Common breastfeeding problems and how to solve them

Breastfeeding might be the most natural way to feed your baby, but it’s not always easy. You might encounter some breastfeeding problems. Breastfeeding is a learned skill, so allow yourself to get comfortable and confident, and find solutions that work for you.

Unsettled feeding

If you are encountering breastfeeding problems, or your baby is unsettled at the breast and doesn’t seem satisfied by feeds, it may be that they are sucking on the nipple alone, and so are not getting enough milk. You may need to change your baby into a better feeding position.

Sore or cracked nipples

If your nipples hurt, or you are encountering breast pain during breastfeeding, take your baby off the breast and start again. If the pain continues or your nipples start to crack or bleed, ask for help so you get your baby latched on comfortably.

Tips to make breastfeeding more comfortable:

  • Try squeezing out a drop or two of your milk at the end of a feed and gently rubbing it into your skin. Let your nipples dry before covering them.
  • If you are using breast pads, they need to be changed at each feed (if possible, use pads without a plastic backing).
  • Avoid soap as it dries your skin out.
  • Wear a cotton bra, so air can circulate.
  • Some mothers treat any cracks or bleeding with a thin smear of white soft paraffin or purified lanolin. Put the ointment on the crack (rather than the whole nipple) to help it heal and prevent a scab forming

What are Engorged breasts?

During the first period after delivery, the breasts are usually full, hard and warm; when that occurs it is said that the breasts are full of milk and the scientific term for that is breast engorgement or engorged breasts.

Breastfeeding & Breast Engorgement

For the first few days after giving birth, a new mother’s breasts remain tender and soft. Breast engorgement is normal but the extent and duration of it varies depending on the mother. Many women face a mild case of breast engorgement which is easy to deal with and that usually lasts around a day. However, engorgement for other mothers may be more severe and can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Some moms produce a large quantity of milk early on, while other moms face the issue of swollen breasts; which is why the period of breast engorgement may seem more difficult for those moms and their babies. With the passing of time the breast adjusts and produces the appropriate quantity of milk for the baby.

Milk can build up in the ducts for a variety of reasons. The most common are wearing a bra that is too tight, missing a feed, or a blow to the breast. It’s important that you deal with a blocked duct as soon as possible so that it doesn’t lead to mastitis (inflammation of the breast).

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammation in the breasts due to blocked ducts causing them to feel hot and tender. Symptoms include noticing a red patch of skin on the breast which is painful to touch, feeling ill as if you have the flu, or getting a fever. Mastitis can happen quite suddenly, however it is very important to carry on breastfeeding as this will help with the healing process. Contact your doctor or midwife if you notice any of these symptoms.

If you think you might have mastitis (or a blocked duct), try the following:


  • Take extra care to make sure your baby is attached well to your breast.
  • Feed your baby more often.
  • Let your baby feed on the tender breast first.
  • If your breasts still feel full after a feed, express some milk.
  • Placing a warm towel on your breast before a feed can help milk flow and make you feel more comfortable.
  • While your baby is feeding and stops to take a breath, gently stroke and massage the lumpy area with your fingertips towards your nipple. This should help the milk to flow.

Inflammation of the breast may also indicate an infection. If there is no improvement within 12 to 24 hours, or if you feel worse, contact your doctor who might prescribe you some antibiotics that are safe for women who are breastfeeding.

If you continue to face breastfeeding problems, we recommend that you consult your doctor

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