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Clicking When Breastfeeding: What Causes the Sound?

Medically Reviewed by Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Learn about the causes of clicking while nursing.

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 we must learn to distinguish what may be a symptom of a potential problem.

That’s why we’re here to help. We’ll review the facts and what breastfeeding experts have to say about clicking sounds. We’ll discuss what sounds are normal during breastfeeding and, more importantly, what a clicking noise may mean for your baby’s health.

Key Takeaways

  • Clicking sound during breastfeeding may indicate a problem, such as improper latch, engorged breasts, or anatomical abnormality.
  • Other causes of clicking sounds can be ear infections, thrush, or excessive milk flow.
  • Watch for additional signs like dimpling of cheeks, nipple soreness, misshapen nipple, and weight gain issues.
  • Consult a doctor or lactation consultant if you hear clicking noises to diagnose and address any issues.

Normal Sounds During Breastfeeding

Moms are often surprised by the varied sounds of breastfeeding. Most are entirely normal and indicate your baby is getting the nourishment they need. Here are just a few of the normal sounds you may hear your baby make when breastfeeding (1):

  • Gentle sucking.
  • Swallowing.
  • Inhaling.
  • Exhaling.
  • Grunting.

A Clicking Sound

While a clicking sound is quite common, it may indicate a breastfeeding problem. Sometimes the clicking noise is prominent, but it may be hard to distinguish from a normal sucking or smacking 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 have a forceful let-down, 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

Breasts become engorged breasts when they’re too full of milk. This could be due to a long stretch without breastfeeding, 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 adjust to your milk supply and nursing routine.

When engorged, your breasts will feel full and hard, which can make a good latch difficult for your baby as they have difficulty maintaining suction.

3. Improper Latch

In most cases, a clicking sound during breastfeeding means your baby is not latched on correctly. They cannot maintain a good hold on your breast with their mouth, causing them to adjust their tongue and lips constantly.

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 the tongue to the floor of the mouth, restricting the tongue’s movement (4). Babies are unable to hold their tongue in place for nursing, so 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.

6. Infections

Several infections can make nursing difficult. The most common infection that causes a clicking noise 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 your 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 signs to watch for (6):

  • Dimpling of the cheeks: It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between sucking and clicking sounds. 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 or breast pain of any kind is a good indicator that something is amiss.
  • Misshapen nipple immediately after feeding: If your nipple looks creased or slanted like a new tube of lipstick, this may indicate your baby has a tongue tie. You may also notice pain and damage to the skin of the nipple. A misshapen nipple can also happen when there’s too much milk — your baby will use their tongue or gums to press down on the nipple and 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 babies don’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 that there may be breastfeeding issues. If this is the case, you should talk to your doctor.

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.


Is Clicking Always Bad When Breastfeeding?

Clicking isn’t always a problem, but it can indicate that the baby isn’t latching deeply enough or is losing suction, potentially leading to inefficient feeding or nipple discomfort. Observing other signs of a good latch and milk transfer is important.

How Can I Get My Baby to Latch Deeper?

To help your baby latch deeper, make sure their mouth is wide open before guiding them to your breast, support their neck and shoulders, and aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth. Sometimes, repositioning or using supports like pillows can help.

What are Other Abnormal Breastfeeding Sounds?

Other abnormal sounds during breastfeeding can include smacking, gulping, or gurgling. These might indicate issues with latch, flow, or swallowing. Consistently observe and listen to ensure effective feeding.

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Medically Reviewed by

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.