Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Struggling to breastfeed successfully? You’re not alone.

Breast milk is the best food for your growing baby and most experts suggest that an exclusive diet of breast milk is all your baby needs in the first six months. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, and fats. It is also packed with antibodies that help to protect your little one from nasty viruses and infections. Studies have shown that babies who are exclusively breastfed have a lower risk of asthma and allergies, so it’s little wonder than many moms are keen to feed their babies naturally. However, not all moms can successfully breastfeed for a variety of reasons. And while it’s ok to not breastfeed – babies can still have a great start on formula – there are some breastfeeding challenges that it is possible to overcome. We take a look at some of the most common breastfeeding challenges and how you can tackle them, below.


mother breastfeeding her newborn baby beside


Sore Nipples

Breastfeeding is hard work. Nipples can become cracked, inflamed, red, and very sore. Nipples can even bleed when badly damaged. This is one of the most common problems that new breastfeeding mothers face and it can be frustrating and stressful.

How to Treat Sore and Painful Nipples

Sore nipples on one or both sides are often the result of baby latching incorrectly. This means that the nipple chafes against the hard palate at the front of babies mouth rather than sitting comfortably against the soft palate at the back. If your baby is latching incorrectly, you should use your finger to gently break the seal and encourage them to take the full nipple in their mouth. You should also speak to your lactation consultant to get advice on how to properly position your baby.

You can treat sore nipples by dabbing a little expressed breast milk over the painful area and wearing a cotton bra so that air can circulate freely. Remember, also, to change your breast pads at each feed and avoid pads with plastic backing as they can increase irritation. Continue to feed your baby wherever possible, avoiding feeds could impact your milk supply.

Inverted or Large Nipples

Sometimes our nipples point inwards instead of outwards and this can make it harder for babies to latch on. Very large nipples can also make it more difficult to create a good seal, this is often particularly challenging in the first few weeks after a baby is born.

How to Breastfeed with Large or Inverted Nipples

If you are worried about your nipple size or shape it’s useful to speak to your doctor or lactation consultant who can give you tips on how to place your baby to promote a healthy latching position. Your medical team may also suggest a suction device or manual technique that gently pulls out inverted nipples for easier feeding. Latching will get easier as your baby grows, and their mouth gets bigger. This may take several weeks, but patience and perseverance usually pay off.

Low Milk Supply

Most of the time your body will make enough milk to feed your growing baby, and this milk supply will adapt as their needs change. New mothers are often concerned they are not producing enough milk, particularly as their breasts begin to soften after the first few weeks of feeding. You should only become concerned if your doctor is worried that your baby is not gaining weight appropriately, their urine is dark yellow or orange, they seem unhappy or like they are still hungry after feeding, or their bowel movements become irregular.

What Can I Do to Promote a Healthy Milk Supply?

To ensure your milk supply develops properly, you should regularly feed from both breasts for as often and long as your baby wants. You should also avoid giving formula or a pacifier until your milk supply is well established. Drinking alcohol and smoking can have a negative impact on your milk supply and both should be avoided while breastfeeding. Remember that poor feeding is often linked to poor attachment and positioning, and you should seek advice from your lactation consultant or doctor if you are concerned.


It’s perfectly normal for breasts to become larger, fuller, and even a little more sensitive when you begin to breastfeed. However, if they become too full, they can become engorged – this is when one or both breasts become swollen, tender, and painful. Engorged breasts often feel warm to the touch and are accompanied by a mild fever. It’s common for engorgement to occur a few days after giving birth as your body adjusts to breastfeeding.

How Can You Treat Engorgement?

Breastfeeding regularly after birth is one of the best ways to avoid engorgement ¬– allow your baby to feed for as often and as long as they need. However, if you do suffer from engorgement, massage and expressing a small amount of milk can help to reduce pressure and pain. A cold compress can also ease symptoms. It’s important to stay well hydrated, to avoid overly tight bras and to continue to breastfeed often. Engorgement can lead to infection, so talk to your doctor or lactation consultant if symptoms don’t seem to be going away on their own.

Breast Infection

Breast infections or mastitis happens when the breast tissue becomes inflamed and sore. You may notice that your breasts feel lumpy or painful to the touch. These symptoms are often accompanied by a fever, nausea, vomiting, and yellowish discharge from the nipple. You may experience symptoms in one or both breasts.

What Can You Do if You Think You Have a Breast Infection?

Continue to breastfeed throughout the infection if possible. This will not harm your baby and can help to keep milk flowing to aid recovery. You can also use a warm compress and massage to improve symptoms. Treat the other flu-like symptoms by resting often, staying hydrated, and eating a healthy diet. Some breast infections pass on their own in around 24 hours. However, you may need treatment from a doctor. So, if you’re not feeling better after a day, make sure to contact a health professional.

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