26 answers

4 Month Old Very Fussy While and After Nursing

I need help! My four month old son has started to become very fussy during his feedings. He will latch on for a moment and then pull off and fuss. My milk supply does not seem to be low and he has done very well up until about 3 days ago. I am very frustrated! I try burping him, changing breasts, rocking him, etc. Nothing seems to make it better. He fusses all throughout the feeding and afterwards. He is napping well during the day and sleeping for about 6-7 hours at night before waking up for his next feeding. He is happy and playful most of the day, only fussy during mealtime and right before naps. Any suggestions on what is going on/what i can do to improve the situation? This last feeding I offered him a bottle with formula and he drank it much better with little fussiness. I usually only give him formula once a week when my mother in law watches him. I would really like to continue breastfeeding, but at this rate, I am about ready to give up. Any help would be appreciated.

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Featured Answers

Hi K.,

my 6 month old did the same thing when she was about 3-4 months old.. she would cry and I'd go to feed her and she'd fuss while feeding and then she would cry a bit after. So i too tried the bottle and she stopped... My though was that the breast milk was not enough for her little tummy. Now she is on the bottle and i don't have to worry that she's not getting enought to eat... Try pumping and feeding him that way... thats what i did and i gave her formula, she way fine with it....

hope things work out :)
take care,
L. J.

He probably can tell the difference between the breast and bottle and realized that breastfeeding takes more effort and prefers the bottle since he doesn't have to work as hard to get the milk. Maybe you can pump and give him the bottle so that he gets the best of both worlds. Good luck.

More Answers

K.,

I applaud you for seeking some help/advice before giving up on breastfeeding. It does not always go smoothly, even when it has been going well for a while, things could change for any reason. Your son could be getting fussy on the breast because he realizes it takes more time and takes a little bit more work on his part to get the milk than it does from a bottle. What he is doing is very normal. I invite you to really think about how you are really feeling about breastfeeding. Are you anxious about it? Are you being completely present while you nurse? Sometimes we tell ourselves stories that aren't really true, or listen to other well meaning advice that disregards our own instinct; and it's so easy to get frustrated and start thinking of the other things we want/need to do while feeding our children...especially when it isn't going as well as we planned - Plans are neat. Motherhood is messy:)
I've copied an article a friend of mine wrote. She is a LaLeche Leauge consultant and an advisor with Birthing From Within - a holistic approach to birth and parenting preparation. I really can't say anything better than how she already put it. I encourage you to copy and print her article, and really feel what she is saying. I think it will help you get through this transition right now.
Also, we all know that breastmilk as absolutely the best for our little ones for the first year or two. That said, it is absolutely important for you to know that sometimes we have to do the next best thing...wich is formula. As long as we feed our babies with love and awareness, and no guilt for the choices we have to make. Just be sure that you really listen to your inner wise mamma voice; that voice that listens to your belly heart and to your child before making that decision.
I hope you enjoy my friends article, and may you have many many happy days of feeding your baby.

In peace,
A.
mom of 4. Birth and Parenting Mentor
www.birthingfromwithin.com

Breastfeeding From Within
By Virginia Bobro

Birthing From Within encourages and teaches "doing the next best thing" when it comes to making decisions within the flow of labor and birth. The same mind-set is important during postpartum and breastfeeding. In the days, weeks, months, and even years that a woman is breastfeeding, she will face numerous obstacles, detours, and unexpected events. How she prepares prenatally and how she views these challenges can make a difference in her ability to cope.

As a breastfeeding counselor, I support many breastfeeding mothers who have to change their perception of what a "successful" breastfeeding relationship is. Some mothers need to wean much earlier than they hoped. Others need to supplement with bottles or formula. These are opportunities to re-envision what it means to nurture and nourish their babies. Many mothers are humbled when the "breastfeeding fairy" presents them with difficult circumstances and spoils their fantasy that nursing is easy and blissful.

When breastfeeding does not go as expected or hoped for, a mother can feel regret, anger, blame, grief, and guilt. Inevitably, this negative self-talk begins to affect her self-esteem and attitude, her ability to receive support, and her relationships with her baby, partner, and others in her community.

So, what can be done?
In addition to learning practical things that make breastfeeding easier, do this:
♥ Learn and practice mindfulness.
The same pain-coping practices you learn to help you cope with labor can help you postpartum when you need to still your mind, quiet negative self-talk and deal with physical discomfort and stress. (See Birthing From Within, pp. 213-238).
♥ Get a breastfeeding "reality check."
Breastfeeding is natural, but not always straightforward and easy. Very few women sail through breastfeeding on calm seas from beginning to end. Even for the most vigilant captain, storms arise outside of her control, and still, she can do the next best thing. When women know that they can influence but not control what happens, they can see the wisdom of preparing for all possibilities.
♥ Set up your breastfeeding support system.
Having a supportive crew onboard in the first months of motherhood can make all the difference. Welcome meals, errands, and compassionate listeners. When breastfeeding gets rough, support is needed to keep going and not get mired in "what ifs" and judgment. You need to hear acknowledgment that you are doing your best, not more advice and information.

♥ Focus on connecting with your baby and yourself as a mother
Come to breastfeeding with an open heart. To the degree that you can, let go of your ideals and goals, such as breastfeeding exclusively for six months. Just hold the intention to do the best you can. When you love yourself and feed your baby in love, this is the heart of breastfeeding from within

EXERCISE: Feeding with Love

When sitting (or lying down) to feed your baby, try this:

Begin to notice all the sensations around you, beginning with your baby:
Look at her face, notice the touch of her skin, take in her smell and her sounds.

Then begin to bring your attention to your own body: Where does your body touch your baby's body? How is your breath moving in and out of your body?
Where do you feel relaxed and open?
Where does your body feel tight, tense, or closed?

Gently and mindfully breathe into those places, softening and releasing anything that is unneeded in this moment. This may take several minutes. Go slowly and do not expect perfection!

As your body lets go of anything extra, feel your heart opening.
Allow yourself to inhale the presence of your baby, loving her in this moment and loving yourself as well. With each new breath, feel into your baby's heart, visualizing a connection that endures beyond feeding time.

If feeding is difficult, your focus may return to the task of latching or monitoring the feed. Do what needs to be done, then, when you are ready, take another conscious breath and return to your opening heart.

Resources
Local La Leche League
Lactation Consultants
Other Supportive Breastfeeding Moms

1 mom found this helpful

Please don't give up yet. Formula is not a long term solution. He is less fussy because a bottle is SO MUCH easier. He doesn't have to work at all. So this could be a case of your letdown being very strong and making it difficult for him when he nurses? It could also be food allergies or reflux. I would suggest seeking the advice of a lactation consultant or visit LLL. The cost of doing either is far less than buying formula for the long haul.

Try different positions so he is a bit more upright.

It could also be teething. For any situation chamomile tea is always a good first step. But an experienced consultant will be of great help to you and well worth your time and energy. Good luck!

K., make sure he is not laying fat. May need to put more than one pillow under your arm. My daughter did the same thing years ago. For your comfort place something under your feet to elevate them. Takes pressure off lower back.
Good luck with your little man,
D.

He may be teething. Both of my children started those behaviours and teething at 3 months.

K.,

I agree with the suggestions so far...
1. Teething would be my number one suggestion.
2. Easily distracted at this age. Try a quiet spot, dark room
3. Thrush

Make sure he's still gaining. Feeding him is the priority no matter how he gets it.

Can you pump when he's not feeding well to maintain your supply? At least if you do give him a bottle, it can be bmilk.

M.

I really wouldn't read too much into the taking a bottle...it is easier and faster to take it from a bottle so, if he is hungry, he will take the bottle. A few questions..Fever? cold? allergies? teething? all those things could make it difficult to nurse. Also, 4 months is a transition time so he could be making some developmental changes that are affecting his feeding/napping. Try to weather it and follow-up with the pediatrician if you are concerned. Good luck

I 2nd pretty much what some others have said...could be food sensitivities from what you eat or reflux, gas. Gripe water maybe could help. A lactation consultant could help too, but if he's gaining weight well he's getting enough foodies.

I don't know why co-sleeping was mentioned by someone else, since this wasn't even in your question? Opinions on topics aren't necessary when one isn't asking for them.

Check for white spots in his mouth. He may have thrush which might make it uncomfortable for him to nurse. Also consider that he might be teething already and just getting used to that feeling. I went through several episodes like this with my daughter but they ultimately worked themselves out. You may also find great support and suggestions from your local le leche league chapter. You can find their phone numbers ok the Internet and don't wait for a meeting, just call. They are happy to help any time!

He probably can tell the difference between the breast and bottle and realized that breastfeeding takes more effort and prefers the bottle since he doesn't have to work as hard to get the milk. Maybe you can pump and give him the bottle so that he gets the best of both worlds. Good luck.

Maybe he has pressure in his ears? If he has an ear infection, when he lays down to nurse and all of that strong sucking can be quite painful. If he was sitting up more with the bottle it might not be as bad. See if you can switch positions and if he will nurse better sitting up.
You might also try making the room really calm and dark so that even if he is uncomfortable the surroundings can help him calm down.
Does he have a lot of mucus? It might be worth going to the Dr and get it checked if it doesn't clear up in a few days. But no reason to rush over there bec even if it is an ear infection they have found that the antibiotics don't always make that much of a difference. hang in there... breastfeeding is so much easier, economical, and better for your baby.

Hi K.,

my 6 month old did the same thing when she was about 3-4 months old.. she would cry and I'd go to feed her and she'd fuss while feeding and then she would cry a bit after. So i too tried the bottle and she stopped... My though was that the breast milk was not enough for her little tummy. Now she is on the bottle and i don't have to worry that she's not getting enought to eat... Try pumping and feeding him that way... thats what i did and i gave her formula, she way fine with it....

hope things work out :)
take care,
L. J.

*hugs* mama - it can be tough in those early months!
As far as pulling off and looking around, that is very typical at this age (in fact, I've never heard from a mom whose infant didn't want to look around while eating at 4 mos.) ;) 2 reasons: his vision is finally developed, and he's just passed that early stage where he just has to get bigger very quickly to survive - now his mission is to learn about the world around him. From birth until very recently, your son could only focus on things that were very clost to him, such as your face, or a carseat toy. Stuff on the other side of the room has been a blur. Now that he can see that ceiling fan spinning, or someone walking by on the other side of the room, etc - he wants to check that stuff out. I've heard it said that infants would rather learn than eat - and that was certainly true w/ my son....he would eat just a tiny bit, so that he wasn't starving anymore but never fill up (during the day) so he could go off to play some more. And then be hungry again very shortly after.
As far as being fussy, it's very hard to say here what is causing that. It's possible that he's just a strong-willed kiddo, and wants to keep checking things out, but he's hungry too, and can't satisfy both desires at once, so he gets a little angry with it. (With a bottle he can look anywhere, nursing he pretty much has to look at Mom). Or if his teeth have started moving, the inverse pressure caused by nursing could make them hurt more (teeth can start and stop moving months before they actually break through, so it's a possibility even if you don't see any evidence of teething on the surface. He'll likely be drooling a lot and trying to chew everything if that's the case though - and then some babies drool and chew everything anyway, no relation to teething.) If you've changed something in your diet recently, or changed deodorant/soap/perfume etc, he might not like the new flavors or smells. If his nose is stuffy, or his sinuses are clogged, he might have a bit of a hard time breathing while nursing.
And probably a hundred other reasons. I would guess that the first is most likely, but hard to tell from a quick internet post. ;)
When my son was going through that stage, it helped a lot to just go into the bedroom and lay down to nurse him, lights off & no distractions. Not necessarily everytime, but at least a few times a day. Mostly though, on his own, he transitioned over to more of a night-eating schedule (we co-sleep, so that wasn't a problem for me, I could still get plenty of sleep while he ate), he'd have several longer nursing sessions during the night, and just quick "snacks" for the most part during the day.
On the bottle thing, I would be very careful about giving him a bottle right now if you do want to continue nursing. At the very least, give him a bottle of pumped milk rather than formula; or make sure you are pumping after if you do give him formula. Every time he takes a bottle and you don't pump (and even a little w/ pumping since the best pump isn't near as efficient as your LO in getting milk out) your milk supply is going to be out of phase w/ your LO's demand for milk. Also, even if you offer pumped milk, frequent bottles may make him decide he likes that better than nursing (it IS easier, like someone else said, plus he can look around, and move around with it when he's older).

It's controversial, but I also started giving my son a sippy cup of water at that age. Breastfed babies do not need water, and you need to make sure they are not replacing milk with water, so that they are still getting all the calories they need. (My little guy was always 95% as an infant, so we pretty well knew he was getting enough to eat). He didn't drink very much at all at that age, mostly chewed on the spout, but it gave him another option. And got him used to "flavorless" drinks; he loves water to this day (He's 29 mos now).

I would call La Leche League and see if someone can give you an answer. It could be something that your eating in your diet? It's a miracle to get woman to breast feed these days and so easy to stop when you run into a problem. I hope you get more response from this website from some experienced Mom's.

I could be that he is having trouble latching on and likes the bottle because there is more to grab on to.

I used a "nipple shield" the first few months I was nursing and it allowed my son to latch on better and he wasn't as frustrated when I nursed. You can get them anywhere Target, or any drugstore and they are very easy to use. I hope it is a cheap solution that allows you to keep nursing.

I have a 6 month old who has servere allergies to everything. It maybe something your eating i.e milk,eggs can turn a baby away from the breast if he is allergic. Could be onions or other strong foods can make your milk taste different. Or maybe a simple as your perfume. Try process of elimination to see. But don't give up on breast feeding. It is the BEST thing you can give your little one.
Good luck!

Maybe something your eating is upsetting his little tummy. Do you eat spicy foods? coffee? there are many other things that might bother him. And the formula, is it regular or lactose free or soy?? if it's not regular maybe dairy bothers him.

Hope this helps a little, and good luck with your precious baby!!

This sounds awefully familiar to me!! Both of my sons have had reflux and they always got extremely fussy during and right after eating. Also, laying down would make them fussy because of the uncomfortable heart burn that comes with reflux. Does he spit up often?

Have you changed your diet. what you eat can affect the milk. If I ate onions or red sauce, my daughter would have problems. Hope this helps. good luck.

I had this problem when my little one was 4 months old too. It should be just a phase. Babies around this age are very easily distracted. It may help to nurse him in a quiet, dark room where there are less distractions. If you have to give him a bottle, choose a slow flow nipple so it isn't too easy or fun for him. Also, if you can, pump to stimulate your milk during those bottle feeds and give him the expressed milk. This way you can also see if there is something in your milk that may be bothering him. Have you tried any new foods that may be upsetting his tummy?

Advice from my Lactation Consultant when I was having this problem:

I suspect that this is a phase and that he’ll go back to cooperative breastfeeding shortly, as long as you follow the three rules of breastfeeding: (1) Feed the baby somehow; (2) Protect your milk supply; and (3) Keep baby breastfeeding friendly. Hang in there!!

Good Luck and keep at it!
J.
SAHM mom of a 4 1/2 year old and a 10 month old (still nursing!)

Hi K.!

My daughter is 5 months now but at 4 months she started doing the same thing. Start nursing and then pull away. She was actually also refusing the bottle when with my mother. It may be that she is teething because shortly after this was happening there it was, a pearly white tooth and now she was 2 teeth. You can try icing her gums down with a teether before nursing and seeing if this helps. I think it's pretty common for babies to not want to nurse when they are cutting teeth because their gums are swollen and sore. It should pass if this is the case.Your son may be taking the bottle not because of the formula but because the nipples are tougher and may actually feel good on his gums.

Maybe it's something you are eating and he is not liking the taste or can't tolerate it.
Or maybe he has an ear infection or something like that. I would get him checked
out by the Dr. I would try not to give up on nursing so soon if you can help it.

Take care,
K.

I didn't read everyone's comments, but this is what I've experienced...my 3 month old is going through the same thing. My Dr. said it was most likely food allergies (he wasn't showing the full symptoms of acid reflux) and had me take out 5 things from my diet for 5 days, make sure the symptoms went away, and then introduce each thing one at a time back into my diet to see what he reacts to. The 5 top allergens are: Dairy, Soy, Nuts, Strawberries & Chocolate. None of it was easy, but when my son went from shrieking in pain after he ate, and 1/2 the time just fussing while he tried to eat, plus blood in his stools...to being an angel baby, it was all worth it. If it is none of those things, the 2nd round the Dr. was going to have me try was Wheat, Eggs and one other that I can't remember, but you could look up online somewhere.
Anyway, my son is allergic to dairy and heavy chocolate & soy. I feel like his little system will get stronger and it will be something he grows out of. But we'll see.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions I might be able to answer!

no need to give up breastfeeding just yet (i had similar experiences with my babies). google kelly moms and breastfeeding and you should find a place to search your question and they can explain it all much better than me. if you still need some answers feel free to email me via this or at ____@____.com.

C.

It does sound a lot like acid reflux with the forceful spit up coming out the nose and such. I would get it checked by a doctor just to be sure though. You may have to change your diet a little to help him in any case. First step is to find out whether or not it is acid reflux, or a food allergy of some sort though. Food allergies are harder to figure out as you have to cut one thing out of your diet at a time and see if it changes anything and then switch and keep going until you find it. Don't give up just yet on breast feeding.

D. P.

Have you checked his mouth for white spots? My oldest & I dealt w/ thrush. She would do the same thing your son is doing. Thrush is a yeast problem that affects the baby's mouth & will affect your nipples. If he has white spots in his mouth on the inside of his cheeks.... could be yeast problem.... Just an idea. I hope that's not the case. Blessings

Hi,
I would call your pediatrician for advice on food sensitivities. I just had my third baby (he has colic at night) my doctor gave me a handout on colic and it said that after 4 months of age it should be cleared up. If fussiness occurs after 4 months it is probably due to a food sensitivity. My oldest son cried and screamed for his entire first year. I went strictly off dairy while nursing (took calcium supplements)and it helped him a ton. Quite a while after he quit nursing we discovered that he is BOTH dairy AND soy intolerant. As long as those two things are kept out of his diet he feels better and is a happier boy. Wish I'd known that when he was a baby, but we're all doing the best we can. Your pediatrician should have good information for you; I'd especially contact the doctor if this is a new change or development. They need to be informed on health changes so they can care for the baby better. Good luck....I know it can be sooo frustrating, hang in there.

Please don't co-sleep, it's so dangerous for these little ones. I just had a good friend lose a baby to SIDS. They didn't co-sleep, but SIDS is often associated with co-sleeping. There are so many things out of our control that can rip these babies from our lives; I firmly believe that we have to stack the odds in our favor with the things that we do have control over to keep them as safe as possible.

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