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5 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Nov 02, 2023
5 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Getting to know your newborn is wonderful, but learning how to breastfeed can be challenging for both of you. Learn about problems that can arise with nursing, how to treat them, and why you’re far from alone.

Many believe that women should take to breastfeeding their babies quickly and that the process is typically seamless, but it’s a learned skill, and each mother and baby are different. 

In reality, winces are just as much a part of nursing your baby as beautiful smiles.

Some trials crop up for breastfeeding moms, and if you’re aware of them, you’ll know what to do at home and when to call your Southdale OB/GYN provider. 

Our Southdale OB/GYN team is dedicated to supporting every woman’s health, regardless of her stage in life. For new moms, we provide expertise, specialized care, and crucial support at a time filled with joy questions.

Nursing your baby is good for both of you

Breastfeeding your baby is a great decision for many reasons, from enriching the mother-baby bond to enhancing your sleep quality — always a plus for new moms — and stimulating the release of the calming hormone oxytocin.

Nursing also supports your and your baby’s health in many ways. By breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months, your baby has a reduced chance of developing asthma, ear infections, gastrointestinal problems, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), type 1 diabetes, and obesity.  

Mothers who breastfeed can lower their risk for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, a stroke risk factor. 

Breast milk is the ideal food for your baby; amazingly, its makeup adapts to your baby’s evolving nutritional needs

Common barriers to successful breastfeeding

For most women, the breastfeeding journey isn’t all smooth sailing. Although problems are common and usually minor, some require medical treatment from your Southdale OB/GYN provider.

1. Missed connections

A critical skill for your baby to learn and for you to help them with is properly latching on to your nipple from the get-go. When your baby achieves this, nursing is easy for them and comfortable for you.

Good latching involves positioning your baby so their nose is opposite your nipple and aiming your nipple at their upper lip and nose. When they open their mouth, their tongue should be resting on the bottom of their mouth, and they should take in a generous portion of your lower areola. Your baby’s lips should resemble a fish’s as they feed, and you should feel no discomfort. 

A better latch is also more likely if you pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues, like opening their mouth, sucking on their fingers, and becoming fussy.

2. Mastitis

This problem develops when a milk duct becomes blocked, or a nipple cracks, and infection can arise. Sometimes, nursing eliminates the blockage, but if inflammation, pain, warmth, and fever persist, you may need treatment with an antibiotic. 


To prevent mastitis, feed your baby frequently, let them empty both breasts each time, ensure a proper latch, and switch their position at each feeding. You can cradle them, put them in a “football hold,” or face each other while lying on your sides.

3. Milk supply issues

It’s discouraging to hear about moms who have an abundance of milk while you struggle to pump a quarter of a bottle. To maximize your milk supply, feed your baby 8-12 times daily, pump between feedings, and take herbs or drink teas that help milk production, such as garlic, fennel, ginger, and fenugreek. 

4. Engorged breasts

Painful engorgement occurs due to milk remaining in your breasts for too long, causing them to become warm, hard, and tender. When nursing, the increased blood supply to your breasts also contributes to the problem. 

You’re more at risk for engorgement when your milk first comes in if you skip feedings or when your baby goes through a transition that impacts nursing, like sleeping through the night. 


Using a hot compress on your breasts can stimulate flow and make feeding easier, and massaging your breasts also helps with engorgement symptoms. Encourage your baby to feed often and let them drain each breast completely. 

5. Fungal breast infections

These stubborn infections, also known as thrush, cause nipple redness, rashes, cracking, and excruciating pain. It’s best to seek treatment for thrush, typically an oral or topical antifungal treatment. 

The caring Southdale OB/GYN team can help you with these problems and more as you nurse your baby. We’re also here to provide a wide range of supportive care for new moms as they learn about caring for their newborns and themselves.

Call our Edina or Burnsville office to schedule an appointment, or book one online