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Most Common Breastfeeding Problems And How To Avoid Them

Breastfeeding your baby is what nature intended. However, unfortunately by 6 months into a baby’s life, only 14% of the mothers who started out breastfeeding are still nursing their babies. This low percentage can partially be attributed to the fact that there are a plethora of breastfeeding problems that we dedicated, but exhausted moms have to deal with.

I know that it’s difficult, but the advantages of breastfeeding for both you and your baby are SO DARN GOOD.

Knowledge is power. Knowing the breastfeeding problems and difficulties that you might encounter on your breastfeeding journey and how to solve them is the first step to total breastfeeding success.

Even if you aren’t currently dealing with these breastfeeding problems, you can learn how to PREVENT them.

This post is going to walk you through the most common breastfeeding problems, along with tips for avoiding them (or what to do if it’s too late and you’re already there).

This post contains affiliate links.

Breastfeeding Problems

Discover what you can do when you are faced with any of these breastfeeding problems.

A Poor Breastfeeding Latch

Encouraging a good latch from the very FIRST latch is so very important.

But I remember my second born’s first latch (not my first, she latched like a pro and I thought I was winning at breastfeeding). She was my second breastfed baby, so I stupidly thought that I knew what I was doing.

Surprise. I didn’t.

I remember feeling hopeless and feeling like although I had all of this experience, I actually didn’t know anything about proper latch.

Don’t be like me. Be informed. KNOW something about what makes a proper latch.

Take A Breastfeeding Class

Taking a breastfeeding class, whether in person or online, can teach you everything you need to know about establishing a healthy latch from day one. If you’d rather take an online breastfeeding class, I highly recommend Milkology’s on-demand class. Click here to check out what it includes (which is pretty much EVERYTHING).

Breastfeeding Latching Tips

Breastfeed In A Reclined Position

Trying to latch from a more reclined position is going to help you relax and is going to help your baby latch easier. It’s difficult to get your baby to latch when you are tense.

Aim For An Early First Latch

If you have not yet given birth to your baby, make sure that you have discussed breastfeeding with your doctor or midwife. You want to get your baby to latch as soon as possible, preferably within the first hour after birth. During this time, your baby has an innate reflex to begin nursing.

Skin-to-skin during this time will also help encourage your baby to naturally latch.

To start, using the cradle hold is probably going to be the easiest position for you. You will hold baby across your stomach, with your baby tummy to tummy with you.

When in this position, it is very possible that you baby will start routing and opening his mouth. If not, simply brush your nipple back and forth over your baby’s lips to encourage him to open his mouth.

Make sure that you are not forcing your baby’s head toward your nipple, but also make sure that your baby is opening wide. Not just your nipple, but part of your areola should be in your baby’s mouth. If not, you should safely unlatch your baby and retry. A shallow latch equals pain and can also mean a decrease in supply because your baby will not be able to adequately remove the milk from your breast.

Related: The BEST Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Positions

If you are still struggling to get a good latch, you might want to change your positioning.

I must admit, I was terrible with this, because the cradle hold was simply the easiest and most comfortable for me, but we did have some minor latching issues in the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship. If I would have tried some different positions, that might have helped her to latch.

Read more breastfeeding latching tips, such as how to get baby to latch deeper and wider and how to correct a shallow latch.

Breastfeeding Pain

Ooooh, why in the world do nipples have to be so SENSITIVE? It’s a little cruel, isn’t it?

Thankfully, your nipples will get used to their new constant companion pretty quickly.

Until then, you’re probably dealing with some pain. You might even have read that if you’re doing everything right, then you shouldn’t feel any pain.

I don’t buy it. Like I said before, our nipples are sensitive! And telling women that experiencing any sort of nursing pain means that they are doing something WRONG isn’t encouraging or helpful.

In order to have the best possible chance to avoid pain from the beginning, I suggest you get a good nipple cream or nipple butter. I used Lansinoh with my first child, and I used Earth Mama with my second child. I think that the Lansinoh brand may have performed a tad bit better in terms of avoiding unnecessary pain, but I love the Earth Mama nipple butter because of the ingredients. It goes on a lot easier (it’s not thick and sticky like Lansinoh) and it smells really good.

Related: 4 Safest Nipple Creams

Whatever you decide to use, I highly suggest that you use it after each and every nursing session. I also suggest getting more than one so that you can keep one in your purse, one where baby sleeps and one at your nursing station (the place in your home where you frequently nurse during the day).

Perfect Your Breastfeeding Latch

The most common reason for excessive breastfeeding pain is probably a poor latch. If your baby has a shallow latch (only latches onto the nipple and not the areola also) then you need to work on your latching technique and breastfeeding position.

Read all of my breastfeeding tips for pain.

Bottle Feeding Breast Milk

Bottle feeding breast milk can be an overwhelming task! When you exclusively breastfeed, you have no idea how much milk your baby is drinking. You also have no idea what the perfect temperature of your milk is, and you don’t want to introduce the bottle too soon (or too late), which can cause other issues.

My first baby was really, REALLY difficult to bottle feed. I was returning to work and stressed enough over the fact that I wouldn’t be with my baby for 8 hours a day. You know, the baby who I hadn’t been away from for the first 4 months of her life.

Then add in the fact that she drank 3 ounces of breast milk just to get by while I was gone. STRESS- FUL.  So yes, bottle feeding breast milk can be a major breastfeeding problem.

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know:

Who: Someone other than you should (at least at first) give your baby expressed milk in a bottle. You should not be anywhere near your baby either, because breast is best and baby’s know that!

When: The ideal time to introduce your baby to a bottle is between 4-6 weeks.If you introduce your baby to the bottle before this time, your milk supply might suffer. If you introduce it after, then your baby might have major boob preference. Get tips on how often to pump and on how to decide when to start pumping milk after birth.

How: You should give breast milk to your baby in a bottle similar to the breast. These bottles mimic the natural latch that your baby uses. You should also make sure that you are using a slow flow nipple, so that your baby really has to work at removing the milk from the bottle.

Read more about feeding breast milk in a bottle to find out how long your breast milk is good for, how much your baby should be drinking and how to deal with bottle refusal.

Breastfeeding And Bottle Feeding Formula

What about if you are combination feeding breast milk and formula? Breastfeeding and bottle feeding formula is completely different from bottle feeding expressed breastmilk, and comes with its very own challenges.

What I love about breastfeeding, is that it DOESN”T have to be all or nothing.

I feel like many moms feel that way. I’ve heard it a hundred times. Oh, I’m not producing enough milk, so I can’t breastfeed.

Guess what? Any amount of breast milk is beneficial to your baby!

The difficulty with breastfeeding and bottle feeding however, is that it can be difficult to balance the two. You don’t want your baby preferring the bottle, or refusing the bottle either!

Because your goal is to breastfeed for as long as possible, and if you’re combination feeding, that goal can be hard to extend.

Developing a good combination feeding schedule and following a few essential rules is necessary if you want to continue breastfeeding while bottle feeding formula also.

  1. Hold your baby in a position that’s different from your breastfeeding position.
  2. If you want to continue breastfeeding long term, offer a bottle after a nursing session. However, if your baby is too impatient and wants milk quickly, you may need to start with the bottle and end with the breast in order to get your baby to latch at all.
  3. Make sure that you are using a bottle specifically designed for breastfeeding babies.
  4. Start adding in formula feeds one at a time and slowly in order to avoid engorgement, clogged ducts or mastitis.

Read more about how to make breastfeeding and bottle feeding work for you and your baby.

Clogged Milk Ducts

If you have a clogged milk duct, it is extremely important that you treat it before it turns into Mastitis (if you think you’re in pain right now, believe me, Mastitis pain is MUCH worse).

How Long Does A Clogged Milk Duct Last?

The length of time that you are suffering from a clogged milk duct can vary, but you should be trying to relieve it ASAP. The longer it goes, the more likely it is that you will get Mastitis. You should try to unclog the duct within two days.

Clogged Milk Duct Treatment

When trying to clear a clogged milk duct, there are a few methods that you can try.

  • Always nurse first on the side with the clogged milk duct, as your baby’s sucking will be strongest at the beginning of a feed.
  • Apply a warm compress before nursing.
  • Try a different nursing position.
  • Try having baby’s chin pointed toward the block while nursing.
  • Take a hot shower before nursing or immerse your breast in a bowl of hot water (it sounds weird, but it worked for me on several occasions!)
  • Nurse with your baby lying on the bed and you hovering over top of your baby. Again, I know this one sounds weird, but it WORKS. This paired with the hot water boobie bath worked really well for me.
  • Massage the blocked duct toward the nipple before and during nursing.

How To Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts

When it comes to clogged milk ducts, you should try to be proactive so that you can HELP to prevent it. Know, however, that sometimes it’s inevitable due to the sudden end to a growth spurt or a sudden, much longer nighttime stretch of sleep.

  • Try to avoid engorgement. You can do this by:
    • Pumping when you are missing a feeding (when baby receives a bottle of breast milk or formula).
    • Nursing on demand.
    • Avoiding pumping before your supply has regulated.
    • Slowing the weaning process.
    • Using cabbage leaves in extreme cases of engorgement (but use it with caution as it can quickly decrease your supply).
  • Change your breastfeeding position frequently in order to empty the breasts more effectively.
  • Breastfeed frequently and on-demand.
  • Avoid putting pressure on your breasts with restrictive clothing or tight nursing bras or by sleeping on your stomach.
  • Consider taking a lecithin supplement.

Breastfeeding Engorgement/Oversupply/Overactive Letdown

While oversupply sounds like a good thing, you can absolutely have too much milk.

I dealt with oversupply and overactive letdown with both of my children. When my second child was born and my milk came in, I felt like I was dying. I had rock hard boobs, a fever, the sweats, the chills, I was shaky and achy and nauseous. My lactation consultant said that I had “enough milk for an entire neighborhood”.

It was miserable.

I mentioned above what to do for breast engorgement management, so let’s talk about oversupply.

Oversupply means that you produce too much milk. At first, your body simply doesn’t know how much to produce, and might overproduce. Later, you might find that your body is producing more milk due to a growth spurt that suddenly ended, and now your body has to readjust. It could even be caused by your baby comfort nursing a ton due to something like teething.

Oversupply might mean that your milk sprays while breastfeeding or that you constantly find yourself engorged.

The best way to treat oversupply is to block feed. This means that you would feed on the same feeding for an entire feeding, or for two or more feedings before switching if necessary.

Overactive Letdown

Overactive letdown is often synonymous with oversupply. It means that you have so much milk, and that when your baby triggers a letdown, the milk rushes out at full force. This can be difficult for a young baby to handle.

Overactive letdown (and oversupply) can cause excessive spitting up, coughing and choking at the beginning of a feed, trouble latching, squirming and pulling off the breast, fussiness, and major gas. It can even cause green stools and on rare occasions, blood in your baby’s poop.

In order to lessen the effects of overactive letdown:

  • Get your oversupply under control
  • Nurse in a reclined position so that gravity will slow the flow
  • Pull baby off once your letdown has been triggered and catch the milk in a towel or in a Milkies Breast Milk Collector so that don’t waste any precious breast milk.


Luckily I never had Mastitis because I was very quick to try every possible way to clear a clogged milk duct.

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the breast.

How do you even know if your clogged milk duct has progressed to Mastitis? (I remember googling this several times.)

If you have Mastitis, your symptoms will significantly worsen. The clogged area will become hot and more red. Mastitis will also include flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, fever, chills, and a headache.

Mastitis Treatment

If you believe that you have Mastitis:

  • Continue to try to unclog the duct using the suggestions above.
  • Consider taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Contact your physician in order to get a prescribed antibiotic.

Low Milk Supply

Low milk supply is a breastfeeding problem that can be detrimental to your ability to keep breastfeeding. Luckily, there are foods and supplements that increase milk supply.

Read about how to increase milk supply fast.

Thrush and Breastfeeding

Thrush is a fungal infection that can develop on your nipples and in your baby’s mouth.

Thrush Symptoms In Mom

  • Nipple pain after you were pain free
  • Itchy, sensitive nipples
  • Burning feeling in the breast
  • Cracked nipples that don’t heal

Signs of Thrush In Babies

  • Baby will have white patches on his tongue, gums or inside of his mouth.
  • Baby is squirmy while nursing.
  • Baby might seem uninterested in nursing or may nurse only for a short time.
  • Baby might also have a diaper rash with red or white spots.

Thrush Breastfeeding Treatment

The treatment for both mom and baby for thrush is an antifungal cream or gel that will be prescribed by a doctor.

How To Prevent Thrush While Breastfeeding

  • Change breast pads often.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wash your nursing bra everyday.
  • Consider taking a probiotic.

No Time To Pump

Being a mom means feeling like you’re pulled in a million different directions, and like there’s never enough time for everything.

At least for me, that’s how it was. And STILL is.

But when I was a mom with a baby, it was even worse.
And once I started back to work, I not only had to get all of my work completed despite the fact that I was severely sleep deprived, but I also had to fit in time to pump.

If you have struggling to find time to pump or have limited time afforded to you to pump, check out how to pump a lot of milk fast.

Fussy At The Breast

Trying to figure out the cause for your baby being fussy at the breast can be exasperating. Your baby might squirm or pull away while breastfeeding. You might just have a generally fussy baby and because you are breastfeeding, you question whether or not your baby’s fussiness is related to breastfeeding. Or something you’re eating. Or doing.

Learn the why your breastfed baby is so fussy.

Make sure to pin this post for a quick reference the next time you encounter a new breastfeeding problem!

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