Why Does My Baby Move So Much While Nursing? 21 Reasons

| Reviewed By Sarah Schulze, MSN, APRN, CPNP

Breastfeeding fosters a powerful bond between a mother and her baby. There may be instances where the baby becomes fidgety during a nursing session.

Why does my baby move so much while nursing? Babies may squirm during nursing due to hunger levels, general discomfort, distractions, excitement, milk letdown speeds, wanting attention, gas, normal muscle development, bad moods, or other similar reasons. There’s no need for concern unless the child shows clear signs of pain or illness.

Read on to learn the 21 reasons why babies move while nursing.

Why Babies Move While Nursing

Check out why your baby might be moving during a nursing session.

1. Happy/Excited

You and your baby can bond during a breastfeeding session. If your baby is happy or excited to be with you, they might talk or hum in addition to kicking and waving.

2. Distractions

Wiggling during breastfeeding is common among distracted babies. If your baby is moving their head during a nursing session, try moving to a quiet, less stimulating space.

3. Teething

You’ll know if your baby is teething by other symptoms, such as a low-grade fever, fussiness, or loose stools. Have a cold teether handy during nursing sessions to help ease your baby’s discomfort.

4. Slow Letdown

You may have a slow letdown because of stress, anxiety, certain medications, or caffeine. Consider working with a lactation consultant to help manage your milk flow if your baby gets fussy during a feeding.

5. Fast Letdown

When a baby takes in lots of milk at once from an overactive letdown, they might have gas and refuse the breast. You can work with a lactation consultant to establish a better nursing routine.

6. Breast Engorgement

If you’re suffering from breast engorgement, your baby may be moving to try to find a better position to latch onto the breast. Try feeding more frequently and massaging your engorged breast with your hand during feedings.

7. Uncomfortable Due to Gas

If your baby has discomfort from gas pain, they might be acting fussy, burping often, or even refusing the breast. Try rubbing their tummy to ease the pain, or use a nipple shield to control milk flow if you have a fast letdown.

8. Very Hungry

In addition to crying, babies also move their fists toward their mouths and their heads toward the breast when seeking nourishment.

When your baby is young, feed them every two or three hours. Avoid waiting too long between feedings to prevent your baby from getting too hungry.

9. Not Hungry

A healthy baby will eat when they’re hungry and might inch away from the breast when they’re not hungry. If your baby isn’t hungry while breastfeeding, you can still bond with your baby by reading a book, singing a song, or playing a game together.

10. Normal Neurological and Muscle Development

Growth spurts can make babies more active and fussy, including during feedings.

Babies typically have several growth spurts in the first year of their lives, so keep an eye out for increased hunger, fussiness, and waking up more often in the middle of the night.

11. Uncomfortable Positioning

You may have been holding your baby in the football hold, but as their legs get longer, you may need to try something new.

Experimenting with different breastfeeding positions, such as laid back or upright, can help your baby stay entertained and comfortable.

12. Needs Diaper Changed

Another cause of discomfort at the breast could be a wet or soiled diaper. You’d smell it if your baby made a poopy diaper. Most diapers have a wetness indicator strip that turns blue when it’s wet.

13. Baby Is Tired

When a baby is ready for a nap or bedtime, they might get squirmy. If it’s time for your baby to eat, take off their clothes except for the diaper to give them a full feeding before bed.

14. Baby Wants Favorite Breast

Most babies prefer one breast because of the milk flow or position of the breast. If your baby is young, check that there aren’t any illnesses or injuries causing them to favor one breast.

15. Knows Mother Is Distracted

Babies look forward to feeding sessions because they’re extra one-on-one times with mama.

If your baby knows you’re distracted and wants your attention, they might squirm or even smack your breast. Take that as a cue that your baby wants quality time with you.

16. GERD

Babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) spit up often and are typically irritable. If your baby has GERD symptoms during nursing, burp them more often, and hold them upright for about a half hour after the feeding.

17. Ear Infections

Signs of an ear infection include fever, increased fussiness, and pulling at the ears. Your baby may need an antibiotic, but most cases are mild.

18. Illness

Any illness can cause discomfort for your baby, whether they’re congested or hot from a fever.

Breastfeeding is vital when your baby is sick because they need to stay hydrated. Help your baby while nursing by treating their symptoms before you begin.

19. Too Hot or Too Cold

Being too hot or too cold can lead to discomfort in your baby, making them want to change positions. Add a blanket to your baby if they feel cold, or remove a layer if the back of their neck feels warm.

20. Baby Has Been Fussy All Day

A baby can be fussy for many reasons, including overtiredness, growth spurts, pain, teething, or hunger. As a result, your baby might be uncomfortable.

Try to calm your baby with a dark, quiet environment to help ease their fussiness. You may also want to switch breastfeeding positions if your baby is extra squirmy.

21. Finished Eating

Even when your baby has finished eating, they might want to keep hanging out with you. Once they’ve stopped and they’re not crying for more milk, you can end the nursing session and play with them a different way.

A young mother holding her breastfed son in her arms.

When To Worry

Most baby squirming is normal during breastfeeding, so there’s usually no reason to worry. If there are other symptoms like fever or shortness of breath, talk with your child’s doctor immediately for treatment.

Baby Kicking While Breastfeeding

Your baby might be kicking while breastfeeding because of excitement.

Babies kick as a way to communicate with you, so your baby is probably enjoying the time they’re spending with you during the nursing session.

Make sure your child doesn’t get overstimulated during breastfeeding as this may prevent him or her from getting a full tummy.

Baby Squirms and Grunts While Breastfeeding

Babies squirm and grunt while breastfeeding for many reasons, such as:

  • Oversupply or quick letdown
  • Learning how to suckle
  • Hiccups or gas pain
  • Unusual hunger
  • Reflux
  • Lack of hunger
  • Undersupply or slow letdown
  • Pain or discomfort

Baby Frantic While Breastfeeding

Your baby might be frantic while breastfeeding because they’re very hungry and excited to eat. You can calm your baby down by stroking their cheek with your finger and shushing them.

Once they start eating, they’ll gradually calm down until they’ve eaten enough.

Signs of Good Positioning in Breastfeeding

Signs of a good breastfeeding position include:

  • Holding the baby close to the body
  • Supporting the baby’s whole body
  • Baby’s body and head are in a straight line
  • Baby’s body is facing the breast with the nose toward the nipple

Closing Thoughts

Movement during breastfeeding is normal, but if you have concerns, feel free to reach out to your child’s pediatrician.