Breastfeeding Problems

For most moms, the joys and triumphs of breastfeeding far outweigh the problems, but that doesn’t mean issues don’t occur. In fact, even moms who have successful journeys probably ran into breastfeeding problems at some point along the path. Just like all other aspects of raising a child, it’s how you handle the situation that helps determine the outcome. With support, knowledge and perseverance, you can overcome most breastfeeding problems.

Here’s a look at common breastfeeding problems and what you can do to resolve them:

Latching Issues

Breastfeeding ProblemsLatching is one of the most important elements of breastfeeding success. When your baby is not properly latched she may not extract milk efficiently, which in turn may mean she’s not getting enough nutrients and it may reduce your milk supply. Plus, improper latch can hurt your nipples. Perfecting your latch may take several weeks but the effort will pay off.

Remember, for a proper latch you should cup your breast and pull your baby towards your nipple. Her mouth should open wide and close to cover as much of your areola as possible and your nipple should be pointed at the top of her mouth with her tongue cradling your nipple. Once the seal has formed, you should feel her tugging and hear her swallowing milk.

Visit a lactation consultant if you and your baby cannot get the hang of latching. This vital part of breastfeeding can reduce risk of breastfeeding problems in the future. A lactation consultant may be able to recognize other issues that might prevent proper latch such as flat or inverted nipples or a lip or tongue tie.

Nipple Pain

Slight nipple soreness may occur for the first few weeks of nursing as your breasts get used to being suckled. After that, you generally should not feel any pain from breastfeeding. If you do, it’s red flag that another issue is at play. The leading cause of nipple pain is improper latch so double check that your baby is latching correctly, and visit a lactation consultant if you suspect this is the culprit of your pain. Nipple pain may also occur when your baby is teething or starts solids, but usually this is temporary. To soothe nipple tenderness, you can use warm or cold compresses, gel pads and 100% pure lanolin cream. Breast milk itself can help heal sores and cracks as well. Be sure to wear soft, breathable nursing bras that won’t further irritate your nipples or cause chaffing.


Thrush is a yeast infection that you can get on your breasts and your baby can get in her mouth. It may cause red blisters, cracking and a burning sensation on your nipples as well as intense pain throughout your breasts. Your baby may have yellow or white blisters in her mouth and find it painful to swallow while nursing or sucking a pacifier. Thrush can continuously transfer back and forth from baby to mother until it is treated. If you believe you and your baby have thrush, call your doctor and pediatrician to get prescriptions to clear it up. Also, thoroughly clean pump supplies, bottles and pacifiers that may carry the infection as well.


It’s typical for babies to become distracted while nursing, especially as they get older and are more in tune with their surroundings. Feeding in a dimly lit, quiet and dull room may help. Try nursing at times when your baby is slightly tired and less likely to look for stimulation. Also, create a distraction of your own that does not preclude breastfeeding, such as singing to your baby, talking softly or telling a story. In public a nursing cover may help limit distractions.


Suckling at your breast can be very relaxing and often causes babies to fall asleep. Sometimes that’s a good thing but when you’re trying to ensure your baby is well-fed and you drain your breasts completely, a sleepy baby can be frustrating. In this case, try un-swaddling your baby and striping her down to her diaper. Turn up the lights and have some background noise such as music or your own voice. You can tickle her toes or use a cool washcloth if you need further stimulation.


Engorgement occurs when your breasts are too full, which can become painful, counteract milk production or cause a plugged duct. The best thing to do when your breasts feel full is feed your baby, pump or hand express milk for relief. Usually engorgement is more common in the early weeks and months of breastfeeding before your milk supply stabilizes to meet the needs of your baby.

Plugged Duct

A plugged duct is a blockage somewhere in the ductal system or nipple pore that obstructs milk flow. It usually only affects one breast at a time and the breast may feel hot, tender, swollen and hard in the area off the clog. The best way to treat a plugged duct is to massage the area, apply warm compresses and nurse or pump often. Although nursing and pumping may be painful, it can help loosen the obstruction until milk can flow freely again. An infection can occur if a plugged duct is not resolved.


Mastitis is an infection of the breast caused from a plugged duct or the introduction of bacteria through the nipple. The external symptoms are much like plugged ducts – warmth of the breast, redness, swelling and pain. Flu-like symptoms, fever and lethargy may also accompany mastitis. In addition to using warm compresses, massaging your breast and feeding or pumping often, seek help from your doctor if you believe you have a breast infection. She can prescribe medication (that is safe for your baby) to clear it up within a few days.

Low Milk Supply

Low milk supply can be very discouraging and often leads to premature weaning. Sometimes mothers believe they have a low milk supply because their breasts don’t feel as full, their babies begin nursing differently or their pumping output is less, however these are not necessarily signs of low milk supply. If you truly have a low milk supply, the best way to increase your milk supply is by breastfeeding or pumping more frequently and ensuring your breasts are drained each time. Also, eating a wholesome diet and incorporating galactogogues such as oats, lactation cookies, lactation tea, fenugreek and other herbs can boost milk supply. Watch out for foods and habits that may be counterproductive for your milk supply such as being dehydrated, not getting enough sleep and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.

Sources: BabyCenter, La Leche League, Today’s Parent and KellyMom


Loving Moments believes moms should have the knowledge, resources and power to make the healthiest choices for their babies, starting with breastfeeding. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in August, we are sharing Breastfeeding Basics, our educational blog series that we hope will empower you with information, encouragement and inspiration to meet your breastfeeding goals.


Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

In general breastfeeding should be a pleasant and pain-free experience however there are a few times when things can awry and it may get a bit uncomfortable. Sore nipples from breastfeeding is one of the most common issues that mothers face, sometimes causing them to wean far too early. While sore nipples from breastfeeding is no picnic, it’s actually a warning sign that something isn’t right. Finding the cause can relieve your nipple pain and ensure your baby is getting enough milk to reap the amazing benefits of breastfeeding.

Causes of Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

Even tiny newborns have a fierce sucking reflex. While a vigorous suck is typical and downright helpful to your baby’s mission to suckle breast milk, your sensitive nipples are probably not used to being pulled in this manner. For this reason, it is normal for new moms to experience sore nipples from breastfeeding for up to the first two weeks. After that, your nipples should get used to breastfeeding and the tenderness should subside. If that isn’t the case for you, something else is at play.

The leading cause of sore nipples from breastfeeding is not establishing a proper latch. Often babies don’t take enough of their mother’s nipple and areola into their mouths resulting in a shallow latch that isn’t going to feel good or be productive for your baby. A deep latch is the goal. You can assist your baby in achieving proper latch by helping her open her mouth wide and supporting your breast so she can self-latch appropriately. Also, hold your baby in a position that puts her entire body level to your breast.

Other causes of nipple soreness from breastfeeding include: thrush (a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth that can be passed back and forth from you to your baby unless treated); mastitis (a breast infection caused by bacteria that enters through the nipple or a plugged milk duct); the immersion of teeth (in  which case your baby may unintentionally nip you with her teeth without realizing or to soothe her pain); and as your baby starts solids (when food residue may irritate your nipples).

How to Soothe Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

The first step to soothe sore nipples from breastfeeding is understanding why it is happening in the first place. Since latch is the most common issue, a visit to a lactation consultant is a good idea. She can help ensure your baby is latching properly, you are poisoning your baby appropriately, and offer temporary suggestions such as a nipple shield until your nipples heal. Lactation consultants can also diagnose a tongue or lip tie, conditions where there is extra skin connecting the tongue or lip to the mouth which may impede proper latch. Often tongue and lip ties must be cut by a specialist to allow babies to latch properly.

Once you have the underlying issue under control, try some of these methods to soothe sore nipples:

  • After each feeding, hand express a little breast milk and rub it on your nipples. Breast milk contains amazing healing properties that work on your skin too.
  • Alternate breasts per feeding to give your nipples more time to heal.
  • If you can’t alternate breasts, feed on the least painful side first, when your baby will be hungriest and her suck will be stronger.
  • Feed your baby more frequently to avoid overly vigorous sucking from extreme hunger.
  • Change nursing positions throughout your feedings so your baby isn’t pulling too hard on any one area.
  • Break the suction with your finger before unlatching your baby from your breast.
  • Apply 100% pure lanolin cream to your sore or cracked nipples after feedings.
  • Use a warm compress several times daily to reduce the pain.
  • Air out your nipples whenever possible. Sore nipples brushing against your nursing bras or nursing tank tops all day and all night won’t be comfortable. When necessary, use nipple shells to create space between your clothes and your breasts.
  • Wear soft, breathable nursing bras that won’t further irritate your sore nipples.
  • If your baby has thrush, visit your pediatrician immediately to get a prescription to relieve the fungal infection.
  • If you have mastitis, continue to breastfeed or pump as much as possible, use warm compresses and massage your breasts to work through the issue. You can also take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Sources: La Leche League, Today’s Parent and Breastfeeding Basics


Loving Moments believes moms should have the knowledge, resources and power to make the healthiest choices for their babies, starting with breastfeeding. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in August, we are sharing Breastfeeding Basics, our educational blog series that we hope will empower you with information, encouragement and inspiration to meet your breastfeeding goals.