Breastfeeding is an amazing bonding experience but sometimes it can be downright frustrating, especially when your baby squirms and grunts while breastfeeding. As your baby grows, nursing can be less about watching your baby fall asleep calmly, and more about hair pulling and fidgeting!
Breastfed babies have a lot of movement going on especially beyond the first few weeks, and it can be really stressful for new mothers— you’re trying to master a brand new skill, often multitasking as you feed your child.
The good news is that many babies fuss and squirm, and there are several reasons why this might be happening so it’s important to take note when your fussy baby grunt and squirms while breastfeeding.
Why Do Babies Squirm While Breastfeeding? (10 Reasons)
Babies are known for their frequent squirming, and when this happens at the breast, it can be stressful for both the mother and baby.
We’re going to explore the 10 most common reasons why your baby grunts and squirms while breastfeeding so you can pinpoint the problem, fix it, and get back to enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding.
If you’re worried about your baby’s behavior, note that your little one might be moving around so much because of the following:
1. Learning how to suckle
2. Hungrier than usual
3. Isn’t hungry at all
4. In pain or uncomfortable position
5. You have an oversupply of milk flow
6. You have an undersupply of milk flow
7. Your baby has reflux
8. Your breastmilk tastes bad (this is totally normal)
9. Your baby is experiencing gas pains or hiccups
10. You have oversupply or forceful let-down
How Can I Know if My Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk?
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to know how to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk. Keep in mind that babies are individuals, and all have their own patterns, needs, and preferences.
If you’re uncertain whether or not your baby has latched on correctly, just look for these signs:
1. His lips are flanged out or flared, and his tongue is placed over his lower gum line.
2. He has a good amount of breast tissue in his mouth.
3. He is sucking rhythmically and swallowing milk as he nurses. If you see these signs, then you can be confident that he is drinking enough milk at each feeding.
You can also consider using a breast pump and measuring the amount of milk you pump if you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
What is Breast Compression
Breast compressions are an effective way to increase milk flow while breastfeeding. A child may squirm while breastfeeding if they are looking for a fast flow or are teething- remember that nursing is a huge comfort to your infant. After you nurse, you can also offer the other breast to your newborn to ensure they get plenty.
If your baby is having trouble getting milk during breastfeeding, you can help by using breast compression. Breast compression helps increase milk flow, which can increase your milk supply and help with milk letdown.
Breast compression is a technique that you can use while breastfeeding to encourage your baby to get more milk from the breast. The techniques are simple and hands-on. With practice, they become second nature and will make breastfeeding more comfortable for both of you.
Breast Compression Increases Milk Production, Let Down, and Fat Content of Expressed Milk
When you breastfeed, you are able to stimulate your letdown by using your baby’s suckling. The same can be done when pumping by using breast compression.
This involves gently compressing your nipple throughout the entire pump cycle (when you compress the nipple is important, more on this below) and increases the fat content of expressed milk.
One study found that women who used breast compression during pumping had a significant increase in total volume pumped, as well as an increase in fat content of expressed milk. It also can improve letdown for women who have challenges with their letdown reflex when pumping.
Baby Seems Uncomfortable/in Pain
New parents’ first thing to remember is that it’s not always about hunger when newborns cry: babies can be hungry, but they can also be upset, scared, or even in pain.
- Squirming is a sign that the baby isn’t latched on properly. If you’re certain the latch is good, then they may not be getting enough milk, or they could have cramps from gas.
- Crying after feeding is the first sign of colic, which usually shows up around 2 weeks old and lasts until 4 months.
- Babies grunt and squirm when they are irritated, often because of something making them fussy, like milk residue. Common irritants include milk residue in the mouth, undigested milk around the gums, or air bubbles in the stomach. That’s one reason why babies squirm and grunt—they are trying to communicate that there is something wrong with the way their food tastes and feels.
- It’s caused by an upset stomach which can make the baby feel uncomfortable. Colic is a situation where a baby cries more than what is typical. It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with their health; it’s just part of being a new baby.
- The baby is going through a growth spurt or developmental leap
These factors can be really uncomfortable for babies, and excess air can lower their appetite but there are treatments your doctor and lactation consultant can prescribe to help them feel better.
Other Symptoms Why Baby Grunt and Squirm
- Diarrhea occurs when the stools are loose and watery, and the child may pass more stools than usual.
- Rashes are red marks on the skin that appear as dry patches or bumps. Some rashes itch or burn too.
- If she suddenly starts squirming every time you feed her on one side, it could be a sign of an ear infection.
Baby Feeds Only From One Breast at a Time for Less Than 10 Minutes
During the nursing session, if your baby feeds on one breast at a time or stays on each breast for less than 10 minutes, your little one probably is not getting the fatty hindmilk that is available at the end of a feeding.
The flow of milk from one breast may be too fast, which means the baby has trouble staying on that breast and getting the fatty hindmilk.
A baby who gets sleepy while nursing may go to sleep before getting the fatty hindmilk.
When switching breasts, make sure that your baby takes in some foremilk before offering them the hindmilk on the other side.
A good way to know when there is hindmilk available is by looking out for signs like:
- The first let-down feels fast and thin
- Baby latches more deeply after initial let down (about 5 minutes)
- Baby does not have gas or colic symptoms afterward
- For nursing mothers who produce an oversupply or abundant milk supply, their babies may struggle to pull down the thickened foremilk and remain hungry soon after breastfeeding.
Will My Baby Unlatch When the Breast Is Empty?
Your breasts are not ever empty. Even when you think they are, there’s often still a bit of milk left for your baby to drink. This is particularly true for the mother who breastfeeds exclusively, as their breasts are constantly working during milk production. Check out our handy guide if you’d like to know how quickly milk replenishes after a feed.
Nurse on demand- Give your child access without limitation to your breasts so she can get the milk she requires and also keep your milk supply constant.
The child needs skin-to-skin contact to feel the parental bond, this also stimulates production of milk for mother.
Newborn Baby Has Trouble Latching or Does Not Stay Latched
Does your baby have trouble latching or will not stay latched while breastfeeding? Why does my baby pull away while breastfeeding? If your baby’s latch is too shallow, he may not be able to get enough milk from you. Take a look at our tips on getting started with breastfeeding if you are struggling with latch.
Movement during breastfeeding, whether it be arching, squirming, or thrashing, is normal. Things to try at this time include:
- Changing the position – try a new one and assess if it is more comfortable for you and your baby.
- Re-latching – some babies latch on easily when they are first hungry and become fussier as they feed. Try starting with a new latch if your baby becomes fussier during the feeding.
Baby Is Very Gassy and Burps Easily
If your baby is gassy with other symptoms, he may have a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are common in babies who are breastfed because the mother’s diet passes through her milk to the baby.
Symptoms of food sensitivity in a breastfed baby include:
- Gas or bloating
- Pulling legs up to the belly
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Arching back or stiffening body during feedings
A baby with food-related colic might be squirmy and make grunting noises while breastfeeding, have digestive issues like gas and loose stools, have trouble latching, feeding quickly, and experience relief after nursing.
Keep in mind that it could take a few weeks for their body to adjust after you’ve removed the allergen from your diet or changed formula brands.
Why Is My Baby Fussing at the Breast in the Evening?
At the end of the day, you can feel so drained, compared with the start of the day.
It’s understandable you might feel like you don’t have enough breast milk – especially when your baby wants to cluster feed in those witching hours. Late afternoon and evening are the most common times for babies to fuss at the breast.
Here are some reasons why it might be happening, and what to do about it:
- Your baby might be extra fussy at the breast in the evening because they want more breast milk
- Another reason your baby wants more milk at the end of the day is that they are experiencing a growth spurt.Growth spurts occur for about 24 hours, during which time your baby will become fussier and want to feed more often.
- The witching hour is the time around evening when your baby seems to be fussier than usual. It can start any time between 3 months old and 6 months old.
How Do I Know My Baby Is Full When Breastfeeding?
Breastfed babies are notoriously bad at sticking to a feeding schedule.
The first thing you should do is check in with your healthcare provider about how often (as a guideline only) should the baby feed as well as watching their weight gain over time.
They will give you professional advice and ideas on whether or not your child is getting enough milk, which will help you determine how much more milk needs to be pumped for future feedings.
Why do Breastfed Babies Thrash Around While Breastfeeding?
Before we get into what might be causing your baby to thrash around while breastfeeding, it’s important to know that this behavior is actually very common. If a baby is experiencing poor latch or doesn’t feel comfortable, they may jerk their body to the side and make a lot of noise.
Babies have a tendency to squirm around because they are still getting used to using their bodies, so if your baby is not thrashing at the breast very often, or does not cry as though distressed while trashing, this behavior is probably normal.
What Should I Do if My Baby Is Fussing at the Breast?
Fussiness can be due to lots of reasons: overstimulation, tiredness, or discomfort. If you think your baby is feeling overwhelmed by their surroundings, it might be worth taking them somewhere more quiet and dark like a bedroom, and dim the lights.
But if you’re sure they’re full but still unsettled, there are other things that might help:
- First try changing sides (if you’re sitting down). That way you’ll get different milk from each breast which will give little one more varied nutrition.
- Try winding your baby after feeds. This can help to release trapped wind in their tummy which could cause them discomfort. Or why not try burping throughout feeds instead of just afterward to prevent them from swallowing air?Winding techniques vary from person to person so make sure you do what feels right for both of you and always burp over the shoulder on an angle – never flat as it could lead to choking. And remember to keep patting, even if they don’t seem like they need it!
- If all else fails, experiment with different positions until you find one that’s comfortable for both of you.Try gently massaging his stomach, changing his diaper, and burping him before trying again. If these do not help, you may want to contact your pediatrician.
How Can I Know If My Baby Is Getting Enough Breast milk?
Often babies fall asleep at their mother’s breasts, so many parents have no idea about how much their baby has taken and if they gave had enough to ensure adequete weight gain.
Monitor weight gain, how settled your baby seems and whether or not they are meeting their milestones. Speak to your doctor if worried.
A Few tips to help calm babies
Squirming tips that can help calm babies:
• Try offering both breasts at each feeding.
• Burp your little one regularly during breastfeeding or baby bottle feeding (about halfway through).
• If you notice that your baby’s mouth is having trouble latching on or sucking, talk with your doctor or other health professional to give you advice on how to make it more comfortable for your baby to get more milk.
Although it may be tempting to think there is something wrong if your baby is getting fussy while breastfeeding, it’s normal behavior for babies to squirm and grunt while they eat.
Baby squirming means they’re doing what they should be doing: getting full and stimulating supply- so you don’t need to stop nursing.
Squirming and grunting while breastfeeding can be stressful for mom, but actually it’s nature’s way of helping baby stimulate and extract more milk. This suggests that babies are instinctively hardwired to get the most out of their meals. So if your little one is having trouble latching on or seems like they’re struggling, don’t worry – it means they’re working hard! Let them do their thing and you can rest assured knowing that they’re getting the most nutrients possible.
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.