breastfeeding challenges and how to deal with them

No matter if you have sore nipples, low milk supply, engorged breast, clogged ducts, or any other breastfeeding problems, we’ve got a solution to each of them. 

Breastfeeding is a natural process, but does that make it easy? Perhaps not. Many new moms find breastfeeding easy right from the beginning, while others face challenges, particularly in the first few weeks of pregnancy. If you happen to fall into the second category, you have landed on the correct place. We're going to discuss the best solutions to deal with some of the dire breastfeeding challenges in detail. 


Challenge #1: Sore or Cracked Nipples


This is one of the breastfeeding challenges many women face. It can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • A shallow latch
  • Thrush
  • Pumping incorrectly
  • Dry skin

When your baby is just learning to latch in the first week of pregnancy, some moms can also experience some bloody nipple discharge. Sore or cracked nipples can be a little discomforting or terrifying, but this breastfeeding challenge is nothing to worry about.


  • Make sure your baby shouldn’t be suckling only from the nipple. The baby should be suckling from most parts of the Areola (the pigmented area around the nipple) and the nipple itself.
  • A good latch is crucial. If your baby sucks only through the nipple, carefully break your baby's suction to your breast by positioning a clean finger around the corner of your baby's mouth. Then further attempt to get your baby to latch on.
  • If you find yourself postponing breastfeeding as it has become quite painful for you, seek medical assistance from a lactation specialist. Delaying feeding can only cause more pain and can also harm your milk supply. 
  • Each time you breastfeed, try changing positions. Check common breastfeeding positions here.
  • Keep your sore nipples moist all the time to continue with your breastfeeding. 
  • Consult your doctor or lactation specialist before utilizing any creams, nipple shield, or hydrogel pads. In some cases, using them won’t be the right decision. Your doctor or lactation specialist will help you make the best choice. 
  • Avoid wearing bras or other tight-fitting clothes that exert much pressure on your nipples. 
  • Do NOT use harsh astringents-containing ointments or soaps on your nipples. Wash them just with clear water - that’s sufficient for clean breast and nipples.


Challenge #2: Low Milk Supply


Most mothers produce adequate milk for their babies. Milk production can be thought of as a “supply-demand system.” The more you breastfeed or pump, the more milk you should produce. Many mothers still do not produce enough milk. This is yet another common breastfeeding challenge that may occur due to a wide range of reasons. 

At times, low milk supply is fine, including the following circumstances:

  • When your baby is six months - 2 weeks old, and your breast no longer feels full. Don’t get distressed. Moreover, your baby may nurse only around five minutes at a time. This may imply that you and your baby are just getting accustomed to breastfeeding - and will get better with time.
  • Growth spurts can make your baby nurse more frequently and longer. These growth spurts generally occur during the first year of life. Don’t get troubled, thinking that the milk supply is too low to satisfy your baby. All you need to do is nurse more frequently, as this will help boost your milk supply. Once your milk supply is increased, you are likely to get back to your standard routine. 


  • Be sure that your baby is latched on and positioned appropriately. 
  • Breastfeed frequently and allow your baby to decide when you should end the feeding. 
  • Let your baby suckle on one side of the breast. When he slows down or stops suckling, offer the other side of the breast. 
  • Pump your breast during the day to increase milk supply.


Challenge #3: Oversupply Of Milk


Specific symptoms of oversupply of milk can result due to a number of causes. It’s imprudent to attempt to decrease your milk supply without being sure that the oversupply is the underlying cause. Or else, you’ll end up producing inadequate milk for your baby, specifically during the first month when you’re trying to initiate your milk supply.


  • Nurse on one side for each feeding. Pursue to offer that same breast side for about two hours until the subsequent full feeding, eventually scaling up the length of time each feeding.
  • If your other breast feels terribly full before you are prepared to nurse on it, hand express for a couple of moments to ease some of the pressure. You may also utilize a cold compress or washcloth to lessen swelling and discomfort.
  • Nurse your baby before he becomes extremely hungry to avoid aggressive sucking. 
  • Make your baby burp frequently if he is gassy, so there is more space in your baby's tummy for milk.


Challenge #4: Breast Infection


Breast infection (also called Mastitis) is an infection of the breast tissue that occurs most often during the time of breastfeeding. It may happen when some bacteria from the baby’s mouth gains access to your milk ducts via sore nipples. A healthy woman rarely experiences breast infection. However, women with an impaired immune system, chronic illness, AIDS, or diabetes are probably more susceptible. Breast infection may cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Nipple discharge from the nipple that’s usually yellowish
  • Breasts that appear pink or red and is hot or warm to the touch


  • Nurse on the infected breast more often or every two hours. Doing this will keep the milk from moving too freely and prevent your breast from becoming overly full. 
  • Starting behind the sore spot, massage the entire breast area. Move your fingers in a circular motion while massaging towards the nipple.
  • Wear a supportive bra that’s not too tight as a tight bra can make the milk ducts narrower. 
  • Use a warm, wet cloth and apply heat on the sore spot.
  • Depend on others to help you get some extra sleep or relax with your feet elevated. Generally, breast infection is a warning sign that you’re doing too much and becoming excessively tired. 

In case your symptoms don't get relieved following these tips, or you experience fever or your symptoms get aggravated, reach out to a medical professional for further assistance. You may require to take medicines. Consult your doctor immediately if:

  • There’s blood or pus in your breastmilk
  • You’ve red streaks close to the affected area of the breast
  • Your symptoms developed suddenly and severely
  • Both sides of your breast look affected


Challenge #5: Fungal Infections


Fungal infections, also called thrush or yeast infections, may develop on your nipples or in your breast. These types of infections arise due to the overgrowth of a fungus called Candida and flourishes on milk. All of us have this particular organism in our bodies. Our natural bacteria keep them in healthy condition. The problem occurs when the natural balance of bacteria gets harmed, resulting in Candida's overgrowth, causing an infection. 

Following factors may cause fungal infections:

  • Sore or cracked nipples
  • A chronic illness, including anemia, HIV, or diabetes
  • Thrush in your baby’s mouth, which can pass on to you
  • Taking or receiving steroids. Steroids are generally given to women during labor. 


  • Wash your hands more frequently.
  • Wear a clean bra every day.
  • Wash your baby's hands frequently if he has a habit of sucking on his fingers.
  • Change disposable nursing pads frequently.

Also Read: Tips To Raise A Smart Child

Challenge #6: Engorgement


It is not unusual for the mother’s breast to become heavier, larger, and more tender when they’ve just started with their breastfeeding journey. Sometimes, this fullness can lead to engorgement, which can be quite painful and discomforting. It usually occurs during the first week of breastfeeding, but can occur anytime when you’ve oversupply or milk or if you’re not nursing often. Engorgement is one of the most common breastfeeding challenges that may cause you some of the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Breast tenderness
  • Flattening of the nipple
  • Breast swelling
  • Mild fever


  • Before feeding the baby, try hand-expressing for a couple of moments. This will soften your breast and get the milk flowing. This will make it easier for your baby to latch on and suckle milk. 
  • Breastfeed more often, and allow your baby to suckle milk as long as he likes.
  • Breastfeed mostly with the side of the breast that’s engorged. This will remove the milk and prevent it from becoming excessively full. 
  • Massage your breast.
  • Get adequate rest, eat the right foods, and always stay hydrated. 
  • Wear a well-fitting supportive bra that’s not very tight.
  • In between your feeding sessions, use cold compresses on your breast to help relieve the pain.
  • Do NOT use bottles or pacifiers as a substitution for breastfeeding right from the beginning. It is advised to introduce pacifiers only after the baby is 3-4 weeks old.
  • Pump your breast after every four hours to regulate your milk supply, or you can even do it more often.
  • Consult a lactation specialist to enhance your baby’s latch so that he could drain out more milk from the breast.


Challenge #7: Clogged Ducts


When your breasts are terribly full, or you’ve gone longer than usual, milk can backtrack into the ducts, making them clogged. You may recognize a clogged duct with a tender lump on your breast if your breast has got some redness or is sore to the touch. You can have a mild fever too. Clogged or plugged ducts can occur due to the following causes:

  • Compressing breasts while sleeping
  • Using an inefficient or wrong sized pumping parts
  • Something gets hit into the same spot of the breast, such as the underwire of your bra
  • Improper drainage of milk from the breast


  • Get adequate rest to overcome this critical breastfeeding challenge.
  • Allow the baby to suckle upon the affected side first in each feeding until the duct gets cleared up.
  • Massage your breast often.
  • Apply warm compresses on your breast.
  • Wear a well-fitting supportive bra that’s not very tight as tight clothing can narrow down the milk ducts. Consider trying a bra without an underwire to minimize the risk of clogged ducts.
  • If the problem of clogged ducts recurs, consult a lactation specialist.


Challenge #8: Flat, Inverted, or Very Large Nipples


Not sure about the state of your nipples? Use your thumb and index finger to squeeze your nipple; if they move inward rather than protruding, you may have inverted nipples. Nipples may also sometimes flatten for a short while because of swelling or engorgement from breastfeeding. If you have flat or inverted nipples, it doesn't mean that you can’t breastfeed your baby. But it may make it difficult for you. 

For proper breastfeeding, your baby should latch on to both the nipples and the breast; therefore, even flat or inverted nipples can work just fine. As your baby sucks the nipples more, they will protrude more and invert less. Very large nipples can make it more difficult for the baby to get enough of the areola into his mouth to constrict the milk ducts and get sufficient milk.


  • If you’re concerned about your nipples, kindly consult your doctor or lactation specialist. 
  • Try utilizing a breast pump to pull your nipples out as much as possible. 
  • You can also consider utilizing nipple shields. 
  • The latch will eventually improve as your baby grows. It may take a couple of weeks to get the baby latch correctly. Although, if you've got a good milk supply, your baby will obtain adequate milk even with a poor latch.


Challenge #9: Nursing Strike


If your baby has been breastfeeding well for several months but suddenly starts refusing the breast, this is possibly what is called a “nursing strike.” A nursing strike is usually your baby’s way of notifying you that something isn’t right with breastfeeding. It does not imply that your baby wishes to cease breastfeeding completely.

Also, not all babies react to a nursing strike the same way. Some babies may become fussy at the breast; some can continue to breastfeed, while others may refuse the breast entirely. Your baby can refuse breastfeeding due to the following reasons:

  • Being disappointed by a long separation from mother or a significant change in the routine. 
  • Having mouth pain or a fungal infection (such as cold sore, thrush, etc.)
  • Experiencing pain from certain nursing positions due to some soreness from immunization or an injury on the baby’s body.
  • Being distressed by hearing the harsh voices of people arguing during breastfeeding.
  • Having a cold or stuffy nose that makes breathing challenging while breastfeeding. 
  • Being diverted from breastfeeding by concentrating on other things happening around the baby.
  • Obtaining decreased milk from the mother after substituting breast milk from pacifiers or bottles. 


  • Check to see if your baby is experiencing some physical difficulties.
  • Avoid providing your baby with pacifiers or bottles as much as possible. Sucking is a natural requirement for all babies. Make sure the baby satisfies this need only on the breast. 
  • You may require to hand-express or pump your breast to regulate the milk supply and prevent breast infections and clogged ducts. 
  • Try not to force your baby to breastfeed as it can make things worse. Your baby needs to be happy and relaxed at the breast, so try to spend more time cuddling together skin-to-skin with no constraint to latch on and breastfeed. 
  • Music can be soothing for both the mother and the baby. Play soft music or just sing on your own while encouraging the baby to nurse. 
  • Take a bath together wherein your breasts are readily available for the baby. The baby may just latch on again and allow breastfeeding. 


Tags: Breastfeeding Challenges For Mothers, Breastfeeding Problems Pain, Common Breastfeeding Problems, Things To Know About Motherhood