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Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions

Updated on June 18, 2010

There are many common breastfeeding problems that women experience when they first start breastfeeding. They range from not getting a good latch, engorgement, mastitis, sore nipples and plugged ducts.


Latching occurs when the babies mouth creates a tight seal around your nipple and most of your areola. If you do not get a proper latch you the run the risk of developing sore nipples. Sometimes the positioning of the mother and child are not aligned, which can cause an incorrect latch. To initiate the latch run your nipple along you child’s upper lip and across their mouth. This should cause your child to open their mouth. When your child’s mouth opens, bring him towards your breast. Try and get your child’s chin to touch the breast first. There may be some discomfort initially, however this should pass. If the pain does not pass within the first minute of feeding you likely do not have a correct latch. You can adjust your child’s latch without removing him from your breast. Take your index finger and pull down on your baby’s chin to bring the lower lip out. You want your baby’s lower lip to cover more of the areola than the upper lip. If this doesn’t work you may need to take you baby off the breast and re-adjust. If you find your child is pulling away from the breast they may not like position. Or you may have your hand on the back of their head. Some babies have an instinctive reaction to pull away when they have hands on the back of their head. Also pay attention to your positioning. Find a position that is comfortable for you and your child.


Engorgement occurs when the breast swells as a result of increased milk production. Engorgement typically occurs within the first few days after the postpartum period. The reason is your body is not aware of the amount of milk required to feed you baby. After a few days your body will adjust to the need of your body and the discomfort should go away. Signs of engorgement can be (but are not limited to) painful, swollen, rigid and warm breasts. Some ways to treat this condition would be frequent removal of milk (i.e. frequent feedings or pumping), massaging the breast, apply a cool compress or use cabbage leaves.


Mastitis occurs when a breasts becomes infected. Mastitis usually is forms as red, tender and swollen area of the breast. Some symptoms felt are chills, fever and other flu like symptoms. If this occurs consult your physician. It may need antibiotics to get rid of the infection and possible an anti-inflammatory to help with the pain and discomfort. It is still recommended to continue breastfeeding to help relieve the condition.

Plugged Ducts

Plugged ducts can result when milk remains stagnant in certain ducts of the breast, sometimes the breast has hardened lumps. Causes of plugged ducts can be changes in feeding, not emptying the breasts, engorgement or wearing poor fitting bras. To avoid plugged ducts it is recommended to feed more frequently. This may require changing your feeding schedule. Or you could always use a breast pump to help empty the breast.

These are just but a few of the common breastfeeding problems and solutions. If you are ever unsure about what to do, it is always recommended to seek the advice of a professional, whether they are your family doctor, nurse lactation consultant or midwife.

If you are interested in looking at some common breastfeeding myths such as bleeding and painful nipples, changes to diet, etc, please read Common Breastfeeding Myths.


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      Jenny 7 years ago

      So far I've encountered the most common breastfeeding problem is the leaking of milk. Need to wear a bust pad to stop it. Is it norm?