You’ve bathed your little one, changed wet diapers, breastfed your kid, soothed the baby to sleep, and carried them the whole afternoon…but they are still fussy. It’s like nothing makes them happy or content. They just seem utterly uncomfortable and want you to hold them all the time.
Although all babies get fussy from time to time, there comes a time when fussiness begins to seem unusual. And it’s during that time you might wonder whether you’re breast milk is the problem.
Adults experience discomfort and get gassy when they eat something that doesn’t settle well with their bodies. So, it’s easy to assume the same for kids. That your breast milk is the reason for your baby’s fussiness since it’s their primary food source. But can breast milk make your baby fussy? Let’s dig deeper!
Who Is a Fussy Baby?
A fussy baby is simply an unhappy baby that cries a lot. Newborns’ fussiness may be due to distress they experience after birth. The distress can result from adjusting to another environment other than their usual home (womb). Stimulating a womb-like environment by shushing, swaddling, and white noise can alleviate the distress.
Sometimes even after doing all the above, your baby is still fussy. Note that fussiness and colic are different. A fussy baby cries a lot but stops crying once they are held. A colicky baby cries more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for at least one week, and there’s nothing you can do to stop the cries once they start.
Can Breast Milk Make Baby Fussy?
Yes and no. Breast milk is the best food for a baby. It provides your baby with the right nutrients in the right proportions for optimal growth. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help your kiddo fight illnesses. Breast milk, in its essence, cannot make your baby fussy. But there are certain aspects surrounding breast milk that can make it result in fussiness. They include:
Insufficient Milk Supply
Most moms produce enough milk for their babies. However, some have a low milk supply. A low milk supply can make a baby fussy as they’ll not be getting enough milk, hence, unsatisfied. Such babies are usually unsettled and fussy between feedings.
If your baby breastfeeds exclusively and is gaining weight, you’re making enough milk for them. But if they’re not and you suspect your supply is low, consult a lactation specialist instead of introducing a bottle. Offering bottles after breastfeeding to test whether the baby will eat more is not reliable for determining milk supply quantity. That’s so because infants can and do overeat.
Too Much Foremilk
A baby getting enough volume of milk can be fussy if there’s too much foremilk. Breast milk composition changes as the breasts drain. The first milk babies get when they start feeding is called foremilk. Foremilk has a high water composition to quench the kid’s thirst. The second milk, high in fat to ensure growth and satiety, is called hindmilk.
Getting too much foremilk can make a baby gassy and fussy. This usually happens when a baby doesn’t drain the first breast because the mother restricts the time they stay on it. Many moms believe the notion that a baby must breastfeed from both breasts. This idea can be misleading as some moms have lots of milk, and one breast is enough to cater to a complete feed.
Some moms experience forceful let-down, which can make their breastfeeding babies fussy. When a baby breastfeeds, a message is sent to the mother’s brain to produce oxytocin hormone. Oxytocin hormone causes contraction of milk ducts which pushes milk to the nipple, resulting in let-down.
Sometimes the milk comes out forcefully and at a very high speed, leading to forceful let-down and milk oversupply. When a mother experiences forceful let-down, her kid may sputter and choke for some seconds. Then pull off the breast, cry or become fussy.
The opposite of a forceful let-down is a slow let-down. If your little one gets fussy while breastfeeding, it might be your let-down is slow. A slow let-down can make a baby impatient if the milk is not flowing fast enough. The kid may become upset and pull your nipple, making you feel stressed. Stress prevents the release of oxytocin hormone, causing your let-down to take longer.
A slow letdown can be due to temporary things like pain, stress, or anxiety. Feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable breastfeeding in public or in front of certain people.
Sometimes misinterpreting cues can result in a fussy baby. A baby may be hungry and starts opening its mouth. But the mother, especially a new mom, may not know that’s a sign of hunger. Eventually, the baby cries. Crying is a late sign of hunger and can make your baby upset. An upset baby can become fussy and refuse to breastfeed. In such a case, the mother should soothe the baby until they relax before offering the breast.
Then there are those times when your baby pulls off while breastfeeding because they’re done and had had enough. Some moms may try to bring the baby back to the breast because they feel they haven’t been nursed for long. Doing so can make a baby fussy as the kid is satisfied and wants to do other things, not breastfeeding.
A mother’s diet forms the foundation of her milk. What she eats makes becomes the milk she produces. Sometimes a baby may be fussy because they’re sensitive or intolerable to foods that the mother eats. Common foods that cause intolerance and sensitivity include dairy, wheat, spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, and junk foods.
So, when a mother eats these offending foods, the baby’s digestive system undergoes stress as it cannot break down some of the food’s components. This can lead to gas, discomfort, and fussiness.
Fussiness is usually common in the first couple of months after delivery and during growth spurts. However, there are some circumstances when fussiness is a cause for concern. If your baby is gaining weight, achieving milestones on time, and is healthy, don’t worry about them being fussy. It will pass with time. But suppose the kid is not gaining weight and appears stressed. In that case, you may want to consult your doctor about your milk supply or whether the baby is intolerable to the foods you eat or has an underlying condition causing discomfort.