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Common Breastfeeding Difficulties - How to Overcome

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Some mothers find it difficult to breastfeed their babies. To know more about the breastfeeding challenges, go through this article.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At October 27, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 12, 2023


Almost all mothers across the world worry about breastfeeding. Even if everything is going smoothly between you and your baby, it persists as a concern. Breastfeeding is a natural process and takes time and practice for a woman to perform it correctly and efficiently. A mother usually produces enough milk to fulfill the needs of the newborn. The worry behind breastfeeding may sometimes be mistakenly diagnosed as low milk supply. Still, you need to know that some signs during your postpartum period indicate the initiation of your breastfeeding.

However, if there is any concern that is problematic for your breastfeeding and causing you pain, in that case, you should consult your doctor or lactation counselor to get a diagnosis for the signs that you are experiencing to have smooth breastfeeding.

What Are the Common Breastfeeding Challenges Faced by a Mother?

A bond between the mother and baby should be established to experience successful breastfeeding. Every mother comes across breastfeeding problems sometimes in their lactation phase.

The most commonly encountered breastfeeding problems are,

1) Sore Nipples

It is one of the most common problems that many breastfeeding mothers encounter. Breastfeeding mothers may notice their breasts growing sensitive and tender during the initial days after delivery. It is because your body is undergoing physiological changes while adjusting to breastfeeding. If you show some visible signs like soreness, cracks, blisters, or bleeding in your nipples and experiencing long-lasting pain and soreness, you need to consult your doctor immediately. The possible reasons causing it includes improper baby latch and positioning, fungal infections, nipple trauma, or the formation of milk blisters. Symptomatic treatments are advisable for a woman suffering from breastfeeding problems because of sore nipples.

2) Low Milk Supply

Usually, all mothers secrete enough milk according to the needs of their newborns, but they still worry about their nourishment. Even if a woman is suffering from a low milk supply, she should know that this problem is temporary, and many things can be done to correct it. Baby's sucking your nipples and emptying your breasts are the main factors that regulate the volume of milk flow.

You may suffer from a low milk supply if you are,

  • Unable to establish a good latch and positioning.

  • More dependent on formula milk for feeding your baby.

  • Switched for early weaning.

  • Smoking or drinking alcohol.

  • Under some hormonal medicines, including oral contraceptives.

  • Or maybe because of your previous breast surgery, premature birth, and pregnancy-induced blood pressure.

  • If you have developed breast inflammation called lactation mastitis.

A mother can quickly increase their milk supply by following simple tips like breastfeeding often, maintaining skin-to-skin touch with the infants, massaging the breast, using both breasts for feeding, eating nutritious food, and drinking enough water.

3) Breast Engorgement

Breast engorgement is the swelling and distension of the breast that occurs during the postpartum period. Your breast may be swollen, painful, firm, and milk-filled. The causes behind breast engorgement include a large gap between breastfeeding, dependency on formula milk, improper latching techniques, early weaning, or wearing a tight-fitting bra. Some simple modifications can help you to get rid of breast engorgement. These include; breastfeeding from the engorged breast first, practicing a proper latch, massaging your breast before, during, and after the breastfeeding, extracting extra milk, and applying cold compression on your breast.

4) Lactation Mastitis

Lactation mastitis affects breastfeeding mothers and causes inflammation of the breast tissue, which may or may not be associated with infection. Milk stasis is the primary cause of lactation mastitis. The causative factors responsible for milk stasis are blockage of the mammary duct, breast engorgement, breastfeeding frequency, improper latch positioning, and milk blister formation. Smoking, stress, age, and any complications during delivery are the associated risk factors for lactation mastitis. The treatment for lactation mastitis includes milk removal, symptomatic treatment, antibiotic therapy in case of infection, and supportive counseling.

5) Fungal Infection

A breastfeeding mother may develop a fungal infection or thrush around her nipples or in the breast. It makes the nipple sore, pink, flaky, shiny, itchy, cracked, or blistered. You should consult your doctor immediately to identify these signs as they may get transferred to your baby, and the baby may develop white spots on the cheek, tongue, or gums.

6) Nursing Strike

Sometimes a baby refuses to breastfeed; this is a nursing strike. It may be because your baby is upset, distracted, sick, you smell different, or the baby is not getting enough milk from you. A nursing strike can be resolved simply by giving extra love and affection to the baby by holding them close to your chest, feeding in a quiet and calm environment, and trying a different nursing position.

7) Size and Shape of Nipples and Breasts

All mothers can experience successful breastfeeding irrespective of the size and shape of the breast and nipples. A woman with a flat or inverted nipple can also breastfeed their babies by developing a good latch and positioning with the baby. The main goal is developing and practicing a position that makes your baby's mouth cover enough of your areola and compress your mammary ducts to promote milk supply.

8) Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts

Cluster feeding is when your baby demands breastfeeding often. It is usual for babies to seek breastfeeding frequently while in their growth spurt phase. Sometimes when you are tired, sad, or depressed, you might find breastfeeding harder. Good nutrition, adequate rest, and care from elders and your partner may be helpful. New moms may find it difficult to feed their babies in public and consider getting a judgment from others. It would help if you handled breastfeeding with confidence without caring about any judgment.


All women experience various problems during their early phase of breastfeeding. Proper breastfeeding develops with time and practice. Sometimes the difficulties resolve with practice; other times, it requires seeking support from lactation consultants. Every problem when it comes to breastfeeding has a solution. You may ask for help from your elders and discuss issues with your partner. You must know that your breastfeeding experience must be pain-free, and in case of any difficulty, you may consult your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions


How To Overcome Breastfeeding Challenges?

Breastfeeding can sometimes be challenging, and mothers may experience difficulty with latching or positioning. Therefore, it is important to seek support from a lactation consultant or other health professionals knowledgeable in breastfeeding. They can advise how to position the baby, attach them to the breast properly and ensure they get enough milk. 


What Are the Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier?

Breastfeeding can be a challenging experience, but there are a few things that mothers can do to make it easier. Firstly, ensure that the mother and the baby are comfortable – good positioning and attachment are essential. Additionally, ensure that the mother has the correct quantity of breast milk and the right position for the baby when breastfeeding. 


Why Do Women Struggle With Breastfeeding?

Many women struggle with breastfeeding for many reasons. It can be hard to learn the right positions and techniques, some mothers have difficulty with milk production, and others may experience pain or discomfort while nursing. Other common issues include a poor latch, not having enough support, and a baby that refuses to breastfeed.


What Are the Most Common Five Steps to Successful Breastfeeding?

Here are the five steps to successful breastfeeding that have been implemented:
- In-service Training for Healthcare Staff: This training teaches staff about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to support mothers who are breastfeeding.
- Prenatal Breastfeeding Classes: These classes provide pregnant women with information about breastfeeding, such as how to latch their baby, how to manage common breastfeeding problems, and how to maintain their milk supply.
- Asking Mothers About Their Feeding Plans: This helps healthcare providers to understand the mother's preferences and to provide her with the support she needs to breastfeed.
- Initiating Breastfeeding Within One Hour of Birth: This is the best time to start breastfeeding, as it helps to establish a good milk supply and bond between mother and baby.
- Giving Only Breastmilk to Breastfed Newborns: This means that newborns should not be given any other food or drink, such as formula, water, or juice.


What Are the Four Different Ways to Breastfeed?

- Cradle Position: This is the most common breastfeeding position. The mother sits or reclines comfortably, and the baby is placed on her lap, tummy to tummy. The mother supports the baby's head and neck with her hand, and the baby's body is supported by the mother's arm.
- Cross Cradle Position: The baby is placed on the opposite side of the mother's body. This position can be helpful for mothers who have had a cesarean section, as it allows them to avoid putting pressure on their abdomen.
- Clutch Position: This position is often used for newborns or babies who have difficulty latching. The mother holds the baby's body close to her chest, with the baby's legs tucked under her arm. The mother supports the baby's head and neck with her other hand.
- Side-lying Position: This position is often used for night feedings or for mothers who are tired. The mother lies on her side, and the baby is placed on her chest, tummy to tummy. The mother supports the baby's head and neck with her arm, and the baby's body is supported by the mother's body.


Is A Lying Down Position Good For Breastfeeding?

Yes, breastfeeding while sleeping position is perfectly safe. When correctly done, it is important to ensure the mother is comfortable breastfeeding. Ideally, the mother should be in a position that allows the baby to latch on properly and switch between breasts easily. 


How Often Is Breastfeeding Easy For A Mother?

Many women believe breastfeeding becomes easier and more manageable once their baby is six weeks old because the milk supply should have stabilized by six weeks. The body should produce enough milk to satisfy the baby.


When Is Breastfeeding Most Difficult?

Breastfeeding is typically most difficult during the first week. This is because mums are adjusting to life as new mothers, whether it is a second, third, or fourth child. Both the mother and the baby must adjust to life with each other and learn a new skill.


How Does Stress Impact Breastfeeding?

Stress is the most common cause that impacts breast milk, especially in the first few weeks after the delivery. Sleep disturbance and adjusting to the infant’s schedule may raise the stress hormone cortisol level, dramatically reducing the breast milk supply.


Does Crying Affect the Flow of Breast Milk?

No, crying does not affect the quality or quantity of breast milk. Breast milk is produced in response to a mother’s hormones and not in reaction to the baby's emotional state. That being said, it is important to take care of emotional health as it may affect other aspects of breastfeeding, such as milk production and milk let-down.


How to Burp, ASleeping Baby?

To burp a sleeping baby, gently pat their back for about two minutes until they startle awake. The best way to burp a sleeping baby depends on their age and size—for younger babies, hold them upright and slightly forward so their chin rests on the mother’s shoulder. For bigger babies, try cradling them in one arm while supporting their chest with the hand.


Is Three Minutes of Breastfeeding Enough?

No, three minutes of breastfeeding is not enough. Breastfeeding should last until the baby stops actively sucking and swallowing. After that, it is recommended to breastfeed for at least 10 to 15 minutes on each side.


How To Know When the Breast Is Empty?

It is empty when the breast feels soft and does not feel any more milk flowing. Other signs of a bare breast are if the baby pauses to take a break while feeding or stops suckling altogether. 


How Much Breastmilk Can A Breast Hold?

The amount of breastmilk a woman can store in her breasts varies from woman to woman. However, this can depend on the individual. A woman's breasts can hold between 20 to 30 ounces of milk.
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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology


common breastfeeding difficulties
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