clicking during breastfeeding

Can You Hear Clicking During Breastfeeding? Why? And How Can You Fix It?

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As a mom who’s navigated the breastfeeding journey twice, I know the worry that comes with hearing your baby make unexpected sounds during nursing. Both of my babies had episodes of clicking during breastfeeding – one due to tongue tie and the other because of laryngomalacia.

Here’s what I want you to know: hearing a clicking sound when breastfeeding is more common than you might think, and there are many reasons it could be happening. It’s not always a sign of a major problem, but it’s important to understand what’s going on in your baby’s oral cavity when they nurse.

Clicking usually means your baby’s ability to feed effectively is being impacted.

In this article, we’ll explore the various causes of clicking, from latch problems to oral anatomy differences, and discuss strategies to fix it.

As a breastfeeding counselor, my goal is to provide you with the knowledge and tools to make nursing a positive experience. So, let’s move on and learn more about why clicking happens and what you can do about it.

What causes clicking during breastfeeding?

Clicking sounds during breastfeeding can be concerning, but they are often a sign of a simple issue with latch or positioning. When your baby’s mouth doesn’t form a complete seal around the breast, air can get trapped, causing these sounds. Let’s break down what may lead to this:

  • Latch issues: A shallow latch, where your baby latches onto the nipple rather than the areola, can lead to clicking sounds. This indicates that they aren’t feeding efficiently.

Diagram showing anatomy of latch
Diagram showing the anatomy of latch
  • Fast let-down reflex: If your milk flows very quickly, your baby may struggle to keep up, resulting in them breaking the seal frequently and making a clicking noise.

  • Tongue-tie (Ankyloglossia): Sometimes, structural issues like a tongue-tie can limit your infant’s tongue mobility, making it hard for them to maintain a deep latch.

anterior tongue tie
Anterior Tongue Tie
  • Breast fullness: Overly full breasts can present a challenge. Your baby may have difficulty grasping onto engorged breasts, which may cause a clicking sound as they attempt to latch.

  • Oral anatomy of infants: Each baby is unique, and anatomical variations like a lip-tie or laryngomalacia (floppy skin in your baby’s throat) can affect how your baby navigates feeding.

Strategies for improvement

common breastfeeding positions
Breastfeeding Positions

Here’s a rundown of what you can do to improve breastfeeding, make it more comfortable for you and your baby, and silence the clicking.

  1. Adjust your baby’s latch: A poor latch can cause clicking sounds during feeding. Aim for a deep latch with your baby’s mouth covering more of the areola, not just the nipple, to improve milk flow. They need to have a wide-open mouth and take a big portion of your breast into their mouth.

  2. Correct poor positioning:

    • Hold your baby tummy-to-tummy.

    • Align your baby’s nose with your nipple.

    • Check for a straight line from your baby’s ear to shoulder to hip.

  3. Breastfeeding aids: If you’re experiencing nipple pain, consider using nipple shields as a temporary solution. Breastfeeding pillows can help in maintaining the right position.

  4. Address oversupply/fast let-down: If you have a fast milk ejection reflex, try nursing in a reclined position or express a little milk to slow the flow before latching your baby.

  5. Check for tongue-tie or lip-tie: These conditions can affect your baby’s oral anatomy and feeding behaviors. Consult a lactation expert if you suspect a tongue-tie or lip-tie.

  6. Breaking the seal carefully: If you hear clicking you need to remove your baby from your breast. To do this, gently insert your finger into the corner of his/her mouth to break the suction.

Is a clicking sound always a bad sign when breastfeeding?

clicking during breastfeeding usually indicates a bad latch.

A clicking sound when breastfeeding your baby usually indicates that your baby is not latched on correctly, potentially leading to issues like nipple soreness, breast pain, or inadequate baby weight gain. In some cases, clicking can be the only noticeable sign of feeding issues so an assessment by a lactation expert is a good idea.

Although it’s less common, persistent clicking could hint at ear infections. Are they uneasy or pulling at their ear? Do they have a red face? If you’re hearing clicking and suspect an ear issue, it’s time for a pediatric visit.

Normal sounds during breastfeeding

So what should you hear during breastfeeding?

  • Sucking noises: A gentle, rhythmic ‘suh-suh-suh’ as your baby nurses is a good sign. This indicates a steady, effective sucking pattern.

  • Swallowing sounds: Once the milk is flowing, you should hear soft swallows, which might sound like a quiet ‘kah’ or ‘gulp’. It’s evidence that your baby is getting milk and transferring it from mouth to stomach.

  • Humming: You might sometimes hear low-pitched humming or murmuring. Believe it or not, some babies hum for comfort or because they’re content.

  • Silence: Remember, a quiet feeding session can also be completely normal. Every baby is different, and some are just more discreet diners.

Stay tuned to these sounds; they’re like little cues from your baby, letting you know how the meal is going. If something sounds off, get some guidance.

Other signs of a breastfeeding problem

worried mother holding her baby

Here are some tell-tale signs that could indicate a problem beyond the occasional clicking sound.

  • Painful nipples: If your nipples are sore or breastfeeding feels like torture instead of that sweet bonding time, your baby might not be latching on quite right.

  • Losing weight: Keep an eye on your baby to ensure they are gaining weight. If they’re not packing on the ounces, they might not be getting enough milk.

  • Breathing heavily: If your little one sounds like they’re running a marathon instead of nursing, they could have a high palate that’s making it tough to suck properly.

  • Coming off the breast frequently: Usually an indication of a latch issue, it can also indicate colic or abdominal discomfort.

  • Engorgement: Tender, very full breasts can be very uncomfortable and may indicate that your baby is not emptying your breasts fully while nursing.

  • Blocked ducts: Although very common, clogged or blocked ducts in the breasts can lead to mastitis. Ensure you empty your breasts regularly either by breastfeeding or pumping, and massage gently.

Where to seek help

There’s plenty of help out there! Here’s a list of types of professionals who can help you:

  • Lactation Consultants

  • Breastfeeding Counselors

  • OB/GYN

  • Pediatrician

  • Pediatric Dentists

  • Family Doctor/GP

  • Dietician or Nutritionist

  • Speech and Language Therapists (SALT)

  • Pediatric Cranial Osteopath

  • Breastfeeding Support Groups

Clicking into place

As a mom who’s been there and a breastfeeding counselor, I want you to remember that you’re not alone when your baby makes clicking sounds while nursing. It’s important to understand what’s happening and why, so you can break suction, improve your baby’s latch, and make feeding easier for both of you.

While clicking during breastfeeding can be caused by various factors, from tongue-tie to a fast milk let-down, the most important thing is to trust your instincts and seek support when needed. With the right knowledge and resources, you can overcome these challenges and nurture a beautiful breastfeeding bond with your little one.

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