Why does my baby fuss at the breast and what can I do about it?

Combining breast and bottle feeding
  • Your breast milk flows differently to milk  from a bottle. Baby needs to suck for a few moments at the breast to stimulate the milk flow – this contrasts with the instant milk flow from a bottle teat. Combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding can lead to baby fussing at the breast due to a preference to the faster, easier bottle.

→ Avoid mixing breastfeeding and bottle feeding unless absolutely necessary whilst you’re getting started with breastfeeding. If you do need to mix feed choose a bottle teat that’s better suited to breastfeeding babies (a slow flow teat that requires baby to create suction for the milk to flow and not a teat that simply pours freely and requires no effort from baby). ** Needing to regularly give baby a bottle is not a normal part of breastfeeding. See a Lactation Consultant if you are experiencing difficulty in making enough milk for your baby. They can also give you great tips to combining breast and bottle more easily.

Pain or Illness
  • It’s important for baby to be comfortable to feed well. Perhaps his recent birth has caused some bruising on his head or neck? Has he just had his immunisations and feeling a little ‘off’? Is baby teething? Does he have a fever or early signs of illness and seems less interested in feeding than normal? Does baby look to be in pain or vomit after feeds?

→ Immunisations, teething or illness are short-lived causes for fussy feeding. Do your best to remedy baby’s discomforts and hang in there for a few days until the symptoms pass. Discomfort directly associated with feeding can make every feed stressful and difficult for both mum and baby. If you feel baby is physically uncomfortable at the breast for other reasons your Lactation Consultant will be able to help you find a more comfortable position and recommend other health practitioners to help your baby’s comfort.

Fussing at the breast is your baby’s way of saying “Stop!”. It is not always easy to work out why. Offering the breast when you sense baby is or should be hungry is always OK. But let your baby decide whether to accept or decline the offer. If he pushes away try not to feel rejected and offer again in a short time. If you’re concerned about your baby consult your doctor, health nurse or lactation consultant for further support.


Rowena Gray is a mother to 3 young daughters, nurse, midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and has been both a consumer and giver of copious amounts of breastfeeding advice!  She is the author of ‘Born to Breastfeed – the first six weeks and beyond’. Described as having your very own personal Lactation Consultant on your bookshelf, its easy to read layout includes trouble-shooting tables to help you match your baby’s behaviour to what is happening with breastfeeding.  

Born to Breastfeed – the first six weeks and beyond is available in bookstores, online (www.borntobreastfeed.com.au; www.thebookdepository) and is also available as an e-book through amazon.

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