Baby Behavior While Breastfeeding: Everything You Need to Know

Need the “too long, didn’t read” version? Most baby behavior while breastfeeding is completely normal. Babies wave their arms, touch mom’s face, kick, twiddle, and play with their hands while nursing. There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, but there are ways to help keep your baby on task. And it’s never too early to redirect your baby to polite breastfeeding behavior!

Want the nitty gritty details? Keep reading or click these links to jump ahead.

  1. What if my baby touches my face while nursing?
  2. What if my baby swings her arm while nursing?
  3. Why does my baby move so much while nursing?
  4. My baby squeezes my breast while nursing. What’s up with that?
  5. Why is my baby twiddling while nursing?
  6. What if my baby hits me while breastfeeding (or pinches, or slaps!)?
  7. What is a nursing necklace?
  8. What other things can I do to keep my baby busy while nursing?
baby behavior while breastfeeding

Nice things babies do while nursing 

Babies are curious about the world around them and eager to explore and test out any new skills they are developing. Sometimes, you’ll see this in behaviors like…

What if my baby touches my face while nursing?

Your baby is exploring your face and feeling the different textures and contours of your lips, nose, and cheeks. If you want to encourage this behavior, try gently “nibbling” on your baby’s fingers or kissing their hand.

But this behavior might not be so sweet if your baby is sticking their fingers up your nose or pulling on your lips. If you don’t like what your baby is up to, try redirecting them to touch a part of your face that is okay. Hold their hand and help them touch a toy or another part of you

What if my baby swings her arm while nursing?

Babies swing their arms for a lot of different reasons. They may be working off extra energy, practicing their arm movements, or be excited or frustrated. As they get older, they will start clapping or waving to show they are excited.

If you’ve had enough of the “boob rodeo,” try giving your baby something to hold, like a toy or burp cloth, or hold their hand.

baby behavior while nursing.... at least your baby isn't a dragon!
Look on the bright side! At least your baby isn’t a Norwegian Ridgeback. They can breathe fire as early as 1-3 months! Source.

Why does my baby move so much while nursing? 

There are many different reasons a baby moves while nursing. Very young babies may move and squirm if you have a strong letdown and the torrent of milk flow is too much. Likewise, if your breasts are engorged, your baby may struggle to latch. They may move around in frustration. 

Older babies love to wiggle and move while nursing. They may 

  • Kick
  • Push with their feet
  • Try to rotate to a different position
  • Move to look at something interesting 
  • Try out a new skill they are working on, like rolling over, sitting, or standing 
  • Experiment with switching to the other breast… 

The list goes on and on.  Gymnurstics, as I like to call them, are totally normal. Try to help your baby with whatever skill they are working on. Try out different nursing positions that keep them busy. And, as always, try playing with a toy or blanket with your baby.

My baby squeezes my breast while nursing. What’s up with that? 

Science has actually shown that newborns are meant to use their hands while nursing! Squeezing the breast helps stimulate milk letdown, and using their hands helps them learn to latch properly. As long as your baby isn’t hurting you, squeezing the breast while nursing is fine. 

Not-so-nice things babies do while nursing 

Not everything a baby does while nursing is cute or funny. If the behavior is painful or annoying, check out Kellymom’s guide to teaching a baby good breastfeeding manners. 

Why is my baby twiddling while nursing?

Your baby is exploring your body, but this one can be really annoying. Try wearing a bra or shirt and covering up the breast your baby isn’t nursing on. Or, offer a toy, cloth, or nursing necklace. 

What if my baby hits me while breastfeeding? (Or pinches, or slaps)?

Some behaviors are not appropriate while nursing. First, try gentle redirection with a toy, blanket, or nursing necklace. 

If they continue, tell your child in a firm voice “If you keep hitting me, we will stop nursing.” Be careful your tone does not scare them. 

If they continue the behavior, stop breastfeeding and explain why you stopped, using simple words. “I can’t nurse you while you’re hitting me. Let’s go play and we will nurse in a little while.” Wait a few minutes to begin nursing again, or wait until your child asks. 

What is a nursing necklace? 

A nursing necklace is a great way to help focus your distracted baby. The silicone beads provide e a new feel and texture for your baby, and they come in lots of fun colors. Wear it around your neck while nursing and offer it to your baby to distract them from bad habits. I sometimes add “charms” to my nursing necklace, like teethers, to spice things up. 

Did you know Ewoks use strands of berries to distract their nursing Woklings? Source.

What other things can I do to keep my baby busy while nursing? 

  • Stroke your baby’s head. This may calm them
  • Hold your baby’s hand
  • While holding your baby’s hand, help them touch or point to different things, while you narrate. “That’s your ear! Here’s your shirt!” Bonus – this may encourage them to touch their own clothing or body instead of yours!
  • Clap or wave with your baby’s hand
  • Play finger games, like patty cake, itsy bitsy spider, or baby shark, or even this little piggy
  • Play peekaboo with a blanket 
  • Give your baby a blanket, burp cloth, or small toy to hold. I like these little bath toys, they have different textures and they come in a pack of 8 for when my daughter inevitably loses them or the dogs chew on them. Or try a nursing necklace
  • Try using a finger puppet. Use it to talk to your baby or tickle them! My daughter loves when they dance or move closer and further away!
  • Wear a colorful scarf for your baby to play with
  • Sing a song
  • Read a book out loud. It can be a kid’s or adult book.

Conclusions: Baby behavior while breastfeeding 

It’s important to keep in mind that many of your baby’s behaviors while breastfeeding will change quickly. As they learn new skills, your baby will experiment with new activities. Be patient, they will move on to a new behavior while breastfeeding soon! And hopefully one that’s more mom- friendly! 

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