Forcing a baby to breastfeed

Why is my baby getting angry at the breast?

Babies may become angry if they are forced onto the breast when they are not hungry. Some mothers do this when their baby gets older and the feeds become shorter or during the evening fussies. They worry the baby is not feeding long enough and not getting enough milk. By six months of age, a feed of just five minutes can be normal. They may be concerned that some of the baby’s behaviours indicate hunger when they do not. Other mothers worry about emptying the breast or giving enough hindmilk. Forcing a baby to breastfeed when they are not hungry will result in anger and crying. Other reasons for babies to cry when being pushed to breastfeed include: pain, latching problems, or having mothers with a low milk supply.  

A) Forcing a baby to breastfeed

Babies may become angry if they are forced onto the breast when they:

B) Worrying about short feeds

1) Normal changes in the length of a breastfeed

As babies grow older, their feeds become shorter. By six months for example, a feed that lasts just five minutes is normal. Compared to other babies of the same age, babies whose mothers have a large milk supply may feed even faster.

2) Forcing the baby to feed longer than needed

When feeds become short, some mothers worry that the baby is not feeding long enough, so they repeatedly push the baby back onto the breast. The baby may latch but will let go after a few sucks because the baby is no longer hungry. If the mother keeps putting the baby back on the breast, the baby may become quite angry.

When an older, healthy baby continues to come off the breast, it is a good sign that the baby is done feeding. 

If the baby is still giving hunger signs after the first breast, always offer the second breast, even if the baby’s feed on the first side was short. After the second breast, the baby should be happy being held and no longer hungry.

3) The evening fussies

Many healthy babies will be fussy in the evenings. Their feeds are short and forcing them to feed longer will make them even more upset.

C) Worrying about not emptying the breast

Some mothers keep returning the baby to the first side out of concern that the baby is not “emptying the breast” or “not getting the hindmilk” when feeds are short. This is not appropriate and will also make the baby angry. The baby may not need any more milk or may need the milk present in the second breast. Either way, they will get annoyed.

Instead of worrying about emptying and hindmilk and such, it is more important to ensure that the baby has a normal feed for its age and is growing well.

D) Misinterpreting the baby’s behaviour as hunger

Some mothers may offer the breast when the baby is not hungry because they have misinterpreted some of the baby’s behaviours as hunger signs:

Forcing a baby who is not hungry to breastfeed will result in the baby refusing to breastfeed and becoming angry.

E) Breastfeeding problems

1) Babies with latching problems

There are a small number of babies who cannot latch onto the breast or stay latched. If mothers persist in trying to latch them, they will become more and more frustrated and hungry, resulting in crying.

2) Mothers who have a low milk supply

Some mothers do not have enough milk. Their babies may breastfeed but remain hungry afterwards. They are often unhappy when returned to the breast and may refuse to latch or let go quickly.