Top 14 Breastfeeding Challenges Mothers Face

A woman’s breastfeeding journey is often filled with highs and lows. Unfortunately, many women don’t know all of the potential challenges they may encounter when they make the decision to breastfeed. And, even if they do, they may not know how to successfully deal with these various challenges. Luckily, this list can help you identify problems before they happen so you have the tools you need to deal with them and breastfeed as long as they want.

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14 Cluster Feedings

Cluster feedings are temporary times when your baby feeds very frequently. This is commonly caused by growth spurts. Although it’s only temporary, the team at Healthline recommends staying hydrated and nourished to maximize your milk supply, and changing breastfeeding positions to avoid nipple soreness.

13 Engorgement

Engorgement occurs when the milk in your breasts isn’t fully removed. This causes your breasts to feel hard, tender, full, and warm, and it can be very painful. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s WIC Breastfeeding Support page, the best way to address this is through prevention. This means you need to make sure you deplete your supply with each feeding or pumping session and make sure your baby latches well when they nurse.

12 Fungal Infections (Thrush)

Unfortunately, you can end up with infections on your nipples or in your breast. This can also cause an infection in your child’s mouth, not to mention it can be painful for you. If you suspect that you have a fungal infection, it’s best to see your doctor, so they can prescribe medications to treat the infection.

11 Low Milk Supply

Many mothers worry if they are making enough milk for their babies. Although low milk supply is not typically an issue for most moms, you can try feeding more frequently, checking your position and the baby’s latch, and try increasing your skin-to-skin contact in between feedings. Also, there are teas and other items available to help increase the milk supply.

10 Mastitis

Mastitis is a specific type of breast infection that occurs in breast tissue and is common during the first 12 weeks of feeding, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you end up with mastitis, you can try applying a warm compress, massaging the area with a gentle circular motion, and increasing your feeding frequency until the infection has passed. If the infection is bad enough, you may receive antibiotics to treat it.

9 Oversupply of Milk

When your breasts remain overfull, it can be very uncomfortable and stressful. However, if you overproduce on a regular basis, it can actually make it hard for your child to properly nurse, which makes it even worse. The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health recommends feeding on a single breast for each feeding, using a cold compress to relieve pain, and feeding your baby before they become overly hungry. Also, avoid over-pumping as this can cause you to produce more.

8 Nipple Size and Shape

Sometimes your nipple’s shape, size, and direction can impact your baby’s ability to successfully latch and feed. If you’re having issues, it may be helpful to seek out the help of a lactation consultant, so they can provide suggestions on modifications or other positions, you can try to help improve feedings.

7 Nursing Strikes

Nursing strikes are when your baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed even after months of successful feedings. Usually, this is just temporary, and doctors recommend continuing to try to feed, making sure you are feeding in spaces without distractions and maintaining a quiet routine. If your baby is older than 12 months, though, you may want to look for other signs of weaning.

6 Plugged Ducts

A plugged duct happens when a milk duct does not drain properly, and it feels like a sore lump on your breast. If not dealt with, it can lead to mastitis. Like mastitis, you can treat it with the help of a warm compress, hot shower, and breast massage. To prevent plugged ducts from occurring, make sure you wear a-fitting bra that is supportive but not too tight, and breastfeed frequently while changing up breasts and positions.

5 Pumping at Work

When moms return to work, they frequently have issues finding the time and place to pump at work. You can ask your human resources department for accommodation, and you can also make sure to purchase a double breast pump to make pumping a quick, painless process.

4 Public Feeding

Moms also frequently receive criticism and judgment when they choose to breastfeed in public. Here’s the thing, though: you have the right to feed your child no matter what. You can, however, use covers or seek out mother’s rooms when out in public. In fact, many stores now offer special rooms with couchs and changing tables specifically for moms to feed and change their kids.

3 Sore Nipples

Unfortunately, breastfeeding comes with sore nipples from time to time. However, the organization La Leche League International says moms can overcome sore nipples by changing breastfeeding positions, allowing milk to dry on your nipples, and applying lanolin. These efforts will promote healing and eventually your pain will decrease.

2 Strong Let-Down

Women who are strong producers sometimes experience strong let-down that impacts their child’s ability to feed. However, it’s easy to just let the excess milk spray into a towel. You can also let your child latch and unlatch as much as they need, which will help correct overproduction and decrease let-down strength.

1 Transitioning & Weaning

As your baby starts eating more solid foods or begins walking, they may become less interested in breastfeeding. Unfortunately, weaning can be a tough time for moms as it causes engorgement and other issues. Many moms use cabbage leaves to help provide relief and decrease milk production when they start weaning. Also, you can express small amounts of milk to relieve pressure, and simply follow your child’s cues for feedings.

Breastfeeding is very rewarding, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. With this list, though, you are fully prepared to take them all on.

Sources: Healthline, US Department of Agriculture, Cleveland Clinic, US Department of Health and Human Services, La Leche League International,

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