14 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

If there’s anything that’s natural and foolproof, it’s breasfeeding, right?  Well, yes and no.

If there’s anything that’s natural and foolproof, it’s breasfeeding, right? Well, yes and no. According to the CDC’s most recent breastfeeding report card, 79% of new moms start out breastfeeding their babies. But when it comes down to it, after just six months later, the percentage of those who continue with it exclusively falls to 19%. 

There are a whole variety of reasons why moms aren’t able to breastfeed their babies or do so exclusively, physical reasons and job reasons that are outside of their control in many cases. But there are others who find it too painful or too difficult and give up on something they were so looking forward to.

14 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

If you’re struggling, don’t worry! You’re not alone. There are excellent lactation consultants out there. And in the meantime, here is a list of the 14 common struggles women have with breastfeeding and solutions to them.

1. My baby won’t latch. What do I do?

Don’t stress. This is normal for newbies. Just a few adjustments to technique and you’ll have your lass latched in no time. First of all, your baby needs a wide open mouth to latch correctly so she doesn’t just suck your nipple. So, wait for a yawn, tickle her chin, or tease out an open mouth by placing her close to your breast. Secondly, bring her to your breast at an angle and gently squeeze your breast with one hand like a sandwich, fitting it to her mouth. Her mouth should be wide, not like sucking a straw, and should cover your nipple and most of the lower part of your areola. Occasionally, a baby may have a tight frenulum (tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, which your doctor can treat with a simple procedure), preventing a good latch.

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2. The kid latches, but it hurts!

The first thing to check here is your technique. See above. Make sure his mouth is wide open before latching. He needs a big mouthful of boob to latch correctly. If that’s not it, it may be the result of dryness. That can be remedied by a lanolin cream applied between meals.

3. I’m engorged with way too much milk and feel like exploding.

About three days after delivery is when you milk kicks in big time. And since your body doesn’t know how much your little one will take, it may be super generous in production. The first and best solution is simply to nurse it out. Your body wants to give it and your baby needs it. But if that still leaves you with too much milk, try hand expressing to relieve the pressure. In fact, you may want to express a little before nursing — the smell of milk encourages latching and the expressing gets the flow going. You’ll want to avoid breast pumps, since they draw fluid to the breast.

4. I’ve got the opposite problem — too little milk.

Often what seems like too little milk is actually the right amount of milk. Nursing is all about supply and demand. If your baby is happy with the amount of milk you’re producing and your doctor is happy with your baby’s weight, the don’t sweat the reduced milk supply. But if neither are happy, there are a couple things you can try. First, try nursing more often. Second, try pumping between feedings. Both achieve the same results: more demand. And with more demand usually more supply will follow.

5. These cracked nipples are killing me!

There are a number of potential causes of cracked nipples, the number one culprit being poor latching, which is why that’s #1 on our list. If baby is positioned too high on the breast, nursing may irritate the nipple. And if your nipples crack, you’ll want to stay away from any creams or lotions, since they may cause infection. Instead, try Soothies gel pads by Lansinoh. Their relief is almost magical! If cracking persists or causes infection, see you doctor soon.

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6. I’ve got clogged or plugged ducts.

Check your breasts for hard lumps as you nurse. These are ducts that are full of milk that hasn’t been released. The best prevention of clogged ducts is to nurse all the milk out of them, keeping them from getting plugged up in the first place. Clogging is caused by inadequate drainage. When they do get plugged up, risk of infection increases but not significantly, since breast milk is full of antibodies. To unclog them and relieve the discomfort, apply warm compresses, hand express milk by massaging the clogged area, and try to increase the frequency of breastfeeding. Also, check to see if your nursing bra is too tight.

7. Mastitis sucks!

Each of the conditions mentioned above can cause a bacterial infection called mastitis. Accompanied by fever and pain in the breasts, it generally requires treatment with antibiotics. As with clogged ducts, warm compresses and increased breastfeeding will increase flow and empty out the breast. Don’t worry. There is no danger of your baby getting sick from the infection. While nursing is preferred, pumping is always an effective way to empty milk from your breasts. And get plenty of rest.

8. How do I deal with Thrush?

Thrush comes from a yeast called candida albicans which comes from a baby’s mouth and can infect her mother, turning nipples pink and causing shooting pain in the breast. Both you and your baby will need to be treated with a doctor-prescribed antifungal medication (on your breast and his mouth), otherwise you’ll continue to infect one another. If you want to try a non-prescription remedy, a 1% gentian violet solution can be swabbed on the breast before nursing twice a day for four days. It will turn your baby’s lips purple, which is no problem, though you’ll want to avoid getting it on clothing.

9. I’ve got inverted or flat nipples.

Some have them and some don’t. Inverted or flat nipples are no big deal, but they do make nursing a little more difficult. Bis you’re having through, breast shells can be used between feedings to help your nipples stick out more and nipple shields can be used to retain form during feeding. 

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10. I’ve got a milk blister.

A milk blister or bleb is caused by the growth of a small piece of skin over a milk duct opening, causing it to back up. (It can also be caused by a clump of dried milk.) A painful white, yellow, or clear dot will generally be seen on the nipple or areola. Try nursing it out. If that doesn’t work, try a hot compress and then massaging or gently squeezing it out. In some cases, a sterilized needle will be needed to puncture the overgrowth. Unfortunately, they can be persistent. Lecithin supplements have been known to clear up repeated milk blisters.

11. I get painful or overactive letdown.

As you get to the end of a nursing session, your body naturally constricts the breast to squeeze out the last of the milk in it. This is often accompanied by a sensation of some sort. Some moms will have a tingle, others an ache, and others a pins-and-needles sensation. Some kind of sensation is normal, but a too acute sensation may be the sign of an infection coming on which may require antibiotics. By the way, if you’ve got an overactive letdown, you’ll find your baby spitting up on a regular basis. That’s just because he’s getting too much milk at the end. If he’s not distressed, don’t worry about it.

12. My baby keeps falling asleep while nursing.

Infants are just tired little guys. All that growing requires a lot of sleeping. So falling asleep at the breast during the first few months is pretty normal. A full stomach and a soft boob are pretty cozy, after all. But if you know he needs more, try tickling his feet, burping him,  stroking under his chin, or expressing from milk into his mouth. There’s nothing like a little milk to get him sucking again. After a few months, he’ll be looking all over the place while nursing and you’ll wish he was still falling asleep on your breast

13. Hey, kiddo, quit biting me!

As your daughter tries out her new body, she’ll try out those gums and teeth and your breast will feel those first bites. She’s not being bad, just normal. Rather than pulling away, try leaning in to your baby. Blocking her nose will cause her to pull away on her own, and then you can relatch. Alternatively, a bite requires her to mover her tongue out of the way and that’s your opportunity to slide your pinky in her mouth to absorb the bite.

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14. What gives? My breasts no longer feel full.

No worries! This just means that you and your baby have reached a point where your body knows how much milk to produce for your baby’s appetite and needs. This is the absence of problems!

While this is quite a comprehensive list of breastfeeding problems and solutions, it is by no means exhaustive. If you weren't able to find a solution to your problem above or have additional questions, please leave a comment below or, if you feel more comfortable, send us a private message on our Babywise.life Facebook page.

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