Your baby is never satisfied after breastfeeding, despite frequent and long nursing sessions. Learn 4 reasons why (and how to change it).
My newborn would nurse for hours if I had let him.
I’d breastfeed for 20 minutes on each side, but he’d start rooting again only minutes after latching him off. He always seemed hungry, practically eating and waking up every hour, and would cry even though I had just fed him. Sometimes I felt like I shouldn’t even bother with a shirt because I was nursing so often.
I couldn’t imagine how he was already hungry minutes after eating. Sure, he had plenty of wet diapers and was gaining weight just fine, but he never seemed satisfied after breastfeeding. He would sometimes doze off, but he’d often cry after I’d put him down.
I worried he wasn’t getting enough breastmilk, especially since I couldn’t exactly measure how much he was drinking. When he was given a bottle of pumped milk, he’d guzzle it down and fall asleep quickly, seeming so much more settled that way.
When your baby is never satisfied after breastfeeding
The worst experience as a mom to a newborn is feeling like you’re alone.
That you’re the only one who feels stuck nursing a baby who’s rarely relaxed or sleepy after feedings. You might take him off the breast after he has fallen asleep, but he just wakes up screaming within a minute. But as soon as you put him back on the breast, he’s fine once again.
As much as you love the bonding experience, you can’t help but feel resentful of how little time you get to yourself anymore. Couple that with worries about weight gain and producing milk, and breastfeeding has been challenging.
I can relate, mama.
And thankfully, I learned that there are reasons why your baby never seems satisfied after breastfeeding. These reasons reassured me that I wasn’t doing anything “wrong,” that most of these behaviors weren’t worrisome.
And more importantly, I realized I could make simple changes to help my baby feel satisfied, not fussy, after feedings. I hope you find this article reassuring, as one parent wrote:
“Thank you for writing this article. It was an answer to my prayers! I started reading this in the middle of the night as I frustratingly nursed my newborn yet again and started to feel my mental/emotional stability lean downhill. You somehow wrote my exact thoughts and feelings. I love the real, practical advice. It really helped me find hope and camaraderie in these sensitive postpartum weeks.” -Aliese
Take a look at these reasons, and what you can do about each one:
1. Your baby is not actually eating
I didn’t realize until much later that the constant need to suckle doesn’t necessarily signal hunger. I assumed that my baby needed to nurse because he was hungry, not because he was soothed by the sucking motion of nursing.
Comfort nursing isn’t bad—many moms love being able to soothe a fussy baby and bonding at the same time.
But if, say, your nipples are taking a beating or you desperately need a break, rest assured that your baby might be nursing for comfort, not hunger.
If that’s the case, try to keep him awake while he nurses. Change positions, burp often, take a break, even change his diaper. This will keep him from dozing off when he’s supposed to be eating.
How do you know he’s actually eating? Check his throat—if he were truly swallowing, you’d see movement around his throat, indicating that the milk is going down. You can also listen for a gulping sound—again, a sign that he’s taking in milk, not just moving his mouth.
And if he takes to it, see if he’ll be happy with a pacifier. He may simply want to be soothed to sleep through a sucking motion. You might try to sneak a pacifier in as he’s dozing off on the breast, or offer it as he’s starting to get fussy.
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2. Your baby is going through a growth spurt
Babies go through so many changes in the first few months than at any other time of their lives. They’ve also got tiny stomachs and immature digestive systems exactly at this age. Combine the two, and no wonder your baby never seems satisfied after breastfeeding.
Frequent feedings stimulate and increase your milk supply, far better than a pump could. Don’t see it as a hassle, but an opportunity—a strategy—to ensure you’re producing enough milk.
At this stage, feed on demand as much as possible. Our pediatrician told us that the biggest reason babies cry is because of hunger—i’s rarely that their clothes are itchy or that the room is too cold. For now, follow your baby’s lead and feed when he’s hungry.
3. You forget that fussiness is normal
Sometimes, we simply have to remember that fussiness is normal during the newborn stage. This is when babies cry the most, have crazy gas issues, and seem to be the most inconsolable.
Just because your baby used to sleep in three-hour stretches, doesn’t mean he won’t ever have a rough night again. Speak to any newborn mom, and she’ll tell you at least one episode when her baby cried and felt extra needy.
If you suspect issues with gas, try tricks like bicycle kicks, pushing his knees to his chest, or massaging his tummy. You might feed him after waking up so he has more opportunities to stay upright after eating.
This is also the time when he’ll be most attached to your breast, whether out of hunger or comfort. Any time you feel like things should be better by now, know that progress goes up and down, even if the general trend is going up. You’ll hit dips even as life continues to improve overall.
And should you truly feel concerned, reach out to a lactation consultant or find a support group like La Leche League. They can evaluate for particular issues that could be making breastfeeding more difficult than it needs to be.
4. You’ve painted a negative picture
No one is going to argue that caring for a newborn is hard work. As a first-time mom, these first few weeks and months will likely be some of the most challenging moments in your life.
And yet, despite those challenges, a glimmer of joy can still be found. Try to make the experience a positive one, given your circumstances.
Maybe you’ll see these nursing sessions as an excuse to binge watch television, listen to podcasts, catch up on reading, or simply to rest. Grab magazines, DVDs, a reusable water bottle, and snacks to keep you comfortable.
You can also remind yourself that these moments are temporary. Now, when you’re with a newborn, every week, even every day, can feel like forever, so I understand that “temporary” is relative. But know that however challenging frequent nursing is, it won’t always be this way.
It can be hard to tell if your baby is satisfied with breastfeeding, especially when he still seems hungry after feedings. Hopefully you’ve seen four compelling reasons why he never seems full, and what you can do about it.
For one thing, he may not be actually eating, especially if he uses nursing to soothe himself to sleep. If he is, then a growth spurt could be contributing to his constant nursing.
The other two reasons have more to do with us, the parents. We forget that babies do tend to fuss and cry at this stage. And sometimes, our very own stories that we tell ourselves depict it as a negative experience when it could very well be a positive one.
Your baby will eventually feel satisfied after breastfeeding, and that, yes, you can bother with keeping a shirt on after a while.
Get more tips:
- Is Your Baby Nursing for an Hour and STILL Hungry?
- 6 Ways to Handle Your Newborn Constantly Feeding
- When Does Breastfeeding Finally Stop Hurting?
- Burping a Newborn After Breastfeeding: Necessary or Not?
- When Breastfeeding Hurts (Even with a Good Latch)
Free email challenge: Feeling stuck in motherhood? Want to enjoy raising your kids again? Sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge! You’ll get one actionable tip a day that will make you think (and act) about motherhood differently: