Common Breastfeeding Challenges And How To Cope

Ah, the joys of breastfeeding for the first time... It can be a truly wonderful thing and a powerful way to bond with baby, but it can also be tricky if you’ve never done it.

Here you are with your newborn, and you know that breastfeeding is supposed to flow naturally, but that is not a fact for every new mom. Even though you may want to give your baby breast milk, we understand the challenges that you could encounter.  Let's face it, it is not always easy.  

While we all aim to breastfeed our young ones exclusively, we might encounter various challenges that make breastfeeding unattainable. The challenges we go through when breastfeeding are vast, and, indeed, what will affect one person might not necessarily affect you.  Below are some common hurdles to breast feeding.

  1. Sore Nipples

When you first start breastfeeding, your nipples will feel tender.  Sometimes they get chapped, cracked or bleed.  You should find a comfortable position and ensure your baby has found a good latch on your breast, providing the darker colored area and the nipple is in the baby’s mouth.   Here are some tips on how to know you have a good latch and get a good latch.

  1.  Fungal Infection

Fungal infection is also called a yeast infection or a thrash that can form on your nipples or breasts. Should your sore nipples last more than a few days even after, you have ensured the baby has a good latch, or you have a sudden onset of sore nipples after several weeks of pain-free breastfeeding. Then it would help if you got checked for an infection.

After treating the fungal, you should maintain high hygiene standards and replace old pacifiers and nipples.

  1. Mastitis 

Mastitis, which mainly affects breast-feeding women, causes redness, swelling and pain in one or both breasts. Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. You might also have fever and chills. 

Infection is more likely to happen when milk is trapped in the breast. Stagnant milk sitting in the breast makes bacteria grow, which leads to infection. Sometimes a milk duct can get blocked, causing milk to back up in the breast.

You may be at higher risk of developing mastitis if you:

  • Have sore or cracked nipples
  • Use only one position to breastfeed (using different positions helps make sure you completely drain the breast)
  • Wear a tight-fitting bra or put pressure on your breasts (which can restrict milk flow)
  • Breastfeed on the affected side every 2 hours, or more frequently. This will keep your milk flowing and prevent your breast from getting too full of milk

Using a warm cloth, apply some heat to the areas that feel sore as you massage gently, and use a well-fitting supportive bra that is not too tight as it can constrict milk ducts. Remember to take it slow and relax, as most infections signify that you are overworking yourself. If you don’t start feeling better 24 hours after trying these tips, or if your symptoms are getting worse, call your doctor. You may need medicine.

Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. You should start to feel better a few days after starting the antibiotics. But make sure you take all the antibiotics your doctor prescribes to prevent antibiotic resistance


  1. Nursing Strike 

So, your baby has been breastfeeding well for months and suddenly refuses to breastfeed? It is referred to as a nursing strike. While you might think that the baby wants to be weaned, it is usually not the case. Babies rarely self-wean before 2 years of age, and when they do, they almost always do so by gradually reducing the duration and frequency of nursing sessions rather than stopping abruptly. The baby might be trying to let you know that something is wrong. Baby might be trying to communicate that they are in pain, upset, not getting full, stressed, or simply responding to their environment.

So, what’s a nursing strike? A nursing strike is defined as a period of time when a baby who has been nursing well suddenly refuses to breastfeed. They usually don’t start this behavior until they’re least 3 months old and more aware of the world around them.

Babies who are entering a nursing strike typically refuse the breast but seem unhappy, fussy and displeased by not nursing. While your baby probably sometimes becomes distracted at the breast, pulling away or rooting in the middle of a feed is not indicative of a nursing strike, rather they’re just distracted. It’s the refusal to nurse for any duration that indicates a nursing strike.

You can take up a temporary feeding method as you express or pump your milk as often as the baby used to breastfeed to prevent engorgement and plugged ducts. Keep on offering your breast for your baby to feed on as you check their diaper to ensure supply is not an issue (they are still getting enough milk).

Focus on your baby to find out what the problem is. 

Babies can enter a nursing strike for a variety of reasons that are both physical and emotional. Some causes could be:

  • congestion or an earache that makes nursing uncomfortable
  • a sore throat, or a cut or an ulcer in their mouth that makes nursing uncomfortable
  • an illness such as hand, foot, and mouth disease that impacts their mouth and makes nursing uncomfortable
  • teething and experiencing sore gums
  • frustration caused by a low milk supply where the flow of milk is too slow or an overabundance of milk where the flow is too fast
  • frustration caused by a change in the taste of the milk due to hormonal or diet changes
  • an experience where they were startled while nursing by a loud noise or by mom yelling out after a bite
  • sensing that you are stressed, angry, or otherwise out of sorts and not focused on nursing
  • a change of personal care products that make you smell different
  • distractions caused by an overstimulating environment

  1. Low Milk Supply

Low milk supply is a challenge that affects most mums as they worry about making enough milk for the baby. The truth is most of us make plenty of milk for our babies. Your baby’s weight and growth are the best way to know whether they are getting enough milk.

You can ensure the baby is getting enough milk by breastfeeding more often. Make sure the baby is latched  and positioned well, offering both breasts at each feeding and avoiding feeding the baby on any formula or cereal in addition to your breast milk.

  1. Breast And Nipple Size And Shape

It doesn’t matter the size of your breast and nipples, as with time and some adjustments breastfeeding your young one will be bliss.

You can use your fingers to pull out inverted nipples or use a device that gently suctions or pulls out inverted or temporarily flattened nipples. If you have large nipples, your baby’s latch will improve with time. And even if the baby doesn't latch well on your large nipple,just ensure the baby is getting full.

  1. Cluster Feeding And Growth Spurts

Cluster feeding is when feedings are bunched together, especially in the evenings, which is normal. Growth spurts can cause your baby to nurse longer and more often and typically happen when your baby is around two to three weeks, six weeks, three months, and six months old. Most babies are fussier during growth spurts, and it might feel like all you are doing is breastfeeding them!

You should follow your baby’s lead and allow them to suckle all they can, as in so doing, they will help you increase your milk supply so that you can keep up with the baby’s needs.

  1. Plugged Duct

Plugged ducts are common in breastfeeding mothers as they are caused by a milk duct that does not drain properly. These ducts feel like a tender and sore lump in the breast and only affect one breast at a time.

You should breastfeed while aiming the baby’s chin at the plug, helping to focus their suck on the affected duct. Massage the sore area while ensuring to wear a well-fitting supportive bra that is not tight (try a bra without an underwire) as you relax on your workload. If the plugged duct is recurrent, please get help from a lactation consultant.

  1. Engorgement

After about three days of giving birth, your breast will become rock hard as your milk supply ratchets up. This fullness may turn into engorgement when your breast feels stiff and painful that even putting on a bra can hurt. This challenge mainly affects first-time mums than seasoned ones, though an oversupply of milk, not feeding your tot or expressing can also trigger.

Preventing engorgement is vital as it can trigger other challenges. This challenge will only last 12-24 hours as you and your baby get into a breastfeeding groove. Nurse frequently to ease discomfort, use a warm compress before feeding and a cold compress after, massage your breast while breastfeeding, hand expression, use a well-fitting nursing bra, and get enough rest.

  1. Oversupply Of Milk

Oversupply of milk has an overfull breast that can make your baby choke and cough as they try to keep up with the intense rush of milk from your breast. It is stressful and uncomfortable for you and your baby. It can also lead to painful nipples as the baby bites down to clamp the nipple to stop the overflow.

You can use your fingers to reduce the strong flow of your milk as you nurse them in an upright position. You should also try to feed your baby before they become overly hungry to prevent aggressive suckling and burp the baby to remove the gas from her tummy and create space for more milk.

How To Breastfeed (Proper Positioning)

Despite the many breastfeeding challenges initially, you will nail it with plenty of patience and lots of practice! There is no right or wrong position when breastfeeding your tot as each mom and baby will work with their most preferred and comfortable position.

You should be versatile in breastfeeding positions and techniques as your baby will get bigger, and you will probably get busier. And also, positions can vary and change depending on an infant’s size, gestational age and abilities, maternal body shape, recent procedures, and preference.


As Natural  as the breastfeeding process is, problems can occasionally arise.  There are experienced lactation consultants that can help you through this new endeavor.  Federal guidelines specify that insurance companies must cover comprehensive lactation support and counseling from a trained provider and the costs of renting or purchasing breastfeeding equipment for the duration of breastfeeding.  Contact your doctor, and ask for one-on-one guidance.  You got this.

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