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Common Breastfeeding Problems

What problems can women have when they breastfeed?

Many women are able to breast-feed with no problems at all. But sometimes, problems can happen. Most problems can be treated so that you can keep breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both you and your baby.

Some common breastfeeding problems and their treatments are listed below. You can do many of the treatments on your own. You might also find it helpful to work with a breast-feeding expert, called a lactation consult if you have problems.


Engorgement is the term doctors use for when the breasts are too full of milk. When the breasts are engorged, a baby can have trouble with the latch. Latch is another word for when a baby makes a tight seal with his or her mouth around the nipple and the dark skin around the nipple. If your breasts are engorged they can feel swollen, hard, warm, and painful.

If your baby is able to latch on, breastfeeding will remove milk from the breast and help with engorgement. If not, you can use your hand or breast pump to let a little bit of milk out between feedings. If you use a pump, it's best to use it for just a few minutes right before a feeding. This will soften your breast without releasing too much milk, which can make engorgement worse.

You can also try the following home remedies to reduce the pain:

  • Use a cold pack or cool cloth on your breasts between feedings

  • Take a pain-relieving medicine, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen

  • Take a warm shower

  • Gently massage your breasts to start your milk flow

Sore or Painful Nipples

Some nipple soreness is normal during the first minute of each breastfeeding session. Nipple pain that lasts the whole breastfeeding session is usually not normal. It can be caused by nipple cracks, blisters, or bruises. Nipple pain can happen for different reasons, such as when the baby does not have a good latch. They can also happen if the baby has a condition called "tongue tie", which is when the tongue cannot remove us freely as it should.

The most important thing you can do to prevent and deal with nipple pain is to make sure your baby latches on the right way. If your baby has a tongue tie, he or she might need surgery to release the tongue.

You can also try the following home remedies:

  • If your nipples are cracked or raw, you can try lanolin ointment. If you think your nipple might be infected, call your doctor. Do not use vitamin E or honey on your nipples, because these can be dangerous for your baby.

  • Apply a cool or warm washcloth to your nipples.

  • Take a mild pain reliever such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen

  • Wear breast pads between feedings to protect your nipples.

  • When your baby gets older and starts to teeth, he or she might sometimes bite your nipple while breastfeeding. If this happens, you can position the baby so that his or her mouth is wide open during feedings. That will make it harder to bite. If your baby does bite you, try sticking your finger between your nipple in the babies mouth and firmly saying no. Then put the baby down in a safe place. This will help your baby learn not to bite. You can also offer a teething ring to chew on instead.

Blocked Milk Ducts

A blocked milk duct can cause a red and painful breast lump. It can also cause a white plug at the end of the nipple. If you have a blocked milk duct, try to breastfeed or pump often. Make sure that your baby empties your breasts during feedings. Start with a breast that has the blocked milk duct, and use different breastfeeding positions to try to get the breasts as empty as possible. To help your milk flow better, you can also try taking a warm shower or gently massaging the breast. If your baby doesn't empty your breast, you can use your hand or a breast pump to remove more milk after the feeding.

Breast Infections

A breast infection is called mastitis. Mastitis can cause a fever and a hard, red, and swollen area of the breast. You might also have muscle aches or chills. If you have the symptoms, call your doctor or nurse for advice. You do not need to stop breastfeeding if you have mastitis.

Some treatments may include:

  • Take a pain-relieving medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen

  • Massage your breasts during feedings

  • Use a breast pump to empty your breasts after feedings

  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have any problems with breastfeeding. Be sure to let him or her know if you have:

  • A blocked milk duct that does not get better after 3 days

  • A fever and a hard, red, and swollen area of the breast

  • Blood leaking from the nipples

  • Pain that lasts for the whole breastfeeding session

As always- like, comment, and share!

Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN


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