Is it a sign of low milk supply?
It is true that a hungry baby may cry after breastfeeding, but as you may know, babies cry for several reasons during breastfeeding and many of those reasons are not caused by low milk supply. In a similar way a baby that is crying after breastfeeding may not be complaining about hunger.
Here is a list of possible explanations for a baby that cries after breastfeeding:
- He may want his diaper changed - often with babies and infants in particular, one meal equals one poop. And for babies, having a meal signals his bowels to move things along. If your baby is crying after breastfeeding, be sure to check his diaper.
- He may want to suck longer just for comfort - babies breastfeed for food of course, but it is also a very important means of comfort. If your baby has had a rough day due to poor napping or overstimulation or some pain like teething, he may really want to comfort suck even after his meal is done. Forcing a sensitive baby off the breast can lead to crying and complaints. Alternatively, he may just want to comfort suck, but there may still be milk flowing and he is full and doesn’t want more milk!
- He may have a large, uncomfortable air bubble - babies need to learn how to coordinate breathing and swallowing and they don’t always get it right. Sometimes milk gets in their lungs and they pull off coughing and sputtering and sometimes air gets in their tummies and becomes very uncomfortable. If your baby is crying after breastfeeding, be sure to get all of the air out by practicing good burping techniques.
- He may have been relaxed, comfortable or sleepy and you changed his position and he’s letting you know he is not cool with the manhandling. He was in his happy place and you went and messed it up. Perhaps next time, let baby drift off to sleep before breaking the latch.
- He may be bothered with gas or reflux - if your baby has the toots or is spitting up after breastfeeding this could be the source for his crying after breastfeeding. For gas, try laying baby on his back and moving his legs like he is peddling a bicycle. For reflux, be sure to burp well and always breastfeed baby with his head higher than his stomach.
- It could be something unique to your baby - My second baby cried every time she got the hiccups. I don’t know if they scared her or what but it happened every time without fail until she outgrew it.
So while a baby that cries after breastfeeding may indicate a real problem with low milk supply, this symptom by itself is not enough to be 100% certain. One baby who cries after nursing may be hungry, while another who cries after nursing may have discomfort from a large air bubble, gas, or some other complaint.
Begin by ruling out these possible causes for a baby crying after breastfeeding. After ruling them out, hunger may be the cause. You can test this by either having your daily milk production checked or you can give a bottle of breast milk or formula and watch carefully how vigorous your baby is with it. Is your baby sucking on the bottle out of reflex or is baby gulping and swallowing like he is genuinely hungry. Remember, any baby is likely to drink a bottle after breastfeeding, so you’re not looking for IF your baby drinks the bottle, but how it is done. If your baby seemed genuinely hungry while taking the bottle and seemed satisfied afterward, it may mean your milk supply is low and you should investigate how to increase it.
A baby crying after breastfeeding can be rightly upsetting to any parent. Use this guide to track down the cause.