10 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Their Solutions

Most Common Breastfeeding Problems & Their Solutions

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Shruti Kainth (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby as it offers a lot more than just nutrition, such as immunity-boosting antibodies. In addition, it is a moment of bonding between mother and child. However, there are several challenges you will face when breastfeeding your baby. Some newborn breastfeeding problems are discussed below, with their potential solutions.

Video: 8 Common Breastfeeding Problems and How to Solve Them

1. Poor Supply of Milk

This is one of the biggest and most common breastfeeding problems. There could be many reasons for low milk supply, such as glandular issues or insufficient breastfeeding.

  • How to Treat: Ensure your baby empties your breasts completely during the day. If your baby does not consume whatever milk is present in your breasts, your body will not produce more milk. Feed your baby from both breasts each time, allowing them to stay on as long as they need to drain the last drop. Occasionally, your little one might grow disinterested in breastfeeding, leading to a drop in your supply. In this case, you can use a breast pump to extract your milk and bottle feed them.
  • How to Prevent: Ensure that you eat and sleep on time, and remain hydrated. Latch and position your baby accurately. Don’t feed infant formula to your baby for the first six months, so they don’t lose interest in breastfeeding. Also, breastfeed your baby on demand and let them decide the nursing duration and frequency.

2. Leaking Breasts

You can expect your nipples to leak frequently from the third trimester until after your baby stops breastfeeding. Leakage may occur due to a let-down reflex, which stimulates milk production in the vicinity of your baby. It may also happen if your breasts have too much milk stored in them. Please note that not all mothers leak breastmilk during pregnancy.

  • How to Treat: Leakage from the breasts can be controlled by not consuming unnecessary galactagogues. Palms held in a ‘stop’ sign over the areola can stop leakage.
  • How to Prevent: Hand expressing prior to the nursing session can help prevent leakages.

Woman with nursing pad

3. Engorged Breasts

Immediately after you give birth, the milk production in your breasts rapidly increases, making them much larger and heavier. This is known as breast engorgement.

  • How to Treat: The discomfort in engorged breasts can be eased by alternating hot and cold compresses and regularly breastfeeding. In case you are producing more milk than your baby can consume, consider pumping it, or donating it to a breastmilk bank.
  • How to Prevent: Ensure you eat well, sleep enough and drink enough water so you can stay healthy throughout your baby’s breastfeeding period. Avoid nursing supplements such as milk bottles and pacifiers, so your baby remains interested in breastfeeding. Regularly massage your breasts and nipples to hasten the flow of milk and prevent duct blockages.

4. Anatomical Problems With the Baby

Your baby might have anatomical defects such as a big tongue, arched palate or problems with their chin, gums, or jaw. Due to this, they might find it difficult staying latched firmly onto your breasts.

  • How to Treat: Surgery is the best option in these cases, and they are minor procedures, so there is nothing to worry about.
  • How to Prevent: This problem cannot be prevented as physical abnormalities are not under your control. However, as explained earlier, it can be treated successfully.

5. Inverted Nipples

While nipples usually poke outwards, some women have flat or inverted nipples that regress inwards. This makes it very tricky for a successful latch. Flat nipples can also be caused by excessive milk production and engorged breasts.

  • How to Treat: Try pressing firmly on your areola whilst nursing your child. Another method involves using your own fingers or a suctioning device to massage the nipples out.
  • How to Prevent: As this is a physical condition, it cannot be prevented. However, if you have no other breast problems, your baby is assured enough milk even if they do not latch on correctly. In any case, your baby’s constant suckling will improve their latching ability over time.

Mother helping baby nurse better

6. Incorrect Breastfeeding Latch

If your baby does not learn to latch onto your breasts properly, your breasts will lower milk production, leading to an ill-fed cranky baby. In addition, it might take some time for your baby to latch without causing any soreness or pain.

  • How to Treat: You can change your baby’s position such that their mouth is slightly below the areola to give a good latch. To tackle breastfeeding latch problems one can use a pillow to support the baby.
  • How to Prevent: The key to finding a good latch is training and practice. Make sure your baby is in the correct nursing position, press your nipple with two fingers, and bring your baby up towards your breast to latch on.

7. Blocked Milk Ducts

Blockages in milk ducts can cause engorged or swollen breasts. This happens if you are producing milk at a high rate, which causes inflammation in the breast tissue. This, in turn, exerts pressure on the milk ducts, creating a blockage.

  • How to Treat: The swelling and pain caused by blocked milk ducts can be alleviated by massages and hot compresses. Breastfeed your baby so the clog can be removed by the force of the baby’s suckling.
  • How to Prevent: In addition to getting enough food and sleep, ensure you frequently breastfeed to avoid any build-up inside your breasts.

8. Nipple Soreness

An expected outcome of breastfeeding is a throbbing soreness in your nipples. The discomfort can be further worsened by inaccurate latching. Sore nipples can cause dryness, cracks or even bleed.

  • How to Treat: Avoid using harsh soaps and creams on your nipples, and replace them with lanolin-based salves meant for sensitive skin. Allowing breast milk to dry on the nipples has been known to soothe the discomfort as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • How to Prevent: Make sure your baby has a good latch. Breastfeed from both your breasts, so either doesn’t have to bear the brunt of your baby’s suckling. Wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t rub against your nipples.

9. Yeast Infections

Your baby’s mouth comes armed with many kinds of disease-causing germs. The most common one is a yeast infection known as Thrush, which can cause symptoms such as flaking skin, itching, redness, pain during nursing, rashes and so on.

  • How to Treat: Even though your breast is infected, there is no need to stop nursing your child. However, consult your doctor as soon as possible so they can prescribe you antifungal medication to take care of the infection. Do not buy off the counter drugs as it may enter the breastmilk via the bloodstream and be consumed by the baby.
  • How to Prevent: Wash yourself and your baby regularly. Use only clean clothes and towels, and never reuse a diaper. Place all the objects that go in your baby’s mouth, such as bottles, toys and pacifiers, in boiling water for about fifteen minutes a day.

Doctor prescribing medicines for yeast Infections

10. Breastfeeding Strike

Sometimes your baby who has been happy with your breast milk for several months will stop nursing. This doesn’t mean that your baby wants to stop nursing, but rather indicates that something else might be the problem. Some common causes are pain from an infection or feeding position, distractions, blocked nose, anxiety, fatigue, and so on.

  • How to Treat: If your baby simply refuses to breastfeed, try to pump your breastmilk and feed them using bottles or spoons. Regularly attempt feeding by showing your breasts to your baby, even if they keep refusing it.
  • How to Prevent: Put your baby at ease by cuddling, holding or playing with them. Ensure that there no noise pollution and fewer distractions around the baby to avoid them getting stressed.

There are many problems with breastfeeding which might make you want to wean your baby immediately. However, with enough guidance and patience, you should be able to keep them all in check and complete the recommended six months of breastfeeding.

Also Read: Nursing Strike – Why Babies Refuse to Feed

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