As parents, we relied on our daughter’s cooing or murmurings to tell us whether she was content or not. Babies sometimes make clicking sounds, getting parents wondering why their baby is clicking while bottle feeding!
Babies make clicking sounds while bottle-feeding because they’re not hungry, have sore gums from teething, or are battling to latch. Other reasons include Improper feeding positions and the wrong nipple flow rate or a blocked nose could make your baby click while bottle feeding.
- Babies make clicking sounds when they can’t latch and suck milk from the bottle.
- Breast engorgement and combination feeding can make a baby click as they try to drink milk or formula.
- Incorrect positioning during feeding makes it harder for a baby to drink comfortably.
- The wrong nipple shape frustrates babies and they make clicking sounds to show their unhappiness.’
- A baby with no appetite may chew on the nipple which makes clicking noises.
- Nasal congestion makes it difficult for babies to breathe while bottle feeding and breaking the suction causes click sounds’
- Babies click when the nipple flow rate doesn’t match their feeding pace.
- Infants chew on the bottle teat to relieve sore gums and teething pain.
What is clicking?
Clicking is the sound babies make when they lose suction while bottle-feeding or breastfeeding. It sounds like the smacking noise you make when you stick your tongue to the top of your palate and then let go. Clicking sounds often indicate your baby is trying to break the suction or seal of the nipple as they start sucking on it.
What causes babies to click when feeding?
1. Poor latching
Correct latching is essential for babies to suck and remove milk from the breast or bottle during feeding times. The following conditions could cause difficulty with latching:
- Premature birth
- Downs Syndrome
- Tongue-tie or cleft lip
Besides making clicking sounds, your baby could be latching on but then letting go almost immediately, pushing the bottle out using their tongue, or doesn’t suck continuously.
Rubbing the teat on your baby’s bottom lip urges them to open their mouth wide and drop their tongue. You can now place the teat in your baby’s mouth while keeping the bottle at a slight angle.
Trying different nipple shapes and sizes could solve feeding problems when your baby refuses the bottle or makes clicking sounds as soon as they latch.
If you’re alternating between the breast and bottle, your breasts may become engorged as a result of milk coming in and not being used up! Your breasts become full and hard, making it harder for your baby to attach to the breast. The result? Clicking sounds as they try to attach to the nipple and break the seal.
Combination feeding doesn’t only result in engorgement but could make it harder for your baby to accept the bottle.
Expressing breast milk will help to alleviate the pain and reduce the hardness of the breasts. Using bottles that fit different Spectra pumps makes it easy for you to express and store breastmilk for bottle-feeding.
Finding the right bottle and nipples will help your baby accept this feeding method when switching from the breast. My wife and I experimented with different glass and plastic baby bottles before finding the right one for our baby daughter.
3. Improper feeding position
Poor positioning during bottle feeding can result in your baby doing the following:
- Choking, gagging, or coughing
- Making clicking sounds
- Not latching to the nipple properly
- Taking in too much air
Holding your baby in the wrong position while bottle feeding not only makes them uncomfortable but they could start battling with infant acid reflux or gas buildup. Your baby could also develop ear infections.
Your little one should be in a semi-upright position with their head held securely in the nook of your arm. This allows them to breathe and swallow comfortably while bottle feeding.
Sitting your baby up in your lap is another good position for infants who battle acid reflux or gas buildup. Rest your baby’s head on your chest or arm. Tilting the bottle at a slight angle helps the milk to flow freely into the nipple while preventing air bubbles in the teat.
4. The bottles nipple shape is incorrect
Bottles come with various nipple shapes and the incorrect one could make your baby click as they start to suck. If the teat is too long or too big, your little one could start to gag or make clicking sounds as a way of refusing the bottle.
Breastfed babies transitioning to the bottle may struggle with different nipple shapes in the beginning. A long and thin nipple on a wide base may cause your baby to nibble rather than latch and suck on the teat.
You may need to experiment with different nipple shapes before finding one that works for your baby. Some babies prefer the natural breast-shaped nipple that resembles mom’s breast or they may opt for the smaller nipple on a narrow base.
Breastfed babies often prefer the silicone teat (over latex) with a slightly sloping nipple which they can take into their mouths and create a seal.
5. Your baby may not be hungry
One of the most common reasons for your baby making clicking sounds when they’re given the bottle is that they’re not hungry! Our daughter would push her bottle away with her hands when she was full but other babies may start gagging, grimacing, or making smacking noises when refusing the bottle. She even stopped holding her bottle at some points when I was at home with her which I wrote about here.
When your baby is given the bottle and they’re not hungry they start to chew on the nipple out of comfort rather than feeding. Or they might play with the bottle. This often sounds like little clicks as they nibble on the teat!
Finding out why your baby isn’t hungry is important to rule out complications. Feeling sick could cause your baby to lose their appetite and refuse the bottle. Make sure your baby stays hydrated when they’re ill and see a doctor if they haven’t fed properly in three days.
Make sure you’re not overfeeding your baby by putting too much formula into the bottle at feeding time. Follow the instructions on the formula container to get the right quantities for your baby’s age and weight. Older babies take more milk at one feed and aren’t as hungry in between feeding so don’t force them to take the bottle during these times.
6. Your baby has nasal congestion
When our daughter has a stuffy nose her appetite may disappear for awhile. She also battled to take the bottle as she couldn’t breathe and suck properly at the same time. Breathing through their nose while feeding from the bottle becomes a challenge. Babies sometimes make clicking sounds as a way to cope with nasal congestion, a common problem during winter.
Your baby may take their mouth away from the nipple after a few sucks to catch a breath. As they release the teat, they’re breaking the seal and it makes a smacking sound similar to clicks.
Clearing your baby’s nasal passages before a feed could help them cope better with the bottle. You could use the following solutions:
- Remove mucous from the nose using a nasal aspirator or rubber bulb syringe
- Use saline nasal drops to loosen the mucous
7. The nipple flow is too high or low
The bottle nipple flow rate is vitally important for a comfortable feed and getting the right one for your baby’s feeding style will make all the difference. If the flow rate is too high, your baby may battle to swallow the milk or start to gag. The milk could also run out the side of their mouth. On the other hand, a slow flow rate could frustrate your baby and force them to suck harder.
Baby bottle brands manufacture nipples with different flow rates based on the baby’s stage as follows:
- Level 1: Newborn to 3 months old (the slower rate that mimics the breastfeeding pace)
- Level 2: 3 to 6 months old
- Level 3: 6 months and older
- Level 4: 9 months and older
Some babies may prefer to stick to a slower flow rate for longer. Alternatively, an older baby might want a higher flow rate because they have a different feeding style or pace. Look out for the following signs as indications that you need to adjust the nipple flow rate:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing or choking
- Getting fussy while feeding
- Suckling too fast
8. Your baby is teething
Teething can be a painful stage for your baby and they may refuse the bottle outright! Other babies fuss as soon as the teat is placed in their mouth while some make clicking sounds as they battle to suck. But, your baby may find the nipple comforting and choose to chew it as a way to relieve the teething pain.
Your baby may pause between sucks because of sore gums – this results in breaking the suction or seal when they let go of the nipple and making a clicking sound.
Here are some safe solutions for alleviating teething pain before feeding your baby:
- Chilled teething ring: Letting your baby chew on a rubber teething ring can help to reduce soreness before a bottle feed.
- Massage: Use your fingers to gently massage your baby’s gums a few minutes before a feed.
- A cold spoon: Similar to using a chilled teething ring, a cold spoon can help alleviate painful gums. Make sure the spoon doesn’t have sharp edges though and avoid freezing it.
Watch this informative video for other methods to deal with unhappy teethers.
Using my list of reasons for why your baby clicks while bottle feeding can put your mind at ease that the problem is often temporary. Implementing the solutions mentioned in my article should help your baby feed comfortably from the bottle without having to resort to clicking sounds! Switching to anti-colic instead of choosing regular bottles may be the best solution as well!