Why Babies Cry After Feeding

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Why Babies Cry After Feeding

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My second daughter was what my oldest fondly referred to as a “crier.” Or, in other words, she cried. A lot.

The crying with my baby girl seemed to intensify after every single feeding and particularly at night.

It was those hellish hours between darkness and dawn when my husband and I would take turns walking around the house with her in our arms, praying and, mostly in my case, sobbing because we couldn’t console our baby.

I didn’t know it then in my sleep-deprived state, but my daughter’s crying after feedings wasn’t that uncommon.

In combination with her frequent spitting up, it was pretty much a classic textbook case of colic.

Colic

Colic, in technical terms, simply means a “crying, fussy baby that doctors can’t figure out.”

OK, so that’s not really the definition, but in essence, that’s what it boils down to. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) lists one criterion for colic: 

A baby that cries for at least three hours a day, three or more days a week, and is under 3 months old. Check, check, and check.

There isn’t one single known cause of colic. Even the actual clinical incidence of colic, estimated by BMJ to be around 20 percent of all babies, can be tricky.

Acid reflux

One of those causes of crying after feeding and spitting up in babies is actually acid reflux. 

This condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if it also causes significant symptoms such as poor weight gain.

When my “crier” daughter was 5, she frequently complained of her stomach hurting and as a result, had to undergo a series of testing with a gastroenterologist, a doctor that specializes in the GI system.

At our first appointment, the very first question he asked me was if she had colic as a baby and if she spit up a lot, to both of which I practically shouted, “Yes! How did you know?!”

He explained that acid reflux or GERD can manifest as symptoms similar to colic in babies, stomach pain in school-aged children, and later as actual heartburn pain in adolescents.

While many infants spit up, fewer have actual GERD, which can be caused by an underdeveloped flap between the esophagus and stomach or a higher-than-normal production of stomach acid.

In most cases, a diagnosis of infant reflux is simply based on your baby’s symptoms. If your doctor suspects a severe case however, there are several different tests that actually diagnose infant reflux.

Testing can involve taking a biopsy of your baby’s intestine or using a special type of X-ray to visualize any affected areas of obstruction.

Food sensitivities and allergies

Some babies, especially breastfed babies, may be allergic to certain food particles that their mothers are eating.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine notes that the most common offender is cow’s milk protein in the mother’s milk, but even a true allergy is very rare. Only about 0.5 to 1 percent of exclusively breastfed babies are thought to be allergic to cow’s milk protein.

The other most common culprits, according to the ABM, are egg, corn, and soy, in that order.

If your baby is displaying symptoms of extreme irritability after feedings and has other symptoms, such as bloody stools (poop), you should speak with your healthcare provider about getting them tested for allergies.

Aside from a true allergy, there’s also been some evidence that following a low allergen diet while breastfeeding (essentially avoiding those top allergy foods, such as dairy, eggs, and corn) may be beneficial for infants with colic.

Strict elimination diets can have their own risks, so speak with your doctor before significantly changing your diet.

In our situation, I found that dairy, caffeine, and certain seeded fruit exacerbated my daughter’s crying and spitting up. 

By eliminating those foods and substances from my diet, I was able to help lessen her discomfort.

If you have a baby with colic, you might want to try anything at all to help ease your baby’s crying. 

If you’re curious to see if your diet has any effect, you can start by logging your food in a food journal and writing down your baby’s reactions after each meal.

Next, you can eliminate one food at a time and see if reducing your intake of certain foods seems to make a difference in your baby’s behavior. 

If you hit on one you feel helps your baby to cry less, this does not mean they will not be able to eat that food in the future.

Just be sure to keep in mind that a true allergy is rare.

 Also, be sure to monitor for any additional symptoms, such as blood in your baby’s poop.

Gas

If your baby is crying a lot after every feeding, it may simply be a buildup of air swallowed while eating. It’s thought that bottle-fed babes in particular may be more prone to swallowing a lot of air during a feeding. 

This can trap gas in their stomachs and be uncomfortable.

In general, breastfed babies swallow less air while eating simply due to the way they eat. But every baby is different and even breastfed babies may need to be burped after a feeding.

Trying keeping your baby upright after a feeding and burping gently from the bottom of their back and up through the shoulders to work the gas bubbles up and out.

 Also check out this illustrated guide to burping a sleeping baby.

Formula

If your baby is formula-fed, swapping out the formula you use may be a simple solution to a crying baby after feedings. 

Every formula is a little bit different and certain brands make formulas for more sensitive baby tummies.

If you decide to try this, talk to your baby’s pediatrician about whether an elemental formula would be a good choice to try for a week.

 If you try one different brand and you see no change in your baby’s fussiness, continuing to try different brands is unlikely to help.

Takeaway

Colic, along with a few other common conditions, might be the culprit if you too have a “crier” on your hands.

If your baby doesn’t find relief after dietary changes or additional burping, then make an appointment to see their doctor.

15 Reasons Why Baby Cries After Breastfeeding

Your Baby Is Tired A baby who is tired (especially overtired) might cry after a breastfeed. Few young babies settle to sleep well after all breastfeeds. 

Many healthy young babies will have unsettled periods every day where they cry a lot and sleep little. 

During unsettled periods, cluster feeding is common, where a baby has many short breastfeeds close together. 

Typically, after some fussing, a baby will begin sucking at the breast, then fall asleep after a few minutes, only to cry when taken off the breast or put down for a sleep. 

This cycle can continue for hours, and as such the baby continues to become increasingly tired.

 The good news is that a longer stretch of sleep tends to follow these unsettled periods, and they tend to cease around 3 months

Baby Is Having A ‘Wonder Week’ A baby who is having a wonder week might cry after breastfeeds.

 A wonder week is when a baby has a leap in her mental and/or physical development. 

In other words, she is making more connections in her brain to consolidate what she has learnt or is learning.

 A wonder week may occur when she is working on a new skill such as rolling over, crawling or learning a new concept or idea. 

Due to her increased brain activity, she may not be able to process things as well as usual and this may cause her to cry more often than usual.

Baby Is Feeling Emotional Stress A baby is sensitive to our feelings.

 She is generally more content when those caring for her are relaxed and more upset when they are stressed. 

Hence, a baby might be more likely to cry more often including after breastfeeds during times when you or your family is stressed for any reason.

Baby Is Teething Some mothers find that their baby cries more often (including after breastfeeds) when their baby is teething. 

This may be because their baby experiences gum soreness when sucking.

Baby Is Distracted An older baby (over the age of 3 months or so) may get distracted by her environment. 

You might be used to your baby being happy to feed whenever you’ve popped her on. 

But many curious older babies might want to look to see what the noise over the other side of the room is and so come off the breast. 

If you don’t allow her to see what is happening around her and instead keep bringing your baby back to the breast, she may get upset and begin crying.

Baby Has Wind Many babies will come off the breast crying if they need to burp or poo. Try to burp your baby between breasts and after feeds. 

You can do this by placing her over your shoulder. 

If your baby doesn’t burp after a couple of minutes, just move on to the next task (e.g. nappy change or other breast). 

She will burp when she’s ready to. 

Not all babies (especially breastfed babies) need to burp after every feed. 

Once your baby is moving more freely and is able to better sit upright (around 4-6 months), she will be able to burp herself if she needs to.

Baby Isn’t Getting The Right Flow Of Milk Some babies pull off the breast crying due a fast or slow flow of breastmilk.

 If your baby pulls off your breast soon after your let-down (when milk begins to flow from your breast) and is coughing or gagging, you may have an overactive let-down reflex. 

Some babies get impatient if your milk is slow to let down, or when the flow slows down after the initial let-down.

 Your baby might pull off, knead the breast, arch her back and cry. 

Breast compressions can help your baby to keep getting a flow of milk.

 Once breast compressions don’t help anymore, switch to the other breast. When she fusses again, switch her back to the other side, back and forth, until she loses interest in feeding.

Baby Isn’t Getting The Right Flow Of Milk Some babies pull off the breast crying due a fast or slow flow of breastmilk.

 If your baby pulls off your breast soon after your let-down (when milk begins to flow from your breast) and is coughing or gagging, you may have an overactive let-down reflex. 

Some babies get impatient if your milk is slow to let down, or when the flow slows down after the initial let-down.

 Your baby might pull off, knead the breast, arch her back and cry. 

Breast compressions can help your baby to keep getting a flow of milk. 

Once breast compressions don’t help anymore, switch to the other breast. 

When she fusses again, switch her back to the other side, back and forth, until she loses interest in feeding.

Baby Doesn’t Want To Breastfeed At That Moment If your baby cries when brought to the breast, or for sucks a bit and then comes off crying, it may be that she doesn’t want to feed at that time — or maybe she has had enough. 

Older babies (from around 3 months) often become very efficient at feeding. Some may be finished within a couple of minutes. 

Your baby’s frustration may simply be an indication that she’s done and wants to move on. 

Sometimes it may be that your baby wants to suck for comfort, but doesn’t want to get the flow of milk — let alone another let-down reflex occurring. 

If this is the case, trying to settle her in another way — such as rocking or skin-to-skin contact — can help.

Baby Doesn’t Want To Breastfeed At That Moment If your baby cries when brought to the breast, or for sucks a bit and then comes off crying, it may be that she doesn’t want to feed at that time — or maybe she has had enough. 

Older babies (from around 3 months) often become very efficient at feeding. Some may be finished within a couple of minutes. 

Your baby’s frustration may simply be an indication that she’s done and wants to move on. 

Sometimes it may be that your baby wants to suck for comfort, but doesn’t want to get the flow of milk — let alone another let-down reflex occurring.

 If this is the case, trying to settle her in another way — such as rocking or skin-to-skin contact — can help.

Baby Has Thrush If your baby has oral thrush, this may cause her to pull off the breast and cry due to feeding hurting her mouth. 

A baby with oral thrush has a cottage-cheese like white material in her mouth (e.g. on her tongue/inside of her cheeks). 

If you suspect your baby might have oral thrush, see a doctor who will be able to prescribe an appropriate treatment

Baby Has A Blocked Nose If your baby has a blocked nose, this can make it a bit harder for her to coordinate her breathing and sucking when breastfeeding, so she may come off the breast crying. 

If your baby’s nose is blocked, it can help to: Position her more upright for feeds Ensure her chin is touching your breast and her nose is free when she’s attached. 

Keeping her chest in close to yours and providing her with firm support behind her shoulders can help achieve this See a doctor for more ideas to help clear her nose.

Baby Has A Food Sensitivity It’s uncommon for signs of a food sensitivity to occur while a baby is being exclusively breastfed.

 Nonetheless, a baby who has a food sensitivity can be generally more unsettled than a baby without a food sensitivity. 

A baby with a food sensitivity may experience more tummy pain and wind, and this may cause her to come off the breast crying. 

If you suspect your baby may have a food sensitivity, see a dietitian who has an interest in lactation and food allergy.

Baby Has Reflux Reflux is common and occurs in most healthy babies.

 It’s where the contents in your baby’s stomach travels up through her oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach) and sometimes it comes out her mouth. 

Babies tend to have more reflux than adults. 

This is because they have a liquid diet, their oesophagus is shorter and they spend more time lying down.

 A small percentage of babies with reflux experience pain too, which may cause them to cry as milk comes up their oesophagus after feeds

Baby May Be Getting Too Much Milk If you have an oversupply of breastmilk, your baby may have large volume feeds, which might make her quite unsettled and gassy. 

This might make her come off your breast crying. 

Read our article about too much breastmilk to find out what you can do to help. 

Regardless of why your baby comes off the breast and cries, when you help her to calm down, she will likely come back to the breast later on – whether it’s in 20 minutes, an hour or a few hours. 

It’s unusual for a baby under the age of one to refuse the breast and never come back

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