Clicking at the breast

Why does my baby make a clicking sound while breastfeeding?

The clicking or chirping sounds some babies make while breastfeeding is the sound of air rushing in as the baby releases the suction on the nipple. The baby will do this after getting a large mouthful of milk. Clicking is almost always normal. It may happen only at the beginning of a feed or all the way through, and it’s more common when the mother has a large milk supply. The release of suction should not hurt the nipples, but it may be painful if the nipples are already sore. 

A) Describing clicking

Some babies will make a chirping or clicking sound when breastfeeding. It is caused by the sound of air rushing in when the baby releases the suction on the nipple after getting a large mouthful of milk (Mills 2020).

During clicking, the baby’s jaw drops. After swallowing, the baby quickly reapplies suction to latch back onto the breast and continue breastfeeding.

The video below shows a healthy baby clicking at the breast. The baby is feeding well, taking in milk quickly, and not bothered by the clicking. The mother does not have any pain.

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B) When clicking happens

Clicking is nearly always normal. Generally, the more milk babies get, the more they click. Mothers with a large milk supply usually notice more clicking than mothers with an average supply.

Normal babies may:

  • Click the whole way through the feed.
  • Only click at the start of the feed.
  • Click at some feeds and not at others.
  • Never click.

C) Assessing and misdiagnosing clicking

If a baby clicks at the breast, the baby's mouth, breastfeeding history, and growth should be checked and any nipple pain addressed. Fortunately, most clicking is normal. 

Mothers are often told that clicking is a definite sign of a problem such as a poor latch or a tongue-tie (Hentschel 2018). Our clinic has found that nearly all babies who click grow normally and if not, the real cause of the slow growth needs to be found. 

If the mother of a baby who clicks has nipple pain, it is usually due to something other than the clicking. The clicking can hurt if the nipple is already painful. Once the nipple is no longer painful, mothers will feel the click but it won’t hurt.  

Babies who are weak or have trouble latching and staying latched may occasionally make other sounds such as slurping at the breast. This is not clicking. 

 

References

Hentschel R. Breastfeeding problems should be the only relevant criteria for deciding whether to carry out a frenotomy in infancy. Acta Paediatr. 2018 Jun 6

Mills N, Lydon A-M, Davies-Payne D, et al.  Imaging the breastfeeding swallow: Pilot study utilizing real-time MRI. Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology. 2020;1–8