In this post I am going to share one of my biggest breastfeeding struggles during the newborn stage, why my baby used to always cry at the breast.
If you read my birth story post, then you already know that I had a lot of misconceptions as a first-time mom. Breastfeeding was one of them.
Today, I want to share some of those breastfeeding struggles with you, then I would like to dive right in and share all of my gatherings as to WHY my baby used to always fuss and cry at the breast.
If your baby frequently cries at the breast, I hope this post can help. I sure do know the struggles of breastfeeding, so I am sending you all of the positive vibes.
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My far-from-blissful breastfeeding beginnings
Breastfeeding was an inferno for me up until about week 6.
The first complication I had was right after my unexpected C-section when I found it nearly impossible to feed my infant while attached to multiple machines.
Secondly, my milk supply didn’t come in until day FIVE!
Due to my lack of breastmilk, Lennox was a screaming terror the whole five days in the hospital which was only the beginning of his sensitive-sleeping habits.
Home after five days in the hospital, I was about to give up.
I remember sobbing hysterically when Lennox wouldn’t nurse, nor sleep, so I gave in and made an 8-ounce bottle of formula ( I obviously had no idea what the hell I was doing). He took two sips, nearly choked on the milk flow from the size-two nipple (I know, shake your head) and then he passed out!
For the first time in day I got two hours of peace (well except for the fact that I was running around cleaning up aimlessly for the heard of visitors that were about to start popping in).
I hit my drawing point, ten days after Lennox was born, when all of the sudden nursing started to feel as if someone were shooting daggers at my breasts. WTF? I knew my nipples were supposed to crack and get dry, but this was a pain coming from the back of my breast. It made me feel nauseous and irritated. I had Thrush, go figure.
On top of it all these breastfeeding struggles, not to mention, the daily monotony of feeding, pumping, cleaning, Lennox always fussed at my breast. I would say 6 out of the 12 daily feeds, he would flail around at my breast.
I remember everyone looking at me as if I had NO idea what in the world I was doing, and they were right I didn’t! That would frustrate me even more so, I would give up and give him a bottle of breastmilk hoping that would send him straight off into dreamland. Not the case at all.
It wasn’t until Lennox turned two-months-old that I had a lightbulb moment. Well, it really wasn’t a light bulb moment, but rather a; I calmed down and read the book: On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Robert Bucknam M.D.
I know, you’re probably over there like ‘WTF, you were talking about breastfeeding, and now you’re talking about nighttime sleep.’ Not exactly nighttime sleep, per se, but sleep in general.
Sleep was my number one issue with why Lennox was fussing at my breast. Keep reading to know more about the two main reasons my baby is fussing at the breast.
Why my baby cries at the breast: tired and overstimulated
My son, Lennox, was an awful sleeper, much like a lot of newborns.
However, I have come to the theory (and this might not always be the case but don’t hold me on my word), that babies become crappy sleepers because the parents are not aiding their baby to be a better sleeper. Not saying the parents are doing anything wrong, it’s merely a lack of information.
For example, after having Lennox, many of my friends and family members saw me struggling with Lennox’s sleep.
Here are three examples of a few of the many suggestions I received and tried.
- Keep your baby up during the day; he will sleep better at night.
- He’s hungry; he needs to eat more.
- Feed him formula; it will help him sleep longer stretches.
Pardon my rant, but I will come back to the breastfeeding in one second!! I kept Lennox up during the day. I believe one day Lennox was awake for six hours straight!!!!!! He thanked me by staying up all damn night. This advice does NOT work people!!!!
Next, I tried feeding him more. Every time he would fuss, I shoved my boob in his mouth. I mean they’re supposed to feed on demand, right? Nope, he wasn’t interested. He kicked and screamed bloody murder until I fueled him up with an extra two ounces of expressed breastmilk and he would fall asleep, only to wake up 5 minutes later spitting up his whole day’s food.
Lastly, I tried formula before naps/bed, and I received the same results from when I overfed him with expressed milk.
Rant aside, my conclusion here is that your baby is fussing at the breast most likely because he’s TIRED!!!!! He wants to go the fuck to sleep but isn’t quite sure how to do that yet. That’s where On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleepchanged my life. Not only did Robert Bucknam show me how long a baby’s wake time should be, but he taught me the secret of Eat, Play, Sleep.
Did you know that a newborn baby should not be awake longer than 45 minutes to an hour????
That seemed bizarre to me, but it’s the truth.
Once I realized this, I would feed Lennox as soon as he would wake, before even changing his diaper. Feeding a newborn takes a while. For Lennox it took approximately 15 minutes. That’s 15 out of 45 minutes of your newborn’s wake time!!!!! After I would feed him, I changed him and played with him (tummy time, leg exercises, walk around, etc.). Then guess what? It nap/bedtime again. To this day I swear by wake times and Lennox at 22 months still doesn’t get more than 6 hours of wake time. If he does, I plan for a night of no sleep!
Source for this chart: Precious Little Sleep
Doing this routine stopped Lennox from fussing at the breast because when he would feed upon waking he would actually be hungry. It also helped from overfeeding him and contributing to reason # 2, infant reflux. Also, Lennox’s naps started becoming more prolonged and profound. Eat, play, sleep was a godsend for us, and will be for all those babies who aren’t born the with the fantastic gift of snoozing the day away.
Why my baby cries at the breast: Infant Reflux
Lennox suffered from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
Looking back on Lennox’s newborn life, I wonder if me overfeeding him contributed to his reflux.
As an adult, I know that when I overeat, I feel incredibly uncomfortable and get miserable heartburn, making it difficult to sleep, or get into a comfortable position.
Establishing an eat, play, sleep routine helped Lennox tremendously because it allowed Lennox to digest his food properly before going to sleep.
Tiredness/overstimulation and reflux were Lennox’s two principle frustrations and when he was frustrated he gave off cues of being hungry. In all reality, he needed to sleep, or needed to soothe by sucking on his pacifier.
It will take some time to get to know your baby and understand his real signals, but if you think your baby is overstimulated or is experiencing reflux, try the eat, play, sleep method, it can do wonders.
Overstimulation and reflux were Lennox’s reasons for fussing at the breast. However, they might not be the reasons your baby is fussing at the breast. Wendy Wisner of Milk on Tap offers a comprehensive list of why your baby might be fussing/screaming at the breast. Some of which are:
- Fast/slow let-down
- Growth spurt
- Baby needs to burp
- Allergy to an ingredient in breastmilk
- Low-milk supply
“When babies get worked up about these things, they feel the distress in their whole bodies, from head to toe, and they can go from zero to a hundred very quickly. This is precisely why the distress makes it hard for them to nurse, and why they often seem to want to nurse, but can’t calm down enough or coordinate their mouths and bodies to latch on and suck… Regardless of the cause, the idea is to calm your baby’s body and mind so that she can peacefully nurse.”
Wendy Wisner. Milk On Tap
I love this quote because I remember how panicked and frustrated I got when Lennox would fuss at my breast.
After doing a little research and trying to find out why exactly why Lennox wasn’t happy during his feedings, I found out that he was way too overstimulated, which I interpreted for hunger, causing me to overfeed him, putting him in discomfort from reflux.
Boy, was it a vicious cycle. Anyways, hopefully, if you’re reading this, your baby is a fantastic nurser and sleeper, but if not, I hope my tips can help you out because I know very well how frustrating it is not only trying to breastfeed a newborn, but then dealing with a battlefield at the breast. Don’t give up mama, your answer is there, and if you do decide that breastfeeding isn’t working for you and your bambino, that’s okay too. Fed is best <3