My Baby Is Crying & Arching His Back When Breastfeeding

Mother playing with her baby son
It can take several months for breastfeeding to become easy. (Image: Sean Prior/Hemera/Getty Images)

The benefits of breastfeeding have been documented in thousands of studies. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of their child's life and that they continue breastfeeding after introducing solid foods to their children. Despite the benefits of breastfeeding, some mothers encounter problems at feeding time, and a fussy, squirmy baby is among the most common. If you frequently encounter difficulties breastfeeding your baby, consult your pediatrician or a lactation specialist.

Gas and Reflux

According to pediatrician and author William Sears, arching the back is a classic symptom of reflux, an illness in which the stomach's contents travel partially back up through the esophagus, resulting in vomiting and stomach problems. If your baby regularly cries and arches his back while eating, ask your doctor to test him for reflux. In other cases, the crying and awkward positioning may be due to gas. Babies frequently arch their backs to attempt to get relief from the pressure of gas in their stomachs.

Milk Supply Problems

In the first few days after birth, it can take a while for the mother's milk supply to catch up with the baby's hunger. In other cases, breast milk may come in faster than newborns can eat it. Both can be frustrating to hungry babies, resulting in crying. Babies frequently arch their backs in an attempt to reposition themselves when the milk isn't coming at the desired pace.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Rarely, food allergies and sensitivities can cause breastfeeding difficulties. Babies get particles of the foods their mothers eat in breast milk, so it's important to monitor your own food intake to prevent feeding problems. If you notice the crying only occurs at certain times of day or after certain meals, ask your pediatrician to test your child for food allergies. Some foods, such as broccoli, spinach and whole milk, tend to make babies gassy. Your doctor can recommend foods that will minimize your baby's crying during breastfeeding.

Home Treatment

Changing positions can make a dramatic difference and help you and your baby succeed at breastfeeding. Feeding in a semiupright position, with your baby's head slightly above his stomach, can help alleviate both gas and reflux. If you are having trouble with your milk supply, consider pumping regularly to increase milk production or consult a lactation consultant, who can offer you natural remedies to increase milk supply.

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