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What are Common Breastfeeding Problems?

By Lindsay Kahl
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many new mothers choose to breastfeed because it is beneficial to them and to their babies. Most women are biologically able to feed their children this way, some common breastfeeding problems can occur. Some of these issues include lack of milk, leaking, nipple soreness, breast engorgement, breast infection and plugged milk ducts.

One of the most common breastfeeding problems that a new mother might experience is a lack of milk. It can be difficult for a woman to determine whether she is producing an adequate milk supply, but she can check her baby’s weight and growth on a regular basis. A woman can improve her chances of producing enough milk by getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, getting sufficient fluids and feeding her baby frequently.

Another one of the most common breastfeeding problems is leaking. Especially in the first few months following birth, a woman might notice milk seeping from her breasts between feedings. This problem often goes away on its own as her body becomes more finely tuned for breastfeeding. Some women can stop or slow the flow of milk by pressing against the breasts or compressing the nipple. Other women use breast pads to absorb leaking milk.

The act of breastfeeding should not be painful, but some women might experience sore nipples. This is one of the most common breastfeeding problems during the first few weeks after birth. Sore nipples are often caused by poor latching, infection or incorrect or over-vigorous breast pumping techniques.

Some women experience the problem of breast engorgement. When the blood vessels in the breast are constricted, the breasts can become distended and hard. When this occurs, the infant might have difficulty latching onto the nipple, and feeding can be very challenging.

Another common issue is breast infection, or mastitis. Women who have cracked nipples or other breast problems are more likely to develop infection. A woman with a breast infection will often experience flu-like symptoms and should see her doctor. The doctor might recommend treatment that includes antibiotics, warm compresses and wearing a comfortable bra. When a woman has mastitis, her milk still is safe for her baby, and a doctor likely will encourage her to continue nursing.

Some women who are breastfeeding will develop plugged milk ducts, which can be painful. Plugged ducts can occur if the mother wears a tight bra or skips feedings. Symptoms of a plugged milk duct can include tenderness, redness and the presence of a swollen lump in the breast.

Most of the common breastfeeding problems are treatable and are not cause for alarm. If a woman is concerned about her baby’s milk supply, or if she experiencing pain or infection, she should contact her healthcare provider. New mothers also can seek help from a lactation consultant.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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