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Breastfeeding difficulties

How to solve the most common breastfeeding difficulties?

Are your breastfeeding difficulties giving you a hard time? Does it sometimes seem easier just to give it up?

How to solve the most common breastfeeding difficulties

Before you had your baby, you probably considered breastfeeding to be a natural and easy thing to do.

But the truth is most breastfeeding mothers do encounter certain difficulties in the beginning.

Some problems are due to factors you cannot control. Other problems may be due to your lack of knowledge, confidence or just support. If breast feeding becomes a daily struggle it is time to seek help.

The sooner you can solve these breastfeeding issues the better. Without corrective measures, the problems will soon be complicated by insufficient milk supply and poor weight gain of your baby.


It is a good idea to get a head start when you are pregnant and get yourself educated on the art of breastfeeding.

A recent study shows that women who have breastfeeding difficulties during the first two weeks after the baby is born, are also more likely to suffer postpartum depression two months later than women without these difficulties.

Therefore, read books, watch videos and if possible talk to a lactation consultant in the hospital. 

Are you having breastfeeding difficulties? Here are a few of the most common problems and what causes them.

Cracked nipple

Treat cracked nipples

Some nipple tenderness is fairly common when a woman just starts breastfeeding. Usually this soon goes away.

The most common cause of sore, cracked nipples is an improper latch-on technique. Then the baby has to suck much harder and longer to be able to get his milk. Some babies are born with a tight frenulum where their obstructed tongue movement does not allow them to suck properly.

This can easily be corrected by surgical release of the tongue tie (frenulotomy). 

You can also get painful and cracked nipples if you do not break the suction before you take your baby from the breast. Find out about common causes and how to heal a cracked nipple.


Blocked milk duct

Relieving a blocked milk duct.

With a blocked duct, a mother's breast is painful, swollen and sometimes a lump can be felt.

Milk ducts get blocked when milk is not sufficiently removed from the breast.

A blocked milk duct is not the same as mastitis, but if not taken care of, a blocked duct may become mastitis.

Click here to read more about breastfeeding difficulties like blocked milk ducts and mastitis.


Low milk supply

Low breastmilk supply.

Breastfeeding is a process of supply and demand. Feeding the baby more frequent will tell the mother's body to produce more milk.

When the mother starts supplementing with formula, water or juice the baby will drink less from the breast, and that will negatively affect her milk supply.

Many women think that they have a low milk supply because their breasts feel less full or are not leaking like before.

These are not reliable signs of a decreased milk supply. With real low milk supply a baby will not gain enough weight, have less than three soiled diapers a day, is irritable or lethargic and may have a sunken fontanel.

For many centuries woman consume certain herbs to enhance their breast milk supply. Before using any of these herbs, you should know that there is no scientific evidence that supports that these herbs have lactogenic properties. Some can even have highly unpleasant side effects.

Herbs to increase milk supply should be taken with care and always under the supervision of a baby's pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

Customs passed down for generations want us to believe that alcohol, especially beer, may help to increase milk production. On the contrary, several studies found that infants drank roughly 20% less milk when the mothers drank alcohol 3 to 4 hours before nursing.


Painful engorged breasts

Find help for engorgement

Soon after birth there will be a swelling of breast tissue caused by an increased flow of blood and lymph.

This is a natural process called physiologic engorgement. The breasts may feel heavy, warm and tender at the beginning of the milk production.

Especially the first days when the breasts seem to fill up faster than a baby can drink engorgement can cause cosiderable discomfort.



baby oral hrush

If nipple pain starts suddenly after weeks or months of problem free breastfeeding, this may be due to a yeast infection called thrush.

Painful, red and shiny nipples and white patches on the inside of baby's mouth and tongue are symptoms associated with a thrush infection.

What causes thrush on the nipples of nursing mothers? Oral thrush can be passed on between mother and baby during breastfeeding and therefore, they should be treated simultaneously to prevent them from repeatedly infecting each other.


Get help with breastfeeding difficulties

How serious the problems one encounters may seem, and how awful one may feel at the moment, do not give up on breast feeding. Breastfeeding is the best way of bonding with a child.

Breast milk provides a child with antibodies that will protect him from illness during the first months of life, and reduces the risk of childhood allergies like asthma and eczema.

If a nursing mother has breastfeeding difficulties she should seek advice of her health care professional, a lactation specialist or a good friend who has more experience with breastfeeding. Most breastfeeding problems can easily be prevented if the mother has basic knowledge about proper latch on, nursing positions and engorgement.

A terrific guide that will help every breastfeeding mom with common breastfeeding problems is the book Breastfeeding Made Simple. A supportive, informative and easy to read book on how breastfeeding works.


Thrush Photo By James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons



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