Common Breastfeeding Problems

Breastfeeding comes naturally to some mothers and babies, but some will have problems along the way. By preparing yourself for a potential struggle, you may avoid feelings of disappointment and failure if you have to work at breastfeeding.

One thing to remember is that most breastfeeding problems are temporary and can be overcome. Only around one percent of mothers are physically unable to breastfeed. If you find yourself struggling to feed your newborn, the most important thing you can do is ask for help. Speak to your healthcare provider straight away, they will be able to diagnose the problem and offer you the support necessary to help you continue on your breastfeeding journey.

There are a number of common breastfeeding problems, and the more you know about them, the easier you will find it to identify any problems you may face.

Sore nipples
Some women have very sensitive nipples, and can experience some discomfort as their nipples “toughen up” for breastfeeding. This pain is temporary and will soon disappear once you are in the swing of breastfeeding.

Some women find that each breastfeed is painful, this could be down to a painful letdown. Letdown is the moment your milk starts to flow. If this is to blame, the pain will disappear after about a minute of feeding.

If you are still in pain after one minute, you should remove your baby from the breast. The pain may be caused by an improper latch, so try latching the baby onto your breast again to see if that helps. Make sure baby’s mouth is wide open and baby’s body is at breast level and tummy-to-mummy – these minor adjustments can relieve a lot of pain.

If your nipples are sore and cracked, you can rub a few drops of breast milk into the nipple at the end of each feed. This will help to keep the skin moisturised and should encourage healing. You might also try using a purified lanolin made especially for breastfeeding mums.

Pink, sore nipples that itch could be a symptom of thrush. If your nipples are infected with thrush, your baby may be suffering from oral thrush. Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have thrush. Antifungal cream will be prescribed to treat the infection. Both mom and baby should be treated.

Blocked milk ducts
If you are suffering from tender, hard, hot breasts, you may have blocked milk ducts. This condition can be very painful, but can be treated at home by getting lots of rest, feeding from the affected side to clear the blockage, and applying heat to the affected area. Hand expressing may also help to clear the blockage, and pain relief may help to alleviate any discomfort (speak to your pharmacist to find out what you can take while breastfeeding). Contact your healthcare provider if you are still experiencing pain 48 hours after onset.

Mastitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, or improper drainage of the breast. It is a painful condition and the affected breast(s) will feel hard and hot to the touch, will appear red and inflamed, and you may experience a burning sensation during feeds. Mastitis is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

Contact your healthcare provider if you think you are suffering from mastitis, since antibiotics are sometimes needed to fight the infection. Use heat compresses, drink plenty of water, rest, and continue to feed through the affected breast to speed up recovery. Your healthcare provider may recommend pain relief for the discomfort.

Tongue tie
Some babies are born with an excessively tight piece of skin connecting the floor of the mouth to the underside of the tongue. This is known as a tongue tie and can cause feeding problems. If you think your baby has a tongue tie, or if you are experiencing ongoing feeding problems, you should contact your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. Tongue tie most often causes nipple soreness, low milk supply and slow weight gain.

Seeking support
Try not to feel disheartened if you run into problems at the start of your breastfeeding journey. Remember, most women seek assistance in the early weeks of feeding. Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Speak to your healthcare provider to find breastfeeding support in your local area.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Could This Be Thrush?

What is thrush?

Yeast is a normal part of the body that can get out of control. When you develop a fungal infection caused by yeast, it may be called thrush. Since yeast flourishes in dark, moist areas and feeds on sugars, it’s not surprising that breastfeeding moms and babies are predisposed to this infection.

What are the symptoms for mom?

You may have a thrush infection if you are experiencing stabbing or burning pain in the breast (which may happen during feeding or between feedings). Most moms with thrush have a red, shiny, itchy rash on the areola that may include peeling skin or small blisters. Nipple soreness is another common complaint.

Some women experience a vaginal yeast infection at the same time. If you have a history of mastitis or plugged ducts, this may increase the likelihood of thrush. In addition, if you’ve recently had a course of antibiotics, your natural balance can be shifted allowing the overgrowth of yeast.

What are the symptoms for baby?

For babies, the hallmark of thrush is white patches in baby’s mouth that don’t easily wipe off. These may be on baby’s gums, tongue or the insides of baby’s cheeks. Baby’s saliva may also look pearlescent. Gassiness, fussiness and refusing the breast can all happen with a thrush infection. A red, shiny diaper rash may happen along with the other symptoms. Even if you have clear thrush symptoms, your baby may not show any signs of the infection.

How is thrush treated?

Both mom and baby should be treated, even if only one has thrush symptoms. The chance of reinfection is increased when only one member of the dyad is treated, prolonging the discomfort of the infection.

Antifungal creams are the most commonly prescribed treatment. Your doctor may also recommend an antibiotic cream (for mom’s breasts) or suspension (for baby’s mouth). Oral antifungal medication can also be used, though a longer course is usually needed than is typical for a vaginal yeast infection.

Taking probiotics along with other treatments can be a useful adjunct. Baby can be given probiotic powder diluted in milk or rubbed inside the mouth. Other home treatments include a vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of water) or grapefruit seed extract (GSE) dabbed on the breast after each feeding. In addition, coconut oil (which is a natural antifungal) may be soothing when applied to mom’s itchy breasts.

Because yeast thrives on sugars, eliminate those from your diet during treatment (include natural and artificial sweeteners). Cut back on carbs and caffeine. Add yogurt and kefir (with their natural probiotics) to your diet.

Only your healthcare provider can diagnose nipple yeast and thrush. If you think you may have a thrush infection, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.

What can I do to keep it from returning?

It might be useful to treat the whole family (including dad and other children) when one person has obvious thrush symptoms. That way you’re not passing the infection back and forth! Be sure you are cleaning anything that comes in contact with mom’s breast and baby’s mouth or diaper area.

  • Wash bras, breast pads, underwear, cloth diapers, etc. in hot water (consider adding vinegar to the wash)
  • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water
  • Boil pacifiers, bottle teats, teethers, toothbrushes, etc. for 20 minutes every day
  • Wash baby’s toys in hot water daily
  • Sterilize all pump parts if you are pumping (Keep in mind freezing does not kill yeast, so any milk pumped during infection will need to be used during treatment and discarded once the infection clears.)

Written by Michelle, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.