When you experience problems with nursing, it can really cause you to second guess whether or not you want to continue. You may experience pain, latch issues, and you may question your body’s ability to produce the right amount of milk. These common breastfeeding problems can be exhausting, really painful, and overwhelming.
Although breastfeeding is how we are designed to feed our babies, it isn’t always smooth sailing!
Many moms experience these common breastfeeding problems. Although they are common, you may not know who to turn to for help. While some healthcare providers are amazing with breastfeeding advice, some have outdated information or they aren’t that supportive of breastfeeding.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
(If you want comprehensive knowledge of all things related to breastfeeding, check out this course! It’s less than a hardcover book!! It’s taught by a certified lactation educator and it packs in so much information that she guarantees you will be breastfeeding like a pro. What I love is that it’s in digestible chunks, [12 minutes or less] so you can literally go through the course while your baby is nursing or whenever you have a few spare minutes.)
After breastfeeding both of my kids into toddlerhood, I have experienced a lot of these issues firsthand.
If you’re experiencing issues with nursing, you can learn from me and use these tips to solve them!
These are common breastfeeding problems and some solutions to fix them.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
If this is your first time nursing, or it’s been quite some time, your nips may feel some discomfort in the beginning. (However if there is long term pain, or it hurts severely, there is a latch issue or something else going on). For normal nipple discomfort you can use nipple cream to keep your nips in tip top shape.
You can also use:
Organic coconut oil– I used this in place of nipple cream when I would get occasional discomfort from my kids nursing overnight. They’re latch would get lazy and I would be sleeping and not notice and when I woke up I would be sore. This helped prevent them from cracking, (kind of like a moisturizer).
Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Cream- This is an amazing ointment that I used when I had nipple damage from my daughter’s lip tie and it really was a miracle cream! It healed my nips and was safe to use while breastfeeding. I don’t know if it has changed now, but when I used it I had to get a prescription for it.
Related: Latching During Breastfeeding
This happens mostly to women when their milk first comes in, or if they haven’t nursed or pumped in awhile. This means there is too much milk in the breasts and this can cause swelling and pain. It can also make it hard for your baby to latch on.
Some things you can do to relieve engorgement is nurse your baby frequently as this will keep your breasts from getting so full. You can also pump or manually express milk if your baby isn’t available or hungry, and you’re getting uncomfortable.
Engorgement is more likely to happen in the first several weeks after your baby is born as your breasts are still trying to figure out how much milk to make.
These are also called blebs, or nipple blisters. These happen as a result of a blocked nipple pore. The skin will grow over the duct and milk will get stuck behind the thin piece of skin. It looks like a clear, white, or yellow dot on the nipple or areola and they are painful. They typically heal themselves when the extra skin gets removed from the milk duct.
Some ways to get rid of nipple blisters are:
-Use a moist hot compress on top of the blister right before you nurse or pump to soften the skin
-If the blister is still there after nursing, you can rub the blister with a warm wet washcloth
-You can try hand expressing because the milk that gets stuck in the duct can become thick and stringy. Hand expression down toward the nipple can help release the thickened milk. (Source)
Sometimes a milk duct can become blocked and you will develop a lump where it’s clogged. If you push on it, it can feel like a little tender like a slight bruise. You can develop a clogged duct because of underwire bras, incomplete milk removal, or you put pressure on your breast in the same place all the time.
For example, I used to push down on my boob to make more room for my baby to breathe because I worried her little nose couldn’t breathe well with all that boob in her face! But my lactation specialist looked and said she could breathe and by constantly pushing down on that same spot I could develop a clogged duct. So I stopped doing that. If I worried about her breathing, I switched nursing positions.
If you have a clogged duct you can do the following to unclog it:
-Dangle nurse (get on all fours so your breast is pointing down and have your baby underneath so gravity is helping to suck the clog down and out.
-If you are tandem nursing your older child, you can have your older child nurse on the side with the clog because they have a stronger suck that may be able to help loosen it or get it out.
-In the shower take a comb, (and with soapy water) comb from the clog down towards the nipple (you don’t have to forcefully comb!)
-Use something that vibrates, like an electric toothbrush, and vibrate it on top of the clogged duct
-Nurse often on that side (you want to make sure you don’t stop nursing on the affected breast because you can end up with an abscess).
-Try massaging from the clogged duct down to the nipple during nursing.
Also just know that when you have unclogged the duct, the milk may look stringy or lumpy, (which is ok for your baby to consume). (Source)
This is an infection in the breast. A clogged duct can turn into mastitis if it isn’t unclogged so it’s important to get those ducts unclogged! It can also occur when you are doing too much activity. For instance if you just had your baby and you should be resting but you are trying to do chores, make meals, etc., this is when Mastitis is likely to occur.
Mastitis causes flu-like symptoms, like fever and body aches, and a tender, hot, red spot on your breast (it may also look like red streaks) and it feels like a deep bruise.
If you catch it early enough and begin treating it right away, you may not need antibiotics.
Right before my son turned 1, I got Mastitis, (which goes to show Mastitis isn’t just something you get when you first start nursing!). I got the deep bruise feeling, the redness, the feeling of just getting sick. But because I knew what Mastitis was and what the symptoms were, I started treating myself right away and I was able to get it to go away without needing antibiotics.
Now if you are trying to treat it yourself and it has been over 24 hours without improvement, or if you aren’t sure if you have it, you should see your healthcare provider.
Getting rid of Mastitis is similar to getting rid of a clogged duct.
Some tips to get rid of Mastitis are:
-You want to catch it as early as possible so the moment you notice any of these symptoms, you want to start trying to these methods to get rid of it
-Take a soapy comb and brush downward from the affected area toward the nipple in the shower
-Use the vibrating technique and vibrate down from the affected area to the nipple.
-Nurse often on that side (again, make sure you don’t stop nursing on the affected breast as it can cause worse problems to occur, like an abscess).
-Try massaging from the affected area down toward the nipple during nursing.
-Get lots of rest! Also stay hydrated.
-If nothing you’re trying is working, see your doctor.
Again, once Mastitis goes away you may have the stringy, lumpy milk and/or pus or blood in the milk.
This is a yeast infection that occurs between the baby’s mouth and the mom’s breast. It’s described as very painful. You may have unusually red nipples, cracked or bleeding nipples, itching or burning in the nipples, a shooting pain deep within the breast. Your baby may have white patches inside their mouth or cheeks, and may have a yeast infection in their diaper area.
If you have thrush you have to treat both you and your baby at the same time, (even if one of you isn’t showing symptoms). That’s because thrush is so contagious and it can go back and forth between you and your baby if only one of you is being treated.
Tips to prevent, or get rid of thrush:
-If you know you or your baby need to take an antibiotic, you may want to consider a probiotic as these can decrease the risk of yeast overgrowth.
-You’ll want to see your healthcare provider so they can prescribe an ointment or medication to get rid of thrush
-Thrush spreads easily so you’ll want to wash your hands and your baby’s hands often.
-Keep your nipples as dry as possible
– Wash everything that comes into contact with the affected area immediately and at a high temperature. (These may be things like bed sheets, towels, bras, clothing, and reusable breast pads).
-Replace your toothbrush
-You may want to limit your sugar and carb intake as they can make thrush symptoms worse. (Source)
Low milk supply
If you think you have a low milk supply, you should determine if that is truly the case. If your baby isn’t gaining the appropriate amount of weight it could be for several reasons, (for example, a latch issue or a lip/tongue tie).
I would suggest seeing a lactation specialist because they can help you determine what the root of the issue is and help you come up with a plan to fix it.
There are also ways to increase your milk supply if you truly do have a low supply.
Some of the things you can do to increase a low milk supply:
-Nurse your baby frequently. Nursing frequently signals to your body to produce more milk.
-Avoid pacifiers and bottles if possible. Because your baby is sucking on a pacifier or bottle, they are spending less time at the breast nursing.
-You may consider adding pumping sessions after your baby has nursed or in between feedings. This combined with nursing your baby, signals your breasts to make more milk.
Some women have the opposite problem and they produce too much milk. This is common in the beginning when your milk first comes in and your body is trying to figure out how much milk to make. When your breasts begin the let-down, there may be too much milk or it comes out too forcefully, which can make your baby cough or gasp. Your baby may also clamp down on the nipple to slow the flow of milk or pull off the breast often while nursing. They may be very gassy or spit up a lot.
Things you can do if you have a forceful let-down:
-When nursing, position your baby so that gravity is working against the flow of milk. Some positions that are good for this are the laid back position and side lying position.
-You can unlatch your baby and wait for the flow to slow down before you re-latch your baby.
-You want to avoid pumping to get rid of extra milk because this can signal your body to make more milk.
-Nurse your baby more frequently as there will be less milk stored up.
-See a lactation specialist to get further help or if this continues after 12 weeks.
Typically this is a problem that rectifies itself once your body figures out how much milk to produce for your baby.
Although these common breastfeeding problems can really mess with your nursing relationship, these tips can help you fix them! Some things to remember are nipple pain during nursing that lasts longer than 20 seconds and pain that lasts after nursing is done isn’t normal. There are underlying issues that need to be figured out. Noticing early on changes in your breasts, like blisters, clogged ducts, or Mastitis can help you treat it more quickly. Also working with a lactation specialist to understand your milk supply, can help you identify how to rectify the situation. When in doubt, go through this breastfeeding course or seek help from a lactation specialist or your healthcare provider!