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Breastfeeding Problems

Common Breastfeeding Problems

Many new breastfeeding moms experience some problems associated with breastfeeding. Here are some common breastfeeding problems and help!

Sore Nipples

Breastfeeding should never hurt. There may be some tenderness at first, but it should gradually go away as the days go by. Latch-on and positioning are the major causes of sore nipples because the baby is probably not getting enough of the areola into his or her mouth, and is sucking mostly on the nipple. If you have sore nipples you are more likely to postpone feedings because of the pain, but this can lead to your breasts becoming overly full or engorged, which can then lead to plugged milk ducts in the breast.

If your baby is latched on correctly and sucking effectively, he/she should be able to nurse as long as he/she likes without causing any pain. Check the positioning of your baby's body and the way she latches on and sucks. To minimize soreness, your baby's mouth should be open wide with as much of the areola in his or her mouth as possible. You should find that it feels better right away once the baby is positioned correctly. If it hurts, take the baby off of your breast and try again. Ask for help if it is still painful for you.

Breast Engorgement

It is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender when they begin making greater quantities of milk on the 2nd to 6th day after birth. Sometimes this fullness may turn into engorgement, when your breasts feel very hard and painful. You also may have breast swelling, tenderness, warmth, redness, throbbing and flattening of the nipple. Engorgement sometimes also causes a low-grade fever and can be confused with a breast infection. Engorgement is the result of the milk building up, and usually happens during the third to fifth day after birth. This slows circulation, and when blood and lymph move through the breasts, fluid from the blood vessels can seep into the breast tissues.

NOTE: Engorgement can lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection, so it is important to try to prevent it before this happens. If treated properly, engorgement should only usually last for one to two days

Breast Infections & Plugged Milk Ducts

It is common for many women to have a plugged duct in the breast at some point if she breastfeeds. A plugged milk duct feels like a tender, sore, lump in the breast. It is not accompanied by a fever or other symptoms. It happens when a milk duct does not properly drain, and becomes inflamed. Then, pressure builds up behind the plug, and surrounding tissue becomes inflamed. A plugged duct usually only occurs in one breast at a time.

A breast infection (mastitis), on the other hand, is soreness or a lump in the breast that can be accompanied by a fever and/or flu-like symptoms, such as feeling run down or very achy. Some women with a breast infection also have nausea and vomiting. You also may have yellowish discharge from the nipple that looks like colostrum, or the breasts feel warm or hot to the touch and appear pink or red. A breast infection can occur when other family members have a cold or the flu, and like a plugged duct, it usually only occurs in one breast. It is not always easy to tell the difference between a breast infection and a plugged duct because both have similar symptoms and can improve within 24 to 48 hours.


Thrush (yeast) is a fungal infection that can form on your nipples or in your breast because it thrives on milk. The infection forms from an overgrowth of the candida organism. Candida usually exists in our bodies and is kept at healthy levels by the natural bacteria in our bodies. But, when the natural balance of bacteria is upset, candida can overgrow, causing an infection.

The infection also can form in your baby's mouth from having contact with your nipples, and appear as little white spots on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue. It also can appear as a diaper rash (small red dots around a rash) on your baby that won't go away by using regular diaper rash ointments. Many babies with thrush refuse to nurse, or are gassy or cranky.

If you or your baby have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor and your baby's doctor so you both can be correctly diagnosed.

Inverted & Flat Nipples

Some women have nipples that naturally are inverted, or that turn inward instead of protruding, or that are flat and do not protrude. Inverted or flat nipples can sometimes make it harder to breastfeed because your baby can have a harder time latching on. But remember that for breastfeeding to work, your baby has to latch on to both the nipple and the breast, so even inverted nipples can work.

Talk with a lactation consultant at the hospital or at a breastfeeding clinic for extra help if you have flat or inverted.


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