Why Baby Squirms, Cries, or fuss while Bottle Feeding? (Bottle-feeding Problems and Solutions)

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When a baby squirms, cries, or fuss while bottle feeding, you do everything you can to comfort them and get them to take a bottle. Read on if you want to find the solution to your baby’s bottle-feeding problems. 

Breast milk or formula is the only nutrition for your baby in the first 6 months of their life. So, you make sure that they are drinking breast milk or formula from the bottle at each feeding session. 

But when a baby squirms, cries, fuss, refuse a bottle, or fights a bottle despite being hungry, you try to figure out the reason for their behavior.

And sometimes, it is hard to find a reason why your baby squirms and cries while bottle-feeding or why she suddenly started refusing bottles when everything was okay the day before. 

 Baby Squirms, Cries, or fuss while Bottle Feeding

There are many reasons why a baby squirms, cries, fuss, or fight while bottle feeding. The most common reason includes – they might be having gas pain, reflux, loss of appetite due to illness, not hungry, tiredness, the problem with milk flow or nipple, growth spurt, or allergies to formula or breastmilk. 

When a baby is squirming, crying, or fussing while bottle feeding, it is important to find out the root cause of the problem.

Paying attention to their behavior may give you some clues about their troubled bottle-feeding behavior. Once you know the reason, it will be easy to rectify the problem and return to normal bottle-feeding. 

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Why does the Baby Squirms, Cries, or fuss while Bottle Feeding?

Whether it is breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it is never a smooth ride. When you think you got the solution to one feeding problem, a second problem arises. 

When a baby suddenly starts squirming, crying, or fussing while bottle feeding, there is something wrong with them. They are giving you signals by displaying this behavior while bottle feeding. 

If you pay attention to their behavior, is there any particular time of the day they are fussy while bottle feeding?

Or is there anything they do while bottle-feeding that catches your attention? Some of the common bottle-feeding problems that baby shows are listed below.

If they show any of the following signs, you need to help your child return to their regular bottle-feeding routine. 

Baby squirms while bottle-feeding

Baby squirms and kicks legs while bottle-feeding

Baby flailing arms and legs while bottle-feeding

The baby is crying halfway through a bottle 

Baby making clicking sounds while bottle-feeding

Baby refuses bottle

Baby turns away from the bottle

Baby chokes while bottle-feeding

Baby bites on the nipple while bottle-feeding

Baby is not swallowing milk (baby dribbles milk)

Baby fights bottle but is still hungry

Baby Fussy during bottle-feeding breast milk

Baby cries while bottle feeding at night

If you see your baby displaying any of the above behavior while bottle feeding, you need to fix the problem.

Once you know the reason for their bottle-feeding problem, it will be easy for you to come up with a solution.

Now let’s look at the reason for each of these problems and solutions to return to your regular bottle-feeding routine. 

Baby squirms while bottle-feeding

If your baby squirms or moves too much while bottle feeding, there can be two possible reasons.

1. Distractions

As soon as babies start seeing and recognizing their surroundings, they start squirming or moving while bottle feeding. It could happen as early as 3-4 months. 

When babies begin to discover their surroundings – light, sounds, or objects, they will squirm while bottle-feeding.

For example, if they see their siblings playing in the background while bottle-feeding, they will stop feeding and respond to the sound or noise they are making. 

And as your baby grows a little older, they will squirm even more while bottle feeding because of their newly gained mobility. 

Solution

If your baby is moving so much or squirming while bottle feeding, you may want to feed them isolated.

Take them to a quiet room, dim the light, give them their favorite toy in their hand, and bottle-feed them. 

2. Silent Reflux

Another reason the baby squirms while bottle feeding could be silent reflux. 

Reflux occurs when the content of the stomach backs up into the esophagus. A baby with normal reflux will spit up the formula, while a baby with silent reflux content stays in the esophagus.

Because the baby can’t spit up with silent reflex, they usually arch their back which may look like squirming while bottle-feeding or refuse to eat.

Silent reflux is hard to spot as no spit-up is involved, and people usually label silent reflux as colic symptoms.

Solution

If you suspect your baby has silent reflux, talk to your pediatrician. They will guide you next. Silent reflux is manageable with small changes like

  • Smaller, more frequent feeding – to reduce the pressure on the stomach
  • Slow flow nipple – to reduce the amount of air baby takes in while bottle feeding.
  • Keeping baby upright while and after bottle-feeding – Hold baby in the upright position for 30 minutes after feeding to help reduce symptoms of reflux. 
  • Burping baby often while bottle-feeding

Related read: Why Baby’s Gas Smells like Rotten Egg or Sulfur?

Baby squirms and kicks legs while bottle-feeding

baby crying on man's lap and he is holding bottle

When a baby squirms and kicks legs while bottle feeding, it is usually related to their tummy issues. 

Too much gas can be painful for a baby. In an attempt to feel better, they squirm and kick their legs while and after bottle feeding.

If you see your baby squirming and kicking legs during and after feeding, they are likely suffering from gas pain.

Solution

Bottle-feed your baby in an upright position to reduce the amount of air they swallow while bottle feeding. Hold the bottle at an angle while feeding to avoid trapping air in a bottle.

Also, use slow flow nipples and burp your baby often while bottle feeding. Burp them every few mls to release the trapped gas from their tummy. 

You can also regularly give them tummy massages if they seem to have consistent trouble. 

Baby flailing arms and legs while bottle-feeding

Babies are born with a startle reflex, which is present for the first 3-4 months of their life. When a baby is startled by loud noise or motion, they flail their arms and legs.

So, if you are feeding your baby in a surrounding with loud noise or significant motion, it may cause the baby to flail its arm and legs while bottle feeding.

But this behavior while bottle feeding is temporary and can be easily rectified by feeding the baby in a quiet, dark room. 

Sometimes, changing feeding positions or locations can help the baby stop flailing arms and kicking legs while bottle feeding. 

Another possible reason could be tummy trouble. Tummy ache or pain can cause the baby to flail arms and kick legs while bottle feeding. 

Gas is very painful for a baby, and when flailing arms and kicking legs are accompanied by screaming, it is usually a sign that the baby is gassy or has tummy trouble

Also, flailing arms, kicking legs, and inconsolable crying at a particular time of the day (usually evening) can be a symptom of colic in a baby.

The colicky baby usually has high-pitched, inconsolable crying in the evening. 

Solution

Tummy issue is a common problem for a baby that are bottle-fed. So, you want to take care of how you feed the bottle to your baby.

Learning how to paced-bottle feed your baby can help reduce the episode of tummy trouble or air trapping in the tummy while bottle feeding. 

Always feed your baby in a partially upright position, take a break for burping a baby after every few MLS and give them regular tummy messages to relived trapped gas from the tummy. 

If you think you have a colicky baby, speak to your pediatrician. They will guide you on lifestyle changes if needed.

To relieve colic symptoms in babies, feed them in smaller quantities, walk them in a baby carrier, give them supervised tummy time, use a pacifier, swaddle them to make them feel secure, and give them a warm bath. 

The baby is crying halfway through a bottle 

When a baby is happily taking a bottle, but crying halfway through it, most probably they are not hungry anymore or need a break for burping. 

Bottle-fed babies are more prone to swallowing air bubbles than breastfed babies.

So trapped gas in their tummy may make them uncomfortable halfway through the bottle and result in crying and refusing the bottle when they are still hungry. 

Solution

Feed your baby in a slightly upright position rather than flat on their back to reduce the excessive air bubble trapping while feeding.

Try pace-bottled feeding your baby. Paced bottle feeding is a method of bottle feeding a baby to decrease the amount of air they swallow while bottle feeding. 

Also, makes sure to burp them after every few mls while bottle feeding. Burping will remove trapped gas from the baby’s tummy and allow them to finish the rest of the bottle. 

The baby refuses a bottle and cries

baby cries in mom's lap with a bottle in background

Bottle refusal is a very common problem among bottle-fed babies. You may experience this behavior multiple times during your baby’s bottle-feeding journey. Here is a sign of bottle refusal in a baby,

  • Baby turning away from the bottle
  • Baby not swallowing milk from the bottle
  • Baby playing with bottle nipple rather than drinking from it
  • Pushing the bottle ways
  • Screaming when the bottle comes near 

There are many reasons why a baby would refuse a bottle suddenly when drinking fine the day before. The most common reason for refusal includes

Any change in a baby’s bottle-feeding routine can also suddenly cause the baby to refuse the bottle

Solution

An overtired baby or a longer period between feeds can make the baby cranky and fussy while bottle feeding.

So, do not make drastic changes to your baby’s schedule. If it’s time for them to nap, go to a quiet room and soothe them to sleep.

Do not wait for the baby to be super hungry before offering them the next feeding. Hungry babies are cranky babies. Feed them before they are in the Hungry phase.

The sick baby also loses their appetite. So if your baby has fever, cold, nasal congestion, or teething, do not force-feed them. Make them comfortable and then offer to feed them. 

In the first few months, they catch cold and nasal congestion frequently. When they are congested, they won’t be able to breathe and bottle feed at the same time, hence the bottle refusal.

This simple solution is to put 2-3 drops of nasal saline in the baby’s nostril before each feed to unclog their nose. Then, they will take a bottle without fuss if they can breathe.

Transitioning from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding can cause the baby to refuse the bottle. Check out this article on how to transition from breastfeeding a baby to bottle-feeding for tips and tricks. 

Another common reason for bottle refusal is a change in temperature and taste of breast milk or formula you give them.

If someone else has recently started making a bottle for them, then make sure you know your baby’s liking.

Any temperature change (too hot or too cold) can cause the baby to refuse the bottle. 

Also, make sure to do a smell and taste test of defrosted breast milk before giving it to your baby.

As higher lipase content of frozen breast milk may change the taste and smell of breast milk significantly. 

Baby chokes while bottle-feeding

Baby choking while bottle-feeding is often due to the positioning and size of the nipple.

Baby flat lying on their back may lead to a faster flow of the milk that the baby can’t handle, resulting in choking. 

If you see your baby dribbling milk from the side of their mouth, it is likely that their mouth is full of milk they can’t handle. 

A nipple with wide holes can also contribute to how much milk the baby gets when sucking while bottle feeding.

You want to start with a slow-flow nipple, and once they are a little older and can handle the flow of the milk, change the nipple size.

Overflow of the milk in the baby’s mouth can also cause them to break suction while bottle-feeding resulting in gagging and choking. 

Solution

Bottle feeding baby in a partially upright position with holding the bottle at the level of the nipple will help control the milk flow.  

Paced bottle feeding method allows the baby to control the milk flow. Paced bottle feeding, check out this ARTICLE.

The baby is not swallowing milk.

Baby not swallowing milk is another classic bottle-feeding problem. If your baby is not swallowing milk from the bottle, you want to check the flow of the nipple before taking any other action. 

If the nipple opening is small or blocked and the baby cannot suck the milk from the nipple, they have nothing to swallow in the first place. 

A newborn usually starts with a slow flow nipple. If your baby is not getting enough milk in their mouth while sucking, they may get frustrated and refuse the bottle.

In this case, change the size of the nipple and see if the problem still persists. 

If you find that nipple size is okay and the baby is getting enough milk in their mouth while sucking (evident by the baby dribbling milk from the side of their mouth) but still not swallowing milk, then you have a problem. 

You also want to keep an eye on their behavior. For example, is it halfway through the bottle feeding? Or only at certain times of the day they are not swallowing milk.

If they are not swallowing milk halfway through the bottle, it could mean that they are not hungry anymore, or they are just being playful, or they are learning how to dribble milk from the side of their mouth (it’s fun for them).

In addition, the baby may not swallow milk if they are just being fed solid food and they are not hungry anymore. 

Solution 

If the baby is not getting enough milk in their mouth, then change the size of the nipple. 

But if you find that they are just not swallowing milk even though their mouth is full of milk, it could mean they are not hungry anymore.

So adjust your feeding schedule if you have introduced solids to your baby

Baby fights bottle but hungry

Is your baby pushing the bottle away but still hungry?

There are many reasons why a baby is fighting or pushing the bottle away but is still hungry. All the reason listed above in the baby refuses bottle section can apply here. 

Baby can refuse a bottle due to nipple problems, milk too hot or cold, change in the milk’s taste, change in baby’s feeding routine, transitioning from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, sickness, and more. 

Once you rule out all the common reasons why a baby fights a bottle when still hungry and nothing works, it is possible that the baby might have reflux.

A baby fighting a bottle or pushing the bottle away when still hungry is one of the signs of a baby with reflux. 

If the baby has normal reflux, you will also see the baby excessively spitting milk after feeding and gagging while feeding. 

Solution 

If you have tried everything mentioned above and nothing works in getting the baby to stop fighting the bottle when still hungry, you may need to speak to your pediatrician to rule out the possibility of reflux. 

To relieve the symptom of reflux, feed your baby in an upright position, give them smaller feeding at a time, and hold them upright for 30 minutes after feeding. 

My baby was a reflux baby. He would fight the bottle and kick his legs while feeding. He was also excessively spitting after each feed, even when he was held upright for 30 minutes after each feed. 

Then upon our pediatrician’s recommendation, we started giving him probiotics which help reduce the occurrence of spit-ups.

Fortunately for my baby, it was not uncomfortable; he would feed, spit-up, and then go back to what he was doing for the first 4 months.

So, it was more of a laundry problem than anything else. He got better and stopped spitting as soon as he turned 5-month-old. 

Baby Fussy during bottle-feeding breast milk

If your baby is fussy during bottle-feeding breast milk, there are several reasons behind this behavior. 

  • Breast milk is not at the right temperature for the baby’s liking
  • Change in the taste of breast milk
  • Spoiled breast milk
  • Allergies to milk protein
  • Problem with the flow of the milk

As mentioned earlier, a slight deviation from a baby’s liking can make them fussy while bottle-feeding breast milk.

Check all the possibilities of frozen breast milk – smell and taste test, correct temperature to baby’s liking, change the way you make a bottle for your baby, change the bottle and nipple.

If you have accidentally offered your baby expired breast milk, they may fuss while bottle feeding.

Excess lipase in stored breast milk may change the taste and smell of breast milk. And if you think this is the case, you may want to try giving your baby freshly expressed breast milk to see whether they are drinking from the bottle or not.

Your frozen breast milk is a problem if they drink from the bottle.

To reduce the odor of frozen breast milk, you can mix freshly expressed refrigerated breast milk with defrosted cold breast milk. 

If you have ruled out any other possibility and the baby is still fussy during bottle-feeding breast milk, the last possibility is allergies to cow milk protein.

Speak to your doctor about the milk protein allergies and your baby’s symptoms, and they will be able to rule out the solution if that is the case. 

Baby cries while bottle feeding at night.

Baby crying while bottle feeding at night is mainly associated with tiredness. If they are not sleeping well during the day or night, they will not feed well. 

An overtired baby will fall asleep without finishing their bottle. And when they are hungry, they will wake up often and demand to feed. 

Another possibility is wet nappies. But if your baby still cries while bottle feeding at night after a diaper change, they are probably overtired. 

You also want to ensure that they are dressed appropriately for the room’s temperature. They will fuss while bottle feeding if they are too hot or too cold. 

Solution

Make sure that baby gets enough nap times during the day and sleeps on time at night. In addition, you also want to make sure that you feed your baby before they get overtired. 

If your baby still cries while bottle feeding at night, you may want to dream feed them. 

In dream feeding, you feed your baby before they are fully awake. For example, if a baby’s nighttime wake time for feeding is 2 am, you want to give them a bottle at 1:45 am in their sleep.

Then, in their sleep, they may be able to drink from the bottle without fussing. 

What do you do when a baby cries or fuss while bottle feeding?

When a baby cries out of fuss while bottle feeding, you need to stop feeding them right away, do not force-feed them if they are fussing while feeding. 

First, try to calm them down and then find out why they cry or fuss while bottle feeding. 

Go through every scenario listed above and find the reason for their problem. For example, they might be in pain or not get milk from the nipple.

Once you find out the reason, you will be able to come up with a solution. 

How do you bottle feed when the baby squirms, cries, or fuss?

An underlying issue is when the baby is squirming, crying, and fussing while bottle feeding. Sometimes, these issues are easy to fix.

However, before you jump to any conclusion or take drastic measures of changing your formula or diet (if breastfeeding breast milk in a bottle), take this minor step.

The majority of bottle-feeding problems are associated with tummy trouble in the baby. 

So here are general tips for feeding a bottle to a baby when they are fussy.

  • Feed them in a quiet room without any distractions. Dim the light and bond with your baby when bottle feeding.
  • Check their nappy before you start feeding your baby. It could be as easy as changing a diaper to make them stop fussing while bottle feeding. 
  • Paced bottle feed your baby. It will help reduce the amount of air the baby is swallowing while bottle feeding. 
  • Check the bottle nipple for proper flow. Use age-appropriate nipple size to avoid too slow or too fast milk flow while bottle feeding. 
  • Keep your bottle-making routine consistent if more than one person is involved in caring for a baby. 
  • Give baby formula or breast milk at a temperature of their liking (37°C).
  • Feed your baby before they are over-hungry or overtired. 
  • If the baby refuses the bottle midway, do not force-feed them. Try to assess the situation. Look for a pointer – baby dribbling milk, baby gulping milk, baby squirming and kicking legs, or baby-making clicking sound. Then find a solution accordingly. 

Why does the Baby Squirms, Cries, or fuss while Bottle Feeding? (Bottle-feeding problems): Conclusion 

When a baby squirms, cries, or fuss while bottle feeding, it may seem complicated to find a solution as there are so many variables.

But if you pay attention to their behavior while bottle feeding, you may be able to come up with a solution. 

I hope this article gave you some reasons and solutions for your baby’s bottle-feeding problem. 

Let us know in a comment below if you know any tricks to a bottle-feeding fussy baby. 

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