Screaming during feeding baby
My baby fusses or cries when breastfeeding
By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC
© Lsantilli - Fotolia.com
Some babies will fuss, cry or pull off the breast during breastfeeding. There are a number of reasons why this might be happening. It’s pretty common to see this type of behavior at around 6-8 weeks, though it can occur at any time. If your baby is generally fussy (not just when nursing) see My baby is fussy! Is something wrong?
Determining the problem
Here are some of the problem-solving steps I go through when my baby is fussy at the breast or a mother asks me why her baby is fussing while breastfeeding:
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How old is baby? Most babies go through growth spurts during the first few days at home and around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, etc. Many babies are fussy during growth spurts.
Is baby working on anything new developmentally? Babies who are starting to notice the world around them can be notoriously distractible. Any kind of new developmental step that baby is working on can affect nursing temporarily, whether it be fussy nursing behavior or simply more frequent nursing.
When is baby fussing? To figure out the cause it’s helpful to pay attention to when the fussy behavior happens, both during the nursing session and during the day.
If baby is fussy right when your milk is letting down (or immediately after), there’s a good chance that the fussy nursing is related to a fast let-down. If baby is fussy before let-down, or a few minutes into nursing (and a while after let-down), then baby may be impatient for the fast flow of milk that comes with let-down. Fussing at the end of a nursing session (or what seems to be the end) may mean that baby needs to burp, or is ready to finish nursing, or just wants to suck (and doesn’t want to deal with a new let-down at this point), or wants to continue nursing on the other side or with a faster flow of milk.
If the fussy behavior is mainly in the mornings, it might be due to a faster than usual let-down if baby has just had a longer sleep period and mom’s breasts are fuller than usual. If baby is fussier during evening nursings, it may be due to the normal fussy time that most babies have during the evening. Although most babies don’t react to foods that mom eats, some do. If you eat a particular food at about the same time each day (or most days) and baby has a regular time where she fusses during nursing, try not eating that food for a week or two to see if things improve.
Does fussing occur on both sides equally or only on one side? Most moms have a faster let-down and/or a more abundant milk supply on one side than the other, so if your baby fusses more on one side, it may be due to these differences.
What else is going on with baby? Is she sick or teething? Is something new or different going on in her environment? Has she started solids or is she trying a new food? Is she exhibiting other symptoms besides the fussy nursing?
Below are discussions of some of the different things that can lead to fussy nursing behavior. Keep in mind that the problem may also be a combination of several things.
Does baby need to burp?
Many babies will cry, fuss, pull off the breast, etc. if they need to burp. Try to burp between breasts and after a feeding, but don’t worry if baby does not burp and is content. Breastfed babies overall don’t take in as much air during a feeding as bottle-fed babies do, so usually don’t need to burp as often. If baby has been crying before she nurses, or is so hungry that she nurses “frantically” or if mom has a fast let-down, baby could be taking in more air and may need to be burped more often.
Burping is usually only necessary during the first few months, though it may extend longer. Once your baby is moving more freely, she will be able to relieve the gastric gas herself. This usually will occur between the 4th and 6th month, but may be shorter in some children and longer in others.
If baby has a hard time burping, try burping more often during a feeding. The best burping position is one that applies firm pressure to the baby’s tummy. Placing baby over the shoulder way up so that there is pressure on baby’s abdomen often works well. Walking around while doing this might distract her long enough to get a good burp. You may even want to lie baby down on her stomach and burp her that way.
Babies often pull off and fuss during growth spurts. Most babies go through growth spurts, sometimes called frequency days, during the first few days at home and around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months (more or less). More growth spurt information in this link.
If baby seems to be pulling off the breast at any distraction (real or imaginary), then see The Distractible Baby.
Some babies will pull off the breast soon after let-down if mom has a forceful let-down. Baby may be frustrated by the too-fast flow of milk with let-down. A too-forceful let-down can also cause excessive gas or spitting up/vomiting. There is more information here on symptoms of and how to deal with a fast let-down reflex.
Some babies get very impatient if mom has a slow let-down. There is more information here on speeding up a slow let-down reflex.
Baby wants a faster milk flow
Even very young babies can be quick to notice that pulling off, kneading the breast, etc. can cause an additional let-down, and can facilitate a faster, easier milk flow. Some babies become impatient with the slower milk flow following the initial fast flow at let-down. This may or may not be related to a slow let-down.
When a feeding begins at the breast there are drops of milk. Then when the initial let-down occurs (several seconds to a minute into the feeding), the milk flow speeds up quite a bit. At that time it may drip very quickly, squirt, or even spray. Some minutes later it slows again and the baby must continue to suck vigorously in order to elicit further let-downs. This pattern can continue through successive, multiple let-downs as long as the baby is continuing to nurse vigorously. Eventually, baby will learn that the flow will pick back up again if she’ll only continue to vigorously suck/swallow.
With bottle feeding, the flow is instant and continuous. The baby is required to work very little. Once a baby has had a bottle, especially a lot of bottles, she may begin to prefer the ease of bottle-feeding over the work of breastfeeding. She may become frustrated at the breast after the first let-down occurs and the flow of milk begins to slow.
If baby is getting bottles you might consider putting them away, at least for a while. When you must use a bottle, only use a newborn nipple for as long as baby will tolerate it so that she never gets a really fast flow of milk from the bottle, but has to work a little more to get the milk.
Sometimes babies of moms with oversupply or fast let-down will also get very used to the fast flow and object when it normally slows somewhere between 3 weeks to 3 months.
It can be helpful to do some breast compression when this fussiness starts or right before you expect it to. This will help speed up the milk flow again. Once compression stops helping, try switching baby to the other side when she begins to fuss and back and forth again (after using compression) as you need to.
Baby is done nursing for the moment
If baby is fussing after she’s been nursing for a while, and you’ve ruled out other causes, she may be in the process of changing her nursing pattern. Babies become very efficient at the breast with growth and maturity. They can milk the breast in a lot less time per feeding session than they required before. Baby’s frustration may just be a sign that she’s finished and wants to move on.
On a similar note, an occasional baby will just want to suck at the end of a nursing session and the flow of milk with let-down frustrates her. You might see if offering her a finger or pacifier (if baby is older than 4-6 weeks) to suck on during these times seems to help.
Baby prefers one side
Sometimes babies will refuse or fuss at a breast when the let-down is slower or too forceful, or the supply a bit lower. They in turn will prefer the side which lets down more/less quickly and in which the supply is more bountiful. See also: Lopsided! What can I do?
Fussy in the evening
Many young babies tend to pull off and fuss at the breast in the evening. See the article Cluster Feeding and Fussy Evenings.
Teething can cause fussy nursing behavior, as some babies experience gum discomfort with sucking. Baby might start to nurse, but then pull off and cry or fuss and not want to nurse anymore. See Teething for more information and tips.
Frequent pulling off the breast can be a symptom of thrush.
A stuffy nose can cause fussy nursing behavior. If your baby has a stuffy nose and is having a hard time breathing and nursing at the same time, see colds & congestion.
Allergy or food sensitivity
Some babies with allergies or food sensitivities exhibit fussy nursing behavior. Often when there is a sensitivity to something in mom’s diet, baby will come to the breast hungry but when she tastes/smells something in the milk that will cause her GI distress, she pulls off, bats her head back and forth, etc. Sensitivities to foods in mom’s diet are rare. If this is the problem, you will most likely notice other symptoms, such as excessive spitting up or vomiting, colic, diarrhea, rash, persistent congestion or runny nose, or excessive gas. More information on food sensitivities in babies and links to more allergy information can be found in my article Dairy and other Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies.
Low milk supply
Low milk supply can cause baby to be fussy at the breast. If you feel that your milk supply may be low, see this page for more info: Increasing low milk supply.
Reflux can result in baby being fussy at the breast. See Reflux and Breastfeeding for more information.
Tongue-Tie can result in baby being fussy at the breast. See Breastfeeding a Baby with Tongue-Tie (Resources) for more information.
Baby Fusses or Cries During Feeding: Causes & Solutions
Is your baby fussy every time you offer the breast? Do they cry, making it hard to breastfeed?
I’ve been there and know how it can be distressing when your baby is irritable while breastfeeding. It can make you question whether you’re doing something wrong and why the experience isn’t turning out how you imagined.
To help set your mind at ease and offer you some hope, we’ll share everything we know about what makes a baby upset during breastfeeding.
We’ll help you determine the cause of your baby’s fussiness. We’ll also offer our solutions so your breastfeeding sessions can return to being a peaceful experience you both enjoy.
Causes of Baby Crying During Feeding
Half the battle is finding out why your baby is crying and fussing when they should be enjoying their time at the breast. You want to know your baby is getting enough milk and thriving. But it’s hard to be sure when they always latch on and off, crying in between.
Let’s discuss some possible causes.
1. Baby Isn’t Latching On
If your baby is fussing or crying, getting them to latch on to feed can be challenging. Whether overtired, overstimulated, or just plain hungry, a crying baby is unlikely to latch.
Begin breastfeeding while your baby is calm and awake, before they get too hungry. Watch for early hunger cues such as rooting, smacking their lips, sucking their hands, sticking their tongue out, or waking from sleeping. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
Swaddling your baby and holding them close, dimming the lights, or moving somewhere peaceful and quiet might also help.
Another thing you can try is squeezing a few drops of milk onto your breast to entice your baby to latch on. The taste and smell of the milk might stimulate them to feed. Changing position or changing breasts can also work sometimes (1).
2. The Milk Flow Is Too Fast or Too Slow
Paying attention to when your baby starts to cry might shed some light on the reason.
If your baby is fussier in the morning, it could be that your overly full breasts release too much milk too quickly. Your breasts may have become engorged with milk during the night and your baby can’t cope with this forceful let-down.
Conversely, if they are fussier in the evenings, maybe the milk release is too slow and they get frustrated. They become impatient, waiting for the flow of milk that comes with the let-down, and start crying.
The Solution for Fast Milk Flow
A strong release of milk, or overactive let-down, can make your little one choke, gag, or cough when they’re feeding. They might unlatch from the breast because they don’t like or can’t cope with the fast flow. They could also be gulping a lot of air with the milk and getting gassy, which causes more upset.
These are some of the things you can do to counteract this:
- Express before feeding: Pumping some of your milk before feeding, or expressing by hand, can help slow down the flow. After you feel the first let-down pass and you see the flow is slowing, put your baby to your breast.
- Lie back when nursing: Adopting a laid-back feeding position with your baby lying on top of you can slow the flow. You could latch your baby on and then lie back against some cushions or pillows. Milk will flow against gravity and won’t pour down your baby’s throat.
- Burp regularly: When your milk is flowing fast, your baby may gulp lots of air while feeding. A gassy baby is a fussy baby, so burp them regularly, during and after the feed.
- Feed one side at a time: Alternate your breasts at each feed. That way, once the flow slows down on the breast your baby is feeding on, they might stop fussing.
- Take a feeding break: If your flow is too much for your little one to cope with, remove them from the breast for a few seconds. Let the excess milk leak onto a towel, and offer the breast again when it stops. This might make your baby fussier for a while, but it will pay off in the long run.
The Solution for Slow Milk Flow
Your baby is hungry, but your milk is not coming quick enough. Just as we can get “hangry” when we need food or drink and aren’t getting it, our babies can too!
Luckily, we have some things you can try to combat a slow flow or delayed let-down:
- Stimulate the flow: Either pumping or hand expressing a little milk before latching can kick-start your let-down reflex. Once you have a steady flow, then you can put your baby to your breast.
- Warm compress: Use a warm towel or compress for a few minutes to stimulate letdown. Place it on your breasts just before each feed.
- Massage: Massaging your breasts before and during a feed can help the milk flow faster.
- Try breast compressions: If you notice your baby is about to start fussing and might unlatch, squeeze your breast. This will give your baby a burst of milk, keeping them actively feeding.
- Get comfortable: Breastfeeding a fussy baby can be frustrating for you as well. Try and feed in a relaxing position, away from distractions. It’s a perfect time to just concentrate on your baby.
- Make sure your baby gets enough milk: All that fussing and crying might make your little one tired, and they may fall asleep at the breast before they’ve eaten enough. Try and stimulate them to continue feeding by tickling their foot or stroking their cheek. The more your baby feeds, the more milk you will produce.
- Some dos and don’ts: When breastfeeding, avoid smoking and alcohol. Also, try and steer clear of soda and coffee. All these could affect your milk production. Ensure you eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated, too (2).
3. Baby Is Going Through a Growth Spurt
There are times during a baby’s first year of life when they go through growth spurts. Their weight and length will increase, as will their head circumference.
Your baby may want to feed more often during a growth spurt and can become fussy. It’s not uncommon for a baby to suddenly feed up to 18 times in 24 hours.
While one does not necessarily lead to the other, it makes sense that a growth spurt and sudden, frequent feeding go hand in hand. Your baby will need more milk to support the growth spurt, and nursing more will naturally boost your supply.
During this time, babies can also become fussier than usual. They might appear unsettled and clingy, and they may not sleep as well as usual.
Growth spurts generally happen several times during the first year. These are the ages when they are likely to occur:
- Two weeks old.
- Three weeks old.
- Six weeks old.
- Three months old.
- Six months old.
Not all babies will follow this timetable; some might have more growth spurts or they may be at different times. For some babies, there might be no change in their behavior when they have a growth spurt.
During this time, follow your baby’s lead. Respond to their needs, whether it’s more feeds, extra cuddles, or just quiet time and a nap.
Your baby might get fussy if you aren’t producing as much milk as they want. It can take a day or so for your supply to catch up with the demand. The more you let your baby feed, the more milk your breasts will produce.
Your baby may seem hungry after normal feeding time, so don’t be afraid to nurse again. Keep yourself feeling good during this time by staying hydrated and eating balanced meals. Remember, you are not Superwoman; let family and friends help with chores and shopping while you spend time with your baby.
4. Baby Is Going Through a Developmental Stage
Your baby is constantly developing mentally and learning new skills as they go along. It can be a bit overwhelming and confusing for them, and there might be weeks when they are fussier than usual. Sometimes called the “Wonder Weeks,” it can explain mood changes in your baby (3).
You might find that during these periods, your baby becomes more curious and distracted while feeding. They might want to feed more or, conversely, not stay latched on long enough for a good feed. They can be cranky and fussy and cry a lot when you’re trying to breastfeed.
The good news is that these periods generally only last a few days before your baby returns to normal behavioral patterns.
Not all babies will fit into the pattern of wonder weeks and develop at different times.
Feed your baby in a quiet room where there are likely to be fewer distractions. There’s nothing worse than having a situation where your little one latches on, then hears their dad or sees the dog and stops feeding (or worse yet, turns their head with your nipple still in their mouth!).
Trying to get your baby to pay attention can make them fussier and be a constant battle.
You might also find that your baby is fussier and wants to feed more often during these periods. Again, take your cue from them, and give them the extra time and attention they need.
5. Baby Needs to Burp
Babies often fuss, cry, or pull away from the breast when they need to burp. A fast flow of milk can exacerbate this. They can also swallow more air when they’re fussy or gulp down milk faster than usual if they’re over-hungry.
Breastfed babies tend not to need burping as often as bottle-fed ones. However, there are times when gas can make them uncomfortable and they need to get it out.
If your baby is fussing, stop the feed and try and burp them. If you let them carry on feeding while they’re crying, then they can take in more air and make the problem worse. Eventually, it can end up with them spitting up.
It’s a good idea to burp your little one mid-feed, even if they don’t appear to be in too much discomfort. Try to do it when switching breasts or when your baby latches off the nipple.
Other Reasons for Crying During Breastfeeding
We’ve looked at some of the main reasons your baby might cry while breastfeeding. There are a few other things that can cause this, including:
- Baby prefers one side: Your milk supply might be better on one breast than the other. This may be apparent if your baby only fusses when fed on one side.
- Teething: This can be a painful and uncomfortable time for your baby, and they might fuss more when feeding. You might first realize it’s happening when they clamp down on your nipple and you feel the teeth through the gums. I’m all too familiar with that pain! But trust me, your baby isn’t trying to hurt you; they just want to relieve their pain (4).
- Baby has eaten enough: If your little one starts fussing toward the end of a feed, this might be a sign they’ve had enough. Try offering the breast again a few times. If they don’t want it, move on. If you have ruled out any other causes for their crying, their little tummy might be full.
- Baby wants to be pacified: Your little one might be full but still wants to suckle. However, it can be frustrating for them when milk is still flowing. This could be an excellent time to offer a pacifier for them to suckle.
- Thrush: This fungal infection can affect your nipples or a baby’s mouth. If your baby has oral thrush, feeding will be uncomfortable, and they can get fussy. If you suspect this, contact your health care provider (5).
- Baby has a cold: Trying to feed and breathe through a stuffy nose simultaneously can be challenging for a little one. They will become fussy and break away from the breast a lot. Use a nasal aspirator to try to clear their nose, or ask your pediatrician for advice.
- Food sensitivity or allergy: While you might enjoy eating spicy food for dinner, your baby may not. The flavor of the food you eat comes through in your milk, and your little one might not always like the taste or the smell. You might notice they are fussier when you have consumed certain foods they don’t like or are allergic to (6).
- Reflux: Although it’s not very common in breastfed babies, sometimes food comes back up from a baby’s stomach. This can make them cry and feel uncomfortable when feeding (7). Speak with your baby’s doctor if you suspect this is causing your baby to be fussy or cry during breastfeeding.
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why the baby cries while feeding
While the baby is quite a baby, crying is the only way of his communication with his mother and the outside world. If the baby is restless during feeding, he will let you know that he is uncomfortable. We will analyze what can cause baby crying in such a situation.
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As a rule, the causes of a baby’s tears at the breast or bottle with a mixture are physiological, and there may be several of them.
Most likely, the child is worried about colic (they can start from 2-4 weeks of age and usually end by 3 months). Unpleasant sensations are associated with the fact that the infant has an insufficiently developed intestinal microflora and it is difficult for the digestive system to cope with the task assigned to it. Children's crying during colic is accompanied by arching the back and pulling the legs to the stomach - the pain from the formation of gases in the intestines is always acute. To alleviate the condition of the crumbs, it is useful for a nursing mother to drink teas with fennel, cumin or anise. If your baby is formula-fed, choose formula carefully. Valio Baby baby food is as close as possible to the composition of breast milk and contains the GOS prebiotic, which is necessary for the health of the child's digestive system. The cause of colic is also the wrong feeding technique and, as a result, the capture of excess air by the baby.
Children under one year old often suffer from otitis media, this is due to the anatomical features of the structure of the nasopharynx in babies in the first months of life. A baby may cry during feeding because swallowing causes a sharp pain in his ears. Very carefully touch the tragus of the baby's auricles - if he cries, then you need to see a doctor.
It is no secret that many neurological disorders are accompanied by headaches. It becomes especially strong when swallowing. If the baby is constantly crying during feeding, be sure to make an appointment with a pediatric neurologist.
Inflammation of the oral mucosa
Crying during feeding may signal that the baby is experiencing discomfort in the mouth or throat. Its cause is most often thrush or pharyngitis. These diseases require treatment under the supervision of a pediatrician.
Lack or excess of breast milk
The lactation of a nursing woman is affected by a considerable number of factors - the psychological state, fatigue, stress, malnutrition and its lack, improper organization of breastfeeding. The baby may cry because he does not have enough milk. Whether the food shortage is really critical is easy to check using the wet diaper method. By the way, the crying of a baby may also indicate that there is too much milk - the stream is too strong and the baby simply chokes.
Unusual taste of breast milk
If a mother ate, for example, something spicy on the eve of feeding, this will certainly affect the taste of milk. The baby, of course, will cry. This cause of children's "grief" is the most easily eliminated - be attentive to your menu and do not upset your beloved baby.
In addition to the reasons described, the reason for children's tears during feeding can be erupting teeth and inflammation of the gums, as well as nasal congestion with allergies and SARS. Be attentive to your baby. If all is well, the baby should not cry while feeding.
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How to choose milk formula for a baby
Breast milk is the best food for a newborn baby. It contains all the necessary nutritional components that fully meet the needs of the child and are necessary for his healthy and harmonious development.
Why does my baby cry when feeding?
Hunger causes almost physical suffering to the baby: the level of glucose in the blood drops, the cells of the body do not have enough energy for growth and development, and all this is very unpleasant. That is why the baby is filled with loud, demanding crying with notes of disappointment and resentment. Well, how is it - they still haven't fed him - also to me, the parents are called! Previously, when babies were advised to feed strictly by the hour, hungry babies had time to cry almost before each feeding. There was even such a theory that crying is good for a baby - by doing so, he develops his lungs. In fact, his hungry cry does no more good for the respiratory system than your attempts to call a waiter in a crowded restaurant: you want to make an order, they don’t hear you, and sucks more and more in the stomach ... Feed the child as soon as possible, even if he is hungry before the allotted time.
All babies go through a period of colic in the tummy. They arise due to the immaturity of the digestive system, which adapts to milk, formula, supplementary food and complementary foods. Enzymes are still lacking, beneficial bacteria have not yet properly populated the intestines, so it cannot cope with the food load, overflowing with gases: they burst its walls and cause paroxysmal pain. At the same time, the baby screams quickly and piercingly and tenses up: he frowns, blushes, presses his legs to his tummy or twists them, clenches his fists. The screams follow each other for hours, exhausting both the child and the parents. Having warmed up on the handles, he calms down (warmth reduces pain), but as soon as the baby is put in the crib, the crying starts again.
Are you breastfeeding? Eliminate legumes, cabbage, soda, chocolate from the menu
Lay the baby on his tummy, apply a diaper or heating pad ironed (for warmth), massage around the navel in a clockwise direction.
Give pharmacy infant tea with chamomile, fennel or dill (dill water) - it reduces the formation of gases.
Do not overfeed! And make sure that the baby does not swallow air during feeding: this happens if he does not suckle well to the chest or if the mixture does not completely fill the hole in the bottle during feeding. 50-70% of the gases accumulated in an infant are swallowed air!
The headache is very hard to bear. It seems that nature protected the baby from her, leaving the fontanelles uncovered. But if intracranial pressure rises quickly, and this system does not compensate for it, and also in the second half of life, when the fontanelles are almost closed, hypertension syndrome inevitably leads to headaches. She makes the baby cry in a special way: quietly, but continuously, monotonously, on one note. In such cases, you need to consult a neurologist.
Infants sometimes develop a very formidable condition - intestinal obstruction, in other words - volvulus (intussusception). It arises due to the inconsistency of the waves of peristalsis that move food through the intestines. If a wave is too strong, intussusception may occur. At the same time, the crying of the baby will change - there will no longer be screams, as with colic, but waves of a loud, desperate cry. The pain is repeated in attacks: between them the child calms down and even falls asleep, but then starts screaming and rushing about again.
When introducing a new formula or product to an infant's diet, start with mini servings
Urgently call an ambulance! Even if it turns out that this is still not intestinal obstruction, but gases, the child’s tummy hurts very much: let the doctor help him by using a gas tube.
Food is like trouble
Does the baby take the breast or the bottle and then throws it away and starts screaming sharply and piercingly? Another option is a high-pitched cry immediately after feeding. Crying occurs due to a sharp pain in the abdomen, provoked by a lack of the lactase enzyme, which is involved in the breakdown of milk sugar - lactose. Upon receipt of the first portions of milk, the intestinal walls contract intensely, and it itself begins to ferment, causing flatulence with a sharp bloating of the abdomen. And it hurts a lot - hence the crying! In addition, the baby remains hungry: milk is not digested and absorbed.
Your doctor will give your baby lactase supplements or recommend a formula containing lactase. In many children, the synthesis of this enzyme improves in the second half of life. Then the child can be fed dairy products without the risk of provoking colic and crying.
Does the baby have wet eyes all the time: does he whine slowly, then sobs at the top of his voice? Look into his mouth: it looks like his first incisor is making his way below! At the time of the eruption of the next tooth, children's immunity weakens, and the child easily catches a cold.