23 answers

Trouble Breastfeeding After 3 Months

After 3 months of exclusive breastfeeding my 3-month old daughter, she has become extremely fussy at the breast. It started off in the evenings only about 2 or 3 weeks ago but for the last week it happens throughout the day. I was told it may be that my milk has a fast-letdown so I have tried to pump to help with that, but still she is fussy. We recently introduced the bottle as my husband and I prepare fo rmy return to work, so maybe that's it? I appreciate any advice from this group, thanks in advance.

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More Answers

Hi C.,
There are several things that could be going on right now. First, at three months most babies become more aware of their surroundings and more easily distracted. Try nursing in a dark, quiet place for a few days and see if that helps. Second, have you started using a different cologne or laundry detergeant? New odors may disturb your baby since you no longer smell like Mom. Third, are you a bit conflicted about returning to work? Your daughter may be picking up on this, which makes her a bit uneasy and fussy. Fourth, you probably already know that while babies nurse at the breast, they suck on a bottle - two different techniques - and she may be a bit confused. Have your babysitter try using an eyedropper or baby spoon to give her your expressed breast milk. Fifth, look at her. Is something physical bothering her? An ear infection? A stuffy nose? A rash? Any or all of these things could be at play right now, so you need to be a detective. I hope that this helps.

There are so many factors, I would recommend going on www.kellymom.com . It's a great resource for breastfeeding issues. You may discover many more factors once you do a little more research on there.

I had plenty of b'feeding issues myself (particularly latching) and consulted a La Leche League lactation consultant. She was incredible and I was able to continue b'feeding for 10 months (when my daughter started biting and no strategy could cure it!) even after I went back to work. I would highly recommend meeting with one!

It could be that she is just getting more interest in the world around her, not wanting to take time out of her busy day to nurse :-) Try a quiet room with the lights off, no TV, maybe even lying down next to her to nurse. Some babies go through phases where they are very distractable.

If that doesn't help, she may be upset about transition from breast to bottle and back. If you want to keep breast feeding, don't offer a bottle yourself. Mommy should only breast feed, and other caregivers can bottle feed when you're away. Consistency here might help.

Fussy can mean a lot of things with a baby! My dd got fussy after a while too and part of it was that her vision had improved and she could see further away and was so busy noticing everthing that she just wasn't getting down to business anymore! I just stuck with it and she got down to it when she was hungry enough. It passes--and then the grunting and pinching begin! lol

I seriously doubt it is your letdown. The bottle comes out faster than your breast for sure. Since you are introducing the bottle, I would bet she has developed a preference for the bottle. My oldest did. It is more work to feed from the breast and the bottle just comes out so easily and quickly that they often just prefer it.

Many children get fussy at the breast when mommy is eating something that irritates them. It could be that you have introduced something to you diet that isn't agreeing with her. And now that you are pumping she may not be getting enough from your breast and thus is very frustrated. They like to latch on and have a full breast to tug from. Mine gets irritated when he's been cluster feeding and my breast isn't nice and full. He will pull and tug and growl and then eventually let go and fuss.

Another problem might be gas. Is she burping well after she feeds from each breast? Mine has become gassy after two weeks of eating fine. I have to give him Mylecon drops before he nurses to help with gas. I also think that I ate a type of taco spread with some little peppers and that it has irritated him.

One more thing you might consider. Are you supplementing at all with formula? Sometimes the formula gives them gas and that could be making her fussy everytime she eats.

If you are going to go to a bottle when you return to work, then maybe you should just pump and feed her that way if it makes her happier.

Hi C., since you're returning to work, pump your milk and put it in bottles and hold her oh so close when feeding her for the bonding and closeness.

I had trouble with my daughter when she was younger and it was the letdown. She would fuss and cry and I had to go visit a lactation consultant and she showed me how to hold her differently. I also pumped for a few days to get her system back to normal. The problem was that there is a fattier milk that comes out first and that was all she was getting; she wasn't getting the hind milk at all. I pumped for a few days and she was alot better. Also, check your diet. You could be eating something that is making her uncomfortable.

It's probably nothing to do with your supply. I had the same issue arise at about the same age. Likely your daughter is finally finished with the "fourth trimester" and has suddenly realized there's a world to be seen! She's looking around and interested in everything, and it's harder for her to stay on task. You could try nursing in a darkened room or using a nursing cover to cut down on distractions, if you feel it's a real problem. See kellymom.com or askmoxie.org (keyword breastfeeding) for more info about this time.

Most babies can deal with a fast letdown just fine. After all, she has been ok until a couple weeks ago and your body hasn't changed. So I don't think that's likely to be it...

I agree - could be the bottle. Make sure you're using a newborn/slowest flow nipple with the bottle and that someone else (NOT YOU) is bottle feeding her. Think about it: your boobs don't change their "flow rate" as your baby gets older. It's really appropriate to use a newborn nipple the entire time your baby is bottle fed, when you're also breastfeeding. Otherwise they get lazy b/c getting milk from the breast requires more effort than a bottle (esp. with a fast-flow nipple). Also, it's confusing to babies when mom, with the boobs, starts feeding them milk in some other way.

Also, check your diet. Are you eating anything new that might disagree with her? My son always hated it when I ate cheap chinese food....

HI C..
I had a similar experience when my daugher was 2 months. I had recieved similar advice about letdown (mine was very active too) but it didnt make a lot of sense to me because she had dealt with it just fine before then! We saw a lactation consultant and she immediately suggested it was acid reflux caused by my consumption of dairy products. I got rid of the milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., and my daughter got rid of the fussing. We've had a great relationship with breastfeeding ever since. I highly reccomend a lactation consultant. The $100 I spent for two hours with her has paid for itself again and again!

She may also be reacting to the bottle. The bottle by its nature is easier and required less effort. She may not want to "work" for it when at the breast. This is definitely common. You just have to work through it. With my daughter we went from exclusive breast to breast at night and first thing in the morning with bottles in between. (I was going back to work as well.) It took her a few days to get used to it but then she did. Her fussiness may also be augmented by the fact that she is probably more tired in the evening and a bit fussier to begin with. Hang in there.

I have the same problem and my baby is 4 1/2 months old. Mine mostly gets fussy when he's more tired than hungrey, so I stop feeding him and lay him down. I'm not sure if that could be the case with you. I was told the same thing about the fast letdown and they told me to feed him in the football hold so he is kind of sitting up while I lean back. It didn't seem to help any, so if I think he is truely hungrey and is still fussing, I try for a burp and then just let him fuss at the breast and he eventually settles down. Sometimes i'll switch sides if the other side is more empty because I think he just wants to suckle for the comfort and not for the milk.

Hi C.!
I had similar issues and just continued to pump milk until my son was 15 months. I had a Medela double pump. I pumped 5x daily. Once before work, twice at work, once when I got home and once right before bed. It took about 20 minutes to fill 2 small bottles. It was hard work but I was happy to continue giving him the "good stuff".
Good luck!
S. in Lisle

Hi C. - this happened to me with my son as well and I had both an overactive letdown and an over-supply of milk. Some things that were recommended to me by a lactation consultant were:

1. recline or even lay down on your back when nursing
2. press w/ a good amount of pressure the palm of your hand against the top of your breast (picture putting your hand over your heart to say the pledge) - this actually helped a lot
3. pump a little before nursing but only a little
4. feed off only one breast per feeding if your baby can get enough and then switch to the other for the next feeding

Good luck - I spent a lot of time trying to work through this with my son and it took some time but the issues did go away. I live in Evanston and had an outpatient appt with a lactation consultant at ENH which was very helpful and more reasonable than having someone come to your home. Maybe you could try that and have them observe.

Is your daughter also fussy with the bottle. Make sure you are using nipples that let the milk out slowly. If she doesn't have to work to get the milk out of the bottle, she may ger frustrated having to work at the breast.

Also, are you eating anything that may be upsetting her stomach, such as tomato sauce or a lot of dairy? My daughter would get really fussy whenever I ate a lot of tomatoes.

Where are you breastfeeding? Is it somewhere with a lot of action? I think my daughter was a little older than 3 months when I had to start feeding her exclusively in a chair in the corner of my bedroom with no one else around. Otherwise she would get too interested in things around us and not eat well, although she was hungry and would be fussy.

Finally, she may be teething. Is she drooling, chewing, have a runny nose, etc.? Try some tylenol before she eats and see if that helps calm her down.

Good Luck,

Hi! I'm a SAHM of a 3 month old and a 3 year old.

My 3 month old had the same trouble about 2 weeks ago, but my problem was that my milk had depleted, so I've been on fenugreek (Mother's Milk) tea and capsules. but that doesn't sound like your problem.

If she's fussy at the beginning of feeding, she may be having gas issues. Try some gas drops before you begin and then burp frequently throughout.

She may be having trouble with the switch to the bottle. Maybe cut down on the amount of bottles for a little bit and re-introduce more slowly. Or if you're comfortable, switch all the way to the bottle and pump.

I hope this helps!

I started to have some trouble breastfeeding my oldest daughter when she was three months old, and it turned out that I was pregnant and the strain of the breastfeeding and the pregnancy was affecting me and my milk, so I had to switch to formula. Hope this helps!

If she takes the bottle ok but is fussy at the breast perhaps it's nipple confusion. I had it happen both ways with my daughter; once at about the same age as yours (refused the bottle) and again later when I had to pump and dump for three days which caused a nursing strike. You might try having a couple days where she doesn't get the bottle, on the weekend perhaps when you're not working.

When my daughter went on her nursing strike I found the only thing that worked was to banish the bottle and reintroduce nursing as if she was a newborn, just learning to latch on again. She wouldn't do it herself at first but she definitely got the hang of it quickly once the bottle wasn't an option. It took a few days and was nerve-racking since I worried about my milk supply dropping, but persistence paid off.

If the fussiness started around the time that the bottle was introduced, i would almost gurantee that's the problem (given that you've tried pumping a little first already to help with possible fast let-down). It is SO much easier to get milk from a bottle than it is to nurse! Perhaps you could nix the bottle and go to feeding her from a cup or a syringe? Both of those work just fine for a baby.


I think your best bet is to have a lactation consultant witness these fussy feedings to help you determine the cause. They will be able to tell so much from witnessing it themselves. They can help you analyze your diet to see if it's something you're eating (i've heard some foods can alter the taste of your breastmilk), look into anything new (new bar soap? stress or anxiety? etc.) they may be able to tell if she's teething (it is possible to start cutting teeth already), ear infection, or water in her ears, gas, reflux... the list goes on.

Maybe she's teething? My son got his first tooth at 4 months and was very fussy nursing for a month prior. He was also diagnosed with acid reflux around the same age. I guess I would try a lactation consultant and a trip to your doctor before you go back to work and your schedule gets more hectic.

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