Fussing At The Breast – Why Babies Fuss, Cry Or Pull Off

Fussing At The Breast - Why Babies Fuss, Cry Or Pull Off

Fussing at the breast can be frustrating when you’re trying to settle your baby.

Does your baby squirm around or pound or claw at your chest, when breastfeeding?

Does she pull away from your breast while still holding your nipple in her mouth or come off your breast arching her back and crying?

It might surprise you to hear that this sort of fussy behaviour at the breast is not uncommon.

It can be very frustrating and stressful if your baby does these sorts of things though.

So, why is it that some babies do these sorts of things at the breast?

Fussing At The Breast

Here are 7 common reasons why your baby might be fussing at the breast, and what you can do about it.

#1: Positioning And Attachment Issues

When a baby is well positioned and attached to the breast, she is more likely to remain relaxed and calm during feeds.

This is because good positioning and attachment helps to ensure your baby feels comfortable, and can suck and remove milk most effectively and efficiently during feeds.

Seeing an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help you optimise positioning and attachment for you and your baby.

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#2: Flow Preference

At the start of breastfeeds, a baby sucks are quick and shallow.

This type of sucking helps to stimulate nerve endings on your nipple and areola and helps to get your let-down reflex simulated and hence your milk flowing.

When this occurs, your baby does sucking that is deeper and more rhythmical as she drinks your milk.

Some mothers have a particularly fast flow at the start of feeds.

This might only be when their breasts are particularly full.

Some babies, in the early weeks, may find it challenging to cope with a fast flow. They may come off coughing or gagging.

A fast flow may make some babies more likely to be fussy with feeds.

You can read here about ways to manage an overactive let down reflex.

For other babies, they may happily suckle while the flow is ‘good’ but then become fussy once the flow slows down.

In such situations, using breast compressions to help increase the flow of milk for your baby or switching to the other breast can help.

Some babies who are being fed from a bottle as well from the breast, may develop a preference for the immediacy and consistency of flow from a bottle.

This may make such babies fussier with at the breast. Seeing an IBCLC in such situations could help turn this around.

#3: Your Baby Has Finished Feeding

As babies get older, they become more efficient with feeds.

However, some mothers continue to expect their baby to feed for a certain length of time. They might worry that their baby might not be getting enough milk if they feed for a shorter period of time. Therefore they keep trying to their baby back on the breast.

Provided your baby continues to show reliable signs of getting enough milk, and if you continue to feed your baby whenever your baby needs or wants to feed, it’s most likely that regardless of the length of feeds that your baby will continue to get what your baby wants and needs.

#4: Not Wanting To Feed Then

It can sometimes be challenging to figure out what your baby wants.

Offering a breastfeed is never ‘wrong’. If your baby fusses and fusses from the very start when offered a breastfeed, it might simply be she doesn’t want to feed then. Try again later on.

#5: Your Baby Is Teething

It’s possible that if a baby has tender inflamed gums due to teething, they may be fussier with feeds.

If you think your baby might be teething it could help for your baby to chew on something cold (e.g. cold teething ring) prior to feeds. For more teething remedies see here.

#6: Wonder Week

From time to time throughout a child’s development, they become clingier, crankier and cry more.

Such periods of time are referred to as Wonder Weeks and during them babies are said to be making significantly more connections in their developing brains.

A baby experiencing a Wonder Week may be fussier at the breast. As difficult as Wonder Weeks can be, it can be reassuring to have a possible explanation of why your baby might be out of sorts.

Going with the flow and being as patient with your baby as much as possible can help. And remember ‘this too shall pass’.

#7: Tiredness

Some babies will always happily breastfeed to help them drift off to sleep.

All babies are different though. Some babies may happily breastfeed and sometimes to go off to sleep, while other times they might just fuss at the breast when they’re tired (particularly if they are very tired).

3 Extra Tips For Fussing At The Breast

If your baby is fussy at the breast, here are 3 extra tips that could help:

#1: Try Baby Led Attachment

A baby fussing at the breast can certainly be stressful.

Handing the reins over to your baby can sometimes help.

To do this, you can try letting your baby find your breasts on her own accord using her instincts – this is called baby led attachment.

#2: Walk Around

Sometimes babies who are fussy at the breast will settle into a feed better if you try to feed them while walking around.

#3: Take A Break

If all else fails, take a break. There’s no point continuing to try to feed your baby when you are both stressed. Take a break and try again a little later.

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly why your baby is fussy with breastfeeds. The good news is that the tips above can to help manage the fussiness even without knowing the cause. If you are still worried, have your baby checked by a doctor because sometimes a baby might be fussy with feeds if they are unwell. Seeing an IBCLC or speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor can help too.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. My second son fussed a lot while feeding. I found that doing skin to skin would really help to calm him down even when he was 4 months onward. We were having a tough day so I went back to the basics and it definitely helped.

  2. My baby boy has been fussy since 6 weeks. I have to settle him like I would for him to go to sleep to calm him enough to feed well. We try to do as many feeds at home in a dark room with white noise. He’s now 4 months and unfortunately still very fussy but we’ve worked out how to get past it most feeds. I’m hanging out for solids… he also won’t take a bottle! Good luck mums!!

  3. I have a 7 month old who fusses a lot when breast feeding especially during the night just before shre drifts off to sleep. She pulls at my clothes, makes these funny noises, gets on her fours with my breast in her mouth and sometimes even bites and pulls my nipples (ouuuch ofcourse) its a new behaviour she developed lately.. but i came to find out thats when i lay on my side and breast feed. As she did this i once took her in my arms and breastfed her as i would a new born and she immeadiately stopped with the fussiness n went to sleep right away.. goodluck to you all mums and thumbs up for the wonderful work you are doing with your little ones.

  4. My 3 months old baby so fussy at night she feeds very well during the day but at night time before she sleeps she’s so cranky and her face become red of screaming and doesn’t want to breastfeed please ladies I need an advice I tried to give her a bottle but won’t take it

    1. I’m having the same problem. My lo is 3.5 months. She’s fussing so much on the breast and won’t “feed herself to sleep” as she usually does. She’s just screaming and I really don’t know what to do

  5. At birth my son latched on with no problems so I did both latch and pump at one point I was just pumping and bottle-feeding him now he won’t even latch on idk what to do I would love for him to latch on again. I’m afraid one day I’ll forget my pump and my son won’t latch
    Someone anyone I need help

    1. Iris try nipple shields. Worked with my 8 week old. She stopped latching on at one point because I gave her a bottle and the flow of my natural breast was too slow. I used nipple shields and then after three weeks tried feedings without the shield. She took to my breast again. Be careful the shields have a fast flow. Medela sells some.

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