My baby makes a clicking sound when nursing. Is this a problem?

July 27, 2011. Posted in: BF Concerns: Child

By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

A clicking (or clucking or chucking) sound during nursing indicates that baby is repeatedly breaking the seal or suction.

Try to notice when it occurs in the feeding. Is it more noticeable during let-down, or is it constant? Also try to notice if you have discomfort of any kind during the clicking.

If the clicking causes discomfort or pain, or if baby is not gaining weight as expected, it would be a good idea to get an evaluation by an experienced lactation consultant.

Sometimes the click is normal and not an indication of a problem. Whatever the cause of the clicking, as long as baby is growing well and mom is comfortable (no nipple soreness or pain), don’t worry about it.

Some things that can cause clicking include:

Engorgement can make latch on difficult and baby may have a hard time maintaining suction.

Poor positioning and/or latch: for example, if baby is retracting the tongue or curling the tongue up when nursing, it can cause a clicking sound as the suction is broken. With poor positioning, baby may have a hard time maintaining a good seal at the breast.

Breastmilk oversupply and/or fast let-down. Baby will often break suction if the milk is coming too fast for him to handle.

Teething may be a cause of temporary clicking. If your baby has a sore mouth from the teething he may be trying to relieve it somewhat by not getting as tight of a seal around the breast or by repeatedly breaking the suction (thus the clicking). He could also be doing the same thing just because he’s not yet used to the feel of teeth in his mouth when he’s nursing.

Ear infection could throw baby’s suck “off” temporarily. There is usually some pressure that builds in the ear when sucking and when there is ear pain, that pressure can be extremely uncomfortable. Baby may try to relieve it somewhat by not getting as tight of a seal around the breast or by repeatedly breaking the suction (thus the click).

Thrush can make baby’s mouth sore or itchy, causing him to break suction.

Babies who suck their tongues sometimes click. Such a baby is accustomed to the sensation of his own tongue up against the roof of his mouth and may latch too quickly with a shallow latch as soon as he senses something entering his mouth. You’ll often see cheek dimpling when this sort of clicking is going on.

Less commonly, anatomical variations in the infant’s oral cavity can cause clicking, if baby cannot get the nipple/breast fully into the mouth and compressed against the roof of the mouth. Examples include:

  • Tongue tie/tight frenulum: A baby with tongue tie may be unable to keep the tongue extended for the relatively prolonged job of nursing, and thus the tongue will “snap back” when baby can no longer keep it in place. When he pulls the tongue back, suction is broken and you hear a click.
  • Highly-arched palate or other palate variations;
  • Cleft of the soft palate;
  • Unusually small or large tongue, etc.
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