Feeding your baby should be a straightforward process that causes no concerns. But what happens when you hear clicking sounds or noises during the bottle feeding? Is it a sign something is wrong?
Clicking sounds while bottle-feeding are caused by a loss of suction. The clicks may be attributed to milk flow, hunger level, or a tongue-tie. Most clicks can be remedied by tracking your baby’s feeding times and ensuring both the position and nipple are best for your little one. If that doesn’t help, have your child evaluated for a tongue-tie.
Read on to get a better understanding of why there is clicking during bottle feedings. Knowing the cause could help you determine what to do to stop it.
Why do babies make a clicking noise while bottle feeding?
Many parents researching clicking noises will come across a lot of resources regarding clicking that is associated with breastfeeding, but why would your bottle-fed baby be making clicking sounds while feeding?
While it can be hard to imagine what a clicking baby sounds like, if you’ve heard it, you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t sound like when an adult clicks or pops their tongue, but you might recognize it as a much lighter, more muted version of the sound. The sound may or may not be accompanied by your baby leaking milk or formula out of their mouth.
The overall reason your baby will make clicking sounds while bottle feeding is that they are losing suction. This may be because:
- Milk flow is too strong – This may be caused either by a too-large nipple opening or a feeding position that is increasing milk flow and not allowing your baby to swallow before their mouth is filled again.
- Your baby is not actually hungry – If your baby is holding the bottle and chewing on the nipple instead of actually eating, they may be comfort feeding rather than actually in need of sustenance.
- A tongue-tie may be obstructing your baby’s suction – This is a band of tissue in your baby’s mouth that is overdeveloped and impeding your baby’s tongue motion. It may require medical intervention, but it’s a minor procedure that many babies have.
For reasons your baby is dribbling milk while feeding, check out this resource.
Does a clicking sound mean my baby is tongue-tied?
If it’s your first time hearing the term tongue-tie, you are probably wondering what that is. The medical term for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia.
Babies with a tongue-tie have a problem latching or maintaining a latch while feeding because of an abnormality in the lingual frenulum. In this case, the lingual frenulum (the bit of tissue connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is either shorter or tighter than is typical and limits the tongue’s movement.
Tongue-tie is more likely to affect boys than girls, and will likely require a professional such as a lactation consultant or ENT to diagnose.
While a clicking sound does not necessarily mean your baby has a tongue-tie, you should consider having your little one checked if the sound persists despite attempts to resolve any feeding issues (tips below!).
How to stop baby from clicking when bottle-feeding
Before you can begin to consider ways to stop your baby from clicking, you have to know and understand the reasons behind the sound.
Is your baby comfort feeding? Is the milk/formula coming out too fast for them? How are they positioned while being fed? What stage are they at developmentally? Are they teething?
The best ways to stop your baby from clicking while bottle-feeding are:
- Proper feeding position
- Change bottle nipple size
- Track feeding time
- Evaluate for tongue-tie
- Wait it out
Proper feeding position
It is possible that your baby is losing suction because their feeding position is restricting your baby’s ability to swallow the milk or formula as it flows out of the bottle.
The ideal position for bottle-feeding is to hold your baby at a 45-degree angle with the bottle tilted so that the milk or formula completely fills the nipple (this will help reduce the amount of air swallowed). This position will help avoid choking and gagging on the milk or formula, which is what leads to the clicking.
When feeding your baby, it’s important to find a comfortable position for both you and your baby.
Change bottle nipple size
If the milk or formula is flowing too fast for the baby, you will notice your baby breaking the suction and the milk escaping out the side of their mouth.
In this case, changing the nipple size of the bottle will be beneficial. You want to go down in size so that your baby will have better control of their swallowing.
Track feeding time
Understandably, one of the first things that parents turn to when their baby is crying or fussy is a bottle. However, what if the baby is not due for a bottle and therefore is not hungry?
If your baby is sucking on the bottle instead of trying to feed, they are called comfort feeding. Basically, your baby is using the bottle as a pacifier. If you suspect your baby is comfort feeding, try tracking their feeding to keep better tabs on when your baby may be due for another feeding.
You may also notice there is frequent loss of suction and milk dribble in this case.
Evaluate for tongue-tie
As mentioned earlier, tongue-tie could be a cause for clicking and it may not be easily detected by a non-professional.
Your pediatrician or pediatric specialist can examine your baby. If he has tongue-tie, a procedure called frenotomy can be performed in-office to stop the clicking. By getting your baby’s tongue-tie issue resolved or fixed you can help improve your baby’s suction and therefore stop the click.
The procedure itself is rather straightforward. The doctor will use a sterile instrument, probably a pair of scissors, to cut or divide the frenulum (the tissue that is connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth) to give your baby’s tongue more range of motion.
If you’re concerned about subjecting your little baby to a medical procedure, watch this video. Your baby may cry, but that is likely to be more because a stranger is holding him down and messing with his mouth, rather than actual pain.
Once done your baby should have better control of their tongue and better suction.
Wait it out
As parents, one of the most difficult things to do is nothing. Not being proactive for your baby when you notice a change could be a real test of patience and resilience.
When it comes to clicking, if your baby is experiencing a developmental change (such as teething) or is sick, the click could be temporary and you just have to wait it out.
Your baby may be teething, which means their mouth is constantly sore. During this stage, they may be breaking the suction on the bottle to get relief from a sore mouth or just because they are not yet accustomed to this new sensation. Once your baby gets used to the growing teeth and the soreness is no longer a factor, they will return to their normal suction.
In terms of sickness, if the baby is ill and in pain, it could throw off or change the way they suck and swallow, especially if their nose is clogged. As with the teething scenario, once they are better, they should return to their normal suction.