Does your baby make an unusual clicking sound when they nurse? If so, is it a sign something is wrong?
It can be hard to tell. Babies make a lot of cute noises and learning to distinguish what may be a symptom of a potential problem is important.
We’re here to go over what sounds are normal during breastfeeding and, more importantly, what a clicking noise may mean for your baby’s health.
Normal Sounds During Breastfeeding
Moms are often surprised by the varied sounds of breastfeeding. Most are completely normal and are an indicator your baby is getting the nourishment they need. Here are just a few of the normal sounds of breastfeeding (1):
- Gentle sucking.
A Clicking Sound
While a clicking sound is quite common, it may be an indicator of a breastfeeding problem. Sometimes the clicking noise is prominent, but it may be hard to distinguish from a normal sucking or smacking noise.
The clicking sound occurs because your baby is breaking the tight seal around your breast that they create with their lips. The sound of air and the breaking of the suction causes a noise.
What Causes Clicking Sounds When Breastfeeding?
Clicking may occur for a variety of reasons. Here are six of the most common (2).
1. Too Much Milk
If you are making too much milk or if you have a forceful letdown, your baby may have trouble keeping up with the flow. As your baby swallows, they may make a clicking sound as if gulping the liquid.
2. Engorged Breasts
Engorged breasts are ones too full of milk from a lack of expressing or an over-supply of milk and other natural fluids (3). It’s most common in the early days of breastfeeding as you begin to adjust to your milk supply and nursing routine.
When engorged, your breasts will feel full and hard and this can make a good latch difficult for your baby as they have a hard time maintaining suction.
3. Improper Latch
In most cases, a clicking sound during breastfeeding means your baby is not latched on correctly. They’re not able to maintain a good hold on your breast with their mouth, causing them to constantly adjust their tongue and lips.
4. Anatomical Abnormality
Your baby may have an abnormality in their mouth, including a very high palate or a tongue tie, more formally known as ankyloglossia.
When your baby is tongue-tied, a thick tissue band connects their tongue to the floor of their mouth, restricting the movement of their tongue (4). Babies are unable to hold their tongue in place for nursing and the tongue automatically goes back every few seconds, causing the clicking sound.
5. Ear Infection
A strong suck is necessary for successful breastfeeding. When your baby has an ear infection, it may weaken their ability to suck properly because of pressure build-up.
As your baby sucks, pressure builds inside the ear. If the ear is infected, this will likely cause them pain. To relieve the pain, they’ll break from their breastfeeding position to relax the jaw.
Several infections can make nursing difficult. The most common to cause clicking noises is thrush.
Thrush is a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth (5). Because thrush causes pain, soreness, and an itchy sensation, it’ll be harder for your baby to latch on consistently during a breastfeeding session.
If your baby has an upper respiratory infection, a stuffy nose can also cause baby to break suction to take a breath.
Other Signs to Watch For
If clicking sounds are an indicator of a breastfeeding problem, they’ll likely be accompanied by a few other symptoms. Here are a few to watch for (6):
- Dimpling of the cheeks: It can be hard to tell the difference between a sucking sound and a clicking sound sometimes. If your baby has dimpled cheeks along with the noise, it’s more likely to be a true clicking sound.
- Nipple soreness: Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. Nipple soreness and breast pain of any kind is a good indicator something is amiss.
- Misshapen nipple immediately after feeding: If the nipple looks creased or slanted like a new tube of lipstick, this may indicate a tongue-tie. This may be accompanied by pain and damage to the skin of the nipple. It can also happen when there’s too much milk – baby will use their tongue or gums to staunch the flow of milk.
- Clear mouth trauma: Examining your baby’s mouth can help you see if there is an infection or abnormality causing latch or nursing issues. It’s important to check with a doctor or lactation consultant to truly diagnose any problem
- Weight gain issues: When your baby doesn’t have a breastfeeding problem, they gain weight and hit milestones at an appropriate pace. Struggles to put on weight accompanied by clicking noises is a sign to talk with your doctor about.
We recommend talking to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you hear clicking noises, even if you’re unsure if that’s what they are. They’ll be able to properly examine and diagnose any issues you may have while providing safe and effective treatment options.