Your Breastfeeding Journey: Combatting 5 Common Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding can be an incredible way to bond with and nourish your baby, but for many women, it can come with its challenges, too. If you’re having difficulties breastfeeding, you’re not alone! No matter where you are in your breastfeeding journey, we’re sharing five of the most common breastfeeding concerns and tips for how to handle them.

#1: Baby Won’t Latch

For both mother and baby, finding the proper latching technique can take time. If you’re having difficulties, it could be due to a host of reasons. For example, it could be that your baby is too sleepy or agitated to feed, or it could that your baby’s mouth has a physical condition like a tongue tie or a lip tie that restricts their range of motion.

Solution: If you’re unsure of the cause of the problem, you may want to consult a lactation consultant or pediatrician who can help diagnose and offer advice. In the meantime, making small adjustments to your positioning may help. You can try different techniques from cradling, to the crossover hold, or the laid-back position to see what works best.  Nipple shields can also be helpful in the short-term to give your baby a firmer target to attach to. Conditions like tongue tie or lip tie often resolve on their own, or can be treated by a pediatrician if needed.

#2: Sore or Cracked Nipples

It’s very common to experience sore, cracked nipples especially during the early weeks of breastfeeding. On top of the adjustment to breastfeeding, your breasts are often more sensitive after giving birth. Generally, though, the sensitivity should resolve in a few weeks. However, if you’re noticing a persistent soreness or that your nipples are becoming raw and cracked, this is often due to improper latching and shouldn’t be ignored.

Solution: To provide some relief, you can try applying a warm compress to help soothe irritated nipples. You can also try soaking your nipples in a homemade saline solution by mixing ½ teaspoon of salt with 8 oz of warm water. To further promote healing, opt for a medical grade ointment like Lanolin designed for breast-feeding mothers. And again, it’s best to consult with your provider or lactation specialist to identify what could be causing the problem in the first place.

#3: Clogged Ducts

Clogged or plugged milk ducts can feel like hard, tender lumps in your breast that prevent the flow of breast milk. They can cause swelling, redness, and breast pain. Clogged ducts can develop from improper latching, missed feedings, or weaning too soon.

Solution: To prevent milk from backing up in your ducts, you’ll want to continue to stick to a regular breastfeeding scheduling. You may also want to avoid bras that are too tight or anything that can put pressure on your breasts. If you develop a clogged duct, it’s best to continue to breastfeed often to help with the flow of milk. It’s important that you empty your breast milk as you much as you can, which may mean using a breast pump or hand compression after feeding.

#4: Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection that occurs when bacteria found on skin or saliva enters the breast through a milk duct or crack in the skin or when a clogged milk duct goes untreated. It causes breasts to become swollen, red, and inflamed. Women with mastitis may also experience flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or fatigue.

Solution: Monitoring for issues like a clogged milk duct can help with preventing mastitis, in addition to making sure you fully dry your nipples after each feeding session to prevent irritation. If you do develop an infection, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and getting proper rest as your body is fighting off the infection. To help reduce the inflammation and pain, you can apply a warm compress every few hours. You can also massage the area using a gentle circular motion. It’s recommended that you continue to breastfeed every few hours, even though it may be uncomfortable. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat the infection that should work within 7-10 days.

#5: Inverted Nipples

Having inverted nipples won’t prevent you from breastfeeding. However, it may mean you need to give your baby some extra assistance to help them latch.

Solution: Just before breastfeeding, it can be helpful to extract the nipple by gently pinching around the areola. Tools like a breast pump can also be helpful to help “pull out” the nipples before feeding.

Additional Breastfeeding Resources

Axia Women’s Health is proud to partner with organizations like Birthly who offer expert advice and instructions on how to get started breastfeeding, all in a convenient virtual class.

Other organizations that offer breastfeeding support include:

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