Common Breastfeeding Problems


I'm 7 weeks into my breastfeeding journey with my third child and so far things are going well.  My baby boy latched without difficulties right after birth and has been eating well ever since. All three of my children have been great nursers as infants.   My breastfeeding problems appear once I go back to work and have to rely on a the hum of a breast pump to make the magic happen.  With just five weeks left of maternity leave, I'm starting to remember how painful plugged ducts and mastitis are.  I am stubborn though and know I will plow through whatever breastfeeding issues come my way this time around, just as I did the first two times.  

Breastfeeding problems tend to be the main reason why many mother's wean their baby earlier than the first birthday.

If you are struggling with a breastfeeding issue seek help from a lactation consultant, a friend or a physician, who has experience working with nursing mothers. The key to a successful breastfeeding journey is to address the problem early and appropriately. Here are some breastfeeding challenges you may face after birth or down the road:

1. Sore and cracked nipples

Right after birth your nipples may be sore, as your baby is learning how to latch. The soreness should not last longer than a few days. If the pain persists, it may be due to a poor latch. A poor latch can lead to poor milk expression and inadequate weight gain. In addition, your nipples may be raw and chafed from the friction of your baby's mouth. In order to get start your nursing journey off on the right path, inquire with the hospital you deliver at about lactation consultant services to find assistance in correcting your latch. 

2. Engorgement When your milk comes in your breasts will feel heavy, full, and warm.  This feeling should only last about 24 hours. A mother who is experiencing engorgement typically has discomfort and sometimes a low grade fever. Breasts that are engorged are hard and uncomfortable with tight, translucent skin. The pain and distention often can extend into the underarm area. More severe engorgement can also cause numbness and tingling in the hands from pressure on an individual’s nerves. 

3. Plugged Milk Ducts

At some point, you may experience a plugged milk duct. A plugged duct occurs in only one breast. It is a hard lump that feels sore and tender. Plugged ducts occur when a milk duct is not drained properly and becomes inflamed. Unfortunately they can lead to mastitis if not treated promptly. In order to loosen a plugged duct, one should breastfeed at least every two hours. It also may be helpful to massage and apply warm heat to the affected area before nursing. I found that it is helpful to soak in a warm bath or just soak my breast in a bowl of warm water. Finally, avoid wearing a tight bra, which may constrict milk ducts.


4. Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection of the breast which may feel tender and like a hard lump (much like a plugged duct) as it begins, but you may find the lump difficult to dislodge. Mastitis may also be accompanied by a low grade fever, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. The breast may be warm to the touch and look red or pink. A plugged milk duct and mastitis have similar symptoms, but mastitis typically does not resolve without medication. If treatment remedies for plugged ducts are not relieving your symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting medication. Untreated mastitis can lead to further issues and complications.

 If you experience a breastfeeding problem just know that you are not alone and there is support available to you.  For more information about breastfeeding be sure not to miss reading Breastfeeding Resources and Support, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2013.

What do you think?

Common Breastfeeding Problems

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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  1. stacy says:

    One lady said a very good thing. She said, “Breastfeeding was the most wonderful experience with my son.” Yes really this is a best experience and I am totally agree with that.But last time I want some bras but I did’t find it anywhere but last day I found some bras for breast feeding. They are good and beautiful from Spicy Lingerie. I love to eat my kid now.

  2. Melody says:

    Best advice I can give for sore/cracked/ painful nipple is check latch and use coconut oil (before and after nursing). I am currently nursing my 10 week old and for the first 7 weeks I was so split and cracked that I screamed anytime I put her to breast, we had corrected the latch issues but I couldn’t heal. We also experienced a full blown thrush outbreak due to my injuries. After trying everything else, another mom suggested coconut oil and after just 1 week our thrush was gone and my nipple were once again soft and supple. The oil also keeps my darling daughter from clamping down with her gums while nursing thanks to the added lubrication. Stick with it and get the help you need, it does get better.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’m pregnant with my first and planning on breast feeding, so this is really helpful.

  4. LIZ says:

    i got sore nipples at first, but my doctor told my every time when i finish breastfeeding the baby remember to clean my niples with water because the baby saliva can cause this sometimes

  5. Monica says:

    This helped simply because I’ve went through all of these except for the mastitis…I want the best for my son so I haven’t stopped and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon…

  6. EbyMom says:

    This is an interesting blog as it highlights difficulties encountered in breastfeeding. It is good so that some mothers do not give up on breastfeeding cos of sore on and give ur baby the best s/he deserves.

  7. Ashley says:

    Breastfeeding was the most wonderful experience with my son. If you want to do it bad enough and enjoy that closeness with your baby then you can get through it. Its all worth it. I feel it made us closer!

  8. Phammom says:

    Writing these down.

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