they are fussy. Usually the main reasons a baby cries are because they are tired, hungry, need to be changed, want to be held, or are in distress of some kind. Learning to pick up on your baby’s moods can be hard at first, but with practice you will learn to understand each other. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, there may be a few other reasons why he or she is upset.
Reasons a Breastfed Baby Might Be Fussy
They Are Hungry
Breast milk is digested easier than formula and for this reason, a breastfed baby might be hungrier more often. Typically a newborn baby wants to eat every 2-3 hours but can often want to eat every hour or so, which is known as cluster feeding. Once your baby gets a little older, you should be able to establish a rhythm where you can pick up on your baby’s hunger cues, and know when they are hungry. If it’s been at least an hour since your baby’s last feeding, one reason they may be crying is that they’re hungry. Delaying or trying to schedule a breastfed baby’s feedings can sometimes result in crying and fussiness due to your baby being hungry more frequently. For this reason, it’s recommended to feed exclusively breastfed babies on demand, at least for the first six months to a year. Make sure you’re offering both breasts to baby at mealtime, letting them eat until they appear finished with each, falling asleep, or spitting out the nipple.
They Are Frustrated
Breastfeeding is a skill that both a new mom and her baby will have to learn. In the beginning, it can be frustrating for both parties! Take time with your baby to teach them how to correctly latch and practice proper positioning. If you’re having a hard time, reach out to your pediatrician or hospital to see if they can put you in communication with a lactation consultant to help ease some of your breastfeeding woes. If you’re having issues with your supply, your baby may fuss when they try to eat and don’t get as much. This can especially be true if you’re supplementing with a bottle, which usually provides an easy to suck, hearty supply. If you’re struggling to build back up your supply, remember to still put your baby on each breast to nurse prior to giving them supplemental formula. The consistent suckling should cause your supply to increase with time, and make feedings more filling for your baby. If you’re having a hard time increasing your supply, make sure to contact your doctor.
While your milk supply will usually regulate in about six months of breastfeeding, some mothers produce more milk than their baby needs. This is known as oversupply or forceful flow. In this case, your baby will appear fussy when they try to feed. They may pull away and cough, choke, or sputter on the milk due to it coming out too much and too fast. They may bring up milk frequently, be very windy and want to nurse a lot, or they may feed for less time and pull away or refuse to feed. You can tell if you’re dealing with an oversupply if you feel like your breasts are full with milk right after baby feeds, or if you feel like your breasts leak a lot more in between feedings. Typically your breasts will be soft after the first few weeks of nursing, even when filled with milk. If you’re dealing with an oversupply issue, they may feel hard like they did in your early weeks of feeding. Your baby’s bowel movements will be green and frothy rather than the typical yellow of breastfed babies. If you feel like you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor. They can help you discuss your issues with a lactation consultant. Usually oversupply can be regulated by using a system to decrease milk production, which a lactation consultant can help walk you through.
While it’s very uncommon for a breastfed baby to be allergic or troubled by something in their mother’s diet, it is possible! The most common allergies are to cow’s milk-based products, soy, wheat, corn, eggs, and peanuts. Sometimes a baby can react if you begin consuming a new food, or if you eat an abundance of one type of food. If your family has a history of common food allergies, they may be passed to your baby as well. If you find that after breastfeeding your baby cries more than usual, has a rash, or vomits frequently, you may need to consult with your doctor. It can be helpful to keep a journal of what you eat and your baby’s reactions to it. If you notice any food seeming to cause your baby distress, discontinue eating or drinking it and contact your doctor right away. They can help you accurately diagnose if your baby is allergic to something you’re consuming or not.
It’s normal for your baby to spit up a little bit of their food. Their intestinal tracts and digestive systems are still new, making it easy for milk to flow back up and out of their mouths. Most of the time a baby’s spit up is normal, but occasionally, it can be due to acid reflux. If your baby appears to be unhappy and troubled after or during spitting up, this could be due to reflux causing them discomfort. Your baby may appear fussy and sleep less due to reflux as well. If your family has a history of acid reflux, it could be that it has been passed to your baby. As long as your baby is still feeding and gaining weight, reflux is usually treated by your doctor with some lifestyle changes, or medicine, but we recommend you contact your pediatrician if you fear your baby is struggling with reflux. They can help make your baby comfortable and ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need. Some things you can do to help if your baby does have a reflux problem, are to try to feed smaller, more digestible meals, more frequently. Make sure you burp your baby after eating, and try to keep them upright for longer after being fed. Avoid swinging them around after feeding.
It can be troubling for new parents anytime their baby cries, and especially at mealtimes. If your baby is constantly fussy, even when you’ve gone through the basic checklist of reasons they might be upset, or if you’re just having a hard time picking up on your baby’s cues, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician. They can help make sure you and your baby are speaking the same language, and help you meet your baby’s needs, which will lead to your baby being less fussy and more satisfied.