Most parents agree that a crying baby is pretty distressing, especially after a feed. You can’t help but wonder if there’s a serious problem if your baby cries when a bottle is finished. My wife and I would fret if our baby daughter cried after a feed so I get it when other parents stress!
Babies cry when finished with a bottle because they’re still hungry or battle with colic or infant acid reflux. They could have food allergies or lactose intolerance or use the bottle as a comfort object. Growth spurts could also be the reason why babies cry when a bottle empties.
- There are several reasons a baby cries when a bottle is finished including hunger, colic, infant reflux, the need to be burped, growth spurts, allergies, or looking for comfort.
- Using anti-colic bottles, increasing the amount of milk during growth spurts, giving a pacifier as a soother, or switching formulas could reduce babies crying when done with a bottle.
- Not all babies battle with infant reflux or colic but formula-fed babies are more prone to food allergies.
7 Reasons why your baby cries when the bottle is finished
1. Your baby is still hungry
The most common reason our little one cried when her bottle was finished was because she was still hungry! It’s essential to take note of when and how often your baby cries when a bottle is empty. If they only do it occasionally, at different stages in their first year, check that hunger isn’t the main reason.
Your baby (and older child) will experience short periods of physical growth spurts which is normal and part of their development. You can expect growth spurts in your baby’s first year when they reach the following stages:
- Two to three weeks old
- Six weeks old
- Three months old
- Six months old
Growth spurts normally last for a few days and during this time, your infant could be extra hungry. Underfeeding could also be the reason your baby is hungry so always use the measurements recommended on guidelines for formula-fed babies.
2. The baby may be experiencing acid reflux
Some babies battle with infant acid reflux during or after a feed because their esophagus isn’t fully developed yet. If your baby is bringing up milk during or after a feed they could be experiencing acid reflux which is actually more common than you think. But, it can be unpleasant and make your baby cry after finishing a bottle.
Infant reflux happens when your baby’s tummy contents move back up from their stomach into the esophagus (a muscular tube running between the mouth and stomach.) This causes your baby to spit up or vomit milk after a feed. This can happen several times during the day and no cause for concern if your little one is gaining weight and healthy.
Normally, infant reflux goes away on its own but if your baby continues to battle this condition after a year to 18 months, have them checked out by a pediatrician.
3. Colic could be the culprit
Some babies experience colic after feeding and often start crying as soon as the bottle’s finished. This painful condition presents with any of the following symptoms:
- Clenched fists
- Red face
- Legs drawn up to the chest
Colic timing is normally predictable and happens most frequently in the evenings with your baby sometimes crying for hours after a feed. Colic crying happens in spells and typically follows a pattern – your baby cries more than 3 hours a day for more than three days a week. The crying spell normally starts at the same time every day.
Most babies outgrow colic by the time they reach six months but some may battle on for another three to four months.
Find out more about colic in babies by watching this informative video.
4. Your baby may have a food allergy
Food allergies or intolerance could be the reason your baby cries when a bottle is done. The following symptoms could be signs your baby is battling a food allergy:
- Rashes or hives
- Upset tummy/loose stools
- Abdominal cramps
- Irritability or fussiness
Babies may develop an allergy to the proteins in cow’s milk (casein and whey) or lactose intolerance. If you’re feeding your baby breast milk from a bottle, they may develop an allergy to something the mother has eaten. Baby allergies to infant formula can be diagnosed by a medical professional.
5. The formula you’re using is incorrect
Your baby can develop an intolerance to a particular formula brand or they simply don’t like the taste, smell, or texture! They may drink the formula because they’re hungry but start to cry when the bottle is finished because of discomfort or an unpleasant taste in their mouth.
If your baby battles with colic, gassiness, allergies, or acid reflux you could be using the wrong formula. Sometimes, babies may keep pushing a bottle away with their tongue before finishing a feed because they don’t like the formula!
6. Your baby needs to be burped
If your baby is showing signs of irritability or crying after a bottle feed, they may need to be burped. During feeding, your little one may swallow air bubbles which become trapped in their tummy. This leads to discomfort, causing your baby to cry, and burping them will help to remove the gas buildup in their stomach.
If your baby is clicking when bottle-feeding, make sure the milk flow rate isn’t too fast for them or they’re drinking while lying flat on their back. Improper feeding position and the wrong nipple flow rate can make your baby swallow more air when drinking from the bottle, resulting in gas and pain.
Burping your baby helps to alleviate the discomfort and prevent your baby from crying when a bottle is done.
7. Your baby likes the feeling of the bottle in the mouth
Some babies get a lot of comfort and a sense of security when having a bottle in their mouth. As soon as you take it away after a feed, they start to cry – similar to taking away your toddler’s security blanket!
If you notice your baby is associating feeding with sleeping, this is also a sign they feel comfortable having a bottle in their mouth. Sucking on a bottle could be soothing for your baby and if your little one demands to be fed more often it could be they’re looking for comfort!
Tips to prevent your baby from crying after feeding
Try anti-colic bottles
Anti-colic baby bottles are specifically designed to prevent your little one from swallowing air while feeding. This helps to prevent unpleasant conditions such as colic, gassiness, and infant reflux. The benefits of using anti-colic bottles over plain bottles are numerous, especially for fussy babies, and can help prevent or reduce crying after a feed.
Provide your baby with a pacifier
If your baby is using their bottle as a comfort object, try giving them a pacifier after a feed to prevent them from crying. Pacifiers are great for soothing your baby or helping them to fall asleep without relying on their bottle to do the job. Giving your baby an empty bottle isn’t a good idea so rather give them a pacifier when they’re finished drinking.
Switch your baby’s formula
Experimenting with different infant formulas could be the exact solution you need to solve your baby’s crying when they’re finished with a bottle! If your baby is battling with food allergies or intolerance, switching to a hypoallergenic brand will solve the problem. Your baby may also prefer a brand that has a different smell, taste, or texture.
Increase the amount of formula to feed your baby
A lot of energy goes into growing and developing and if your baby is having a growth spurt, you need to increase the amount of formula to keep hunger at bay. However, make sure this is the reason your baby is crying after a feed to avoid overfeeding. If you do add an extra feed during a growth spurt, only do it for a few days.
Find out if your baby has a food allergy
If you’ve ruled out colic and infant reflux, and burping your baby isn’t stopping them from crying, have them assessed for a food allergy. Your medical doctor or pediatrician will be able to diagnose if your little one has cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance and will recommend the best formula for bottle-feeding.
Facts to consider
- Growth spurts: Babies experience significant physical changes in their height and weight during their first two years. Your baby could grow up to 10 inches in length and triple their weight in the first year alone!
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Babies who experience reflux for more than 12 to 14 months or if the symptoms stop them from feeding, may have GERD. This is a more serious type of reflux in babies that needs to be assessed and treated by your doctor.
- Not all babies get colic: Up to 20% of infants will battle with colic and there’s actually no conclusive reason for babies getting the condition!
- The risk of food allergies increases in formula-fed babies: Breastfed babies have 1.79 times the risk of developing a food allergy. Formula-fed babies have a 2.04 times more risk of suffering from food allergies.
- Older babies don’t need to be burped: Most babies outgrow the need to be burped between four to six months
How do I know my baby is still hungry after a bottle?
One of the signs that indicate your baby is still hungry after a bottle is crying. Other signs include opening and closing their mouth (similar to a baby bird!), clenching their hands, sticking out their tongue, playing with the bottle nipple or sucking on their fingers or clothing. A hungry baby won’t settle down or go to sleep and instead, will be irritable and restless.
Should you feed a baby every time he or she cries?
Feeding your baby every time they cry isn’t always a good idea as it could mean something is wrong with them. Your baby could be crying because they have a bloated stomach, are in pain from colic or reflux, or looking for some comfort. Giving your baby a bottle every time they cry can lead to overfeeding and unhealthy weight gain.
Sticking to a feeding schedule will ensure your baby is getting the right nutritional requirements for healthy growth and development. This way, if your baby cries in between feeds, you can check if there’s something else wrong before assuming they’re hungry.
When should you see a doctor if your baby cries after feeding?
If your baby cries after every feed, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to rule out underlying problems such as allergies or a medical condition. Other signs to look out for are weight loss, inconsolable crying for more than two hours after a feed, or a fever.
The following symptoms should also be checked out by a medical doctor :
- Bloated stomach
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Soft, bulging spots on the body
- Lethargy and drowsiness
Knowing why your baby cries when a bottle is done will give you peace of mind that nothing serious is wrong with your little one. However, if the cause is an underlying medical condition, you can have it treated or switch to another formula that’s better for your baby.
One last tip from a father who’s been there! If your baby is hitting the bottle while drinking, one of the reasons could also be why they cry after a feed. It could be something as simple as painful gums from teething!