Common breastfeeding issues

We hear this a lot in our doula practice. Our clients are adamant about breastfeeding, but often are worried that it won’t go well. Like them, you’ve probably heard stories from friends about the myriad of breastfeeding issues that can arise making it difficult to continue, even with the best of intentions.

Today we’re addressing some of the breastfeeding issues that new moms face when it comes to breastfeeding and what you can do about them. Luckily there are now many different resources that can help you with breastfeeding so you don’t have to go it alone. From La Leche League groups and volunteer support moms to specialized nurses, doulas and lactation consultants, there is help out there.

Improper latch

This is probably the most common breastfeeding issue in the first week of your baby’s life. While babies know instinctively to search for the breast, you both need to learn how to breastfeed. A poor latch can result in cracked and bleeding nipples, a baby who is not calm at the breast and gets upset, isn’t getting enough milk and not gaining enough weight, etc. Enough for you to want to quit!

What you can do: We suggest learning about breastfeeding by watching videos on how to properly latch by renowned pediatrician Jack Newman., Also, getting help from your local nurse, doula or lactation consultant is a must – and don’t wait too long. You want to fix any underlying issues as soon as you can.

Under production

Many women are worried that they won’t have enough milk – or even any milk – to feed their baby. It’s actually one of the main concerns of the women we work with. Luckily, we don’t see this too often. You do, however, have to ensure that baby is getting enough milk. How do you know? She’s wetting a sufficient number of diapers per day, and she’s gaining enough weight. She is also satisfied after feeding. If not, there could be a production issue or it could be something else like a poor latch, among others.

What you can do: We suggest seeing a lactation consultant if you think baby is not getting enough milk. She can verify that baby is latching on well, gaining weight and see if there is anything else going on.

Over production

Over-production is not a problem women often worry about before giving birth, but rather after birth when your production doesn’t stabilize after a few weeks. Production is based on supply and demand. Some women, however, continue to produce much more than their baby needs. Baby may have a hard time staying on the breast as the flow is very fast, so sputters and coughs up milk. He may also be fussy and gassy, have green stools and want to feed more often.

What you can do: Babies can actually learn to drink quickly and efficiently when you have a substantial production. If you have a strong let-down, you can catch some of the initial spray in a cup, or even express some milk before putting baby to the breast.  You can also try different feeding positions, such as side-lying position or laid-back feeding position, which slows the flow of milk.

Cracked and bleeding nipples

On the day my first baby was born, I left him on my breast for much too long – about an hour. I didn’t realize that he’d fallen asleep and was no longer actively feeding! He was happily sucking away, and I was in awe of what had just happened to both of us.  Unfortunately, this prolonged feeding session created a very cracked and bleeding nipple as he wasn’t latched on too well. It became very sore to feed after this and in the end, it took three weeks to heal.

What you can do:  If your nipples need some tender loving care, rub them with colostrum/breastmilk, lanolin cream or the Jack Newman Nipple Ointment which is a medicated cream (you need a prescription), but not harmful to baby. Working on the latch is super important, of course, as you want to get rid of the underlying problem. When baby is finished feeding, break the latch and remove baby from breast.


Thrush is a yeast infection due to an imbalance of yeast in the body. It creates white and yellow patches inside baby’s mouth (tongue, cheeks, palate) which can spread to the throat and tonsils. This can sometimes be painful for baby and she may be fussy at the breast. Your nipples may also be sore, pink, and itchy and may have a crusty appearance. You may experience shooting pains when you feed.

What you can do: You’ll want to see baby’s care provider to ensure that it is indeed thrush as moms sometimes mistake a breastmilk coated white tongue with thrush. Your Dr may prescribe an oral fungal medication. Thrush is contagious and can be passed between you and baby, so you may also have to use the medication on your nipples. There are also great natural ways of treating thrush which are listed here:

Blocked Ducts

My husband came home one night and found me hunched over the dining room table, soaking my breast in a bowl of warm water. WTH? I had a blocked duct, meaning the breast was not emptying milk regularly. That area of the breast was red and sore, and had a lump. How did it get that way? I had been feeding my son using the same position every day and most likely the milk was not leaving the breast by all the ducts. Other breastfeeding issues include a bad latch, underwire bras, illness, reduced feeding schedule, and weaning.

What you can do: Nurse often. Massage the affected area, from the outside going toward the nipple. Use warm compresses before feeding which can help dislodge any congealed milk. Massage breast in the shower. Change feeding positions. Positioning baby so that his chin was facing the blocked duct when he fed can help. The strength of his suction really helped to release the backed-up milk. Treat this issue sooner than later in order to prevent mastitis.


Mastitis is an inflammation in your breast tissues which can quickly become infected if not treated immediately. How do you know you have it?  One or both of your breasts may be red, sore and hard. You may also feel like you have the flu (fever, chills, headache).  It is often caused by milk that is produced faster than it leaves the body, engorgement, an improper latch, pressure on the breast from tight clothes or your sleeping position.

What you can do: Mastitis is not harmful for baby. It’s important to keep feeding baby, even if your breasts are sore. Ensure you have a good latch and feed often. Wear loose clothing. Stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest. Tylenol or Advil can help. If your symptoms persist, you may need antibiotics. If left untreated mastitis can develop into a breast abscess which you really don’t want!

Tongue Ties

What is a tongue-tie? This is when baby’s frenulum (the connecting skin under the tongue) is too short and prevents baby from sticking her tongue out far enough to latch well. If your baby has a severe tongue-tie, it can make breastfeeding difficult. Your nipples become sore because baby is not able to latch deeply enough which can affect her feeding and weight gain. Baby also comes of the breast often and makes clicking noises when feeding. However, some babies with less severe cases of tongue-tie learn how to breastfeed with no issues at all. The issues may also disappear as baby gets older.

What you can do: If baby’s tongue-tie is negatively affecting breastfeeding and having an impact on baby’s and your well-being, you can look into having the tongue-tie clipped by a professional. There are different ways of doing so and a lactation consultant or specialized dentist can guide you in the process.


This list may look daunting, but the majority of moms with only one or two breastfeeding issues (if any) and definitely not all at once! Having amazing and helpful resources can make all the difference in your breastfeeding success, so have them ready before you actually need them!

Wishing much love on your breastfeeding and motherhood journeys!


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