Advice Column, Baby, Breastfeeding, Pregnancy & Baby

Breastfeeding: the most common challenges and how to deal with them

  • Sammy Hammond
  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Breastfeeding, Pregnancy & Baby

Breastfeeding can be a beautiful and special time between you and your baby. It can however, come with some challenges. In fact, statistics show that up to 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intended to due to challenges faced. 

Below are some of the most common breastfeeding challenges or difficulties and how you can deal with them to ensure that you and your little one have a pleasant breastfeeding experience. 

Pain or discomfort

Pain experienced when breastfeeding can be caused by nipple tenderness, bleeding, blistering and/or cracked nipples. 

How to deal with pain:

  • Breastfeeding should not be painful. Please consult a lactation consultant to assist you. 
  • It is important to ensure that your baby is latching correctly and find a breastfeeding position that supports an optimal latch.
  • Make use of nipple cream (chat to your Dr or pharmacist about a recommended brand) or use a small amount of your own breastmilk to soothe your nipples. 
  • Use breast pads to protect your nipples from chaffing on your bra or clothing.


Engorgement can be very uncomfortable and occurs when breast milk has not been adequately removed, resulting in hard and sore breasts. 

How to deal with engorgement:

  • Pump and/or nurse your baby frequently (between 8-12 times a day). 
  • Ensure that your baby is latched on correctly so that he/she can empty your breasts. A poor latch can also result in engorged breasts. 
  • Take warm showers or apply a warmed cloth to your breasts to encourage milk flow. 
  • Breast massage 

My baby’s not latching 

There are a number of reasons your baby may not be able to achieve a sufficient latch. These include poor coordination, prematurity, discomfort and/or mom having flat or inverted nipples. 

How to deal with a poor latch:

  • See a lactation consultant! Lactation consultants are trained to identify and solve breastfeeding challenges. 
  • Try out different breastfeeding positions. There is no one size fits all – try various holds to establish which suits you and your baby best.
  • Support your baby’s neck, shoulders, and hips with your hands.
  • Consider the use of a nipple shield if you have flat nipples – these can be a short term solution to assist your baby to latch. It is advised to consult a Lactation consultant before purchasing a nipple shield. 

Not having enough breastmilk 

Breastmilk supply is initially low while your body adjusts your hormones to trigger breastmilk production. This usually takes 2-4 days, after which your milk supply should increase to provide the optimal amount of breastmilk for your baby. There are various things that can negatively affect milk supply, and these vary between women. 

How to deal with not having enough milk

  • Feed your baby on demand. This should range from every 2 to 3 hours (can be more), day and night. Stick to this range if you are expressing too. It is important that your breasts receive this stimulation, either from your baby feeding, hand expressing or a pump.
  • Try and get as much rest as possible (easier said than done with a newborn). Eat well and frequently as well as drink plenty of water throughout the day and night. If you have friends and/or family around, ask for assistance with chores so that you are able to focus on breastfeeding. 
  • If you are hand expressing and still have a low supply, consider purchasing or renting a breast pump. These pumps are effective in mimicking what your baby does at the breast as well as stimulating milk production.
  • Skin-to-skin; research indicates that skin-to-skin assists with increasing breastmilk production. 
  • If your milk supply remains low or diminishes, consult your Doctor and/or a Lactation Consultant. 

Leaking breasts

This is a common occurrence in the initial stages of breastfeeding, however, usually subsides after 5-6 weeks. 

How to cope with leaking breasts

  • Wear nursing pads inside your bra in the day and night 
  • Feed your baby or express frequently (every 2-3 hours).

Producing too much milk 

Once your milk supply is fully established, you may find that you have more milk than your baby needs, resulting in coughing, spluttering or vomiting after a feed. 

How to cope:

  • Express a small amount of milk before a feed. This ensures the initial let down is not too strong for your baby. 
  • A reclined (lean-back) feeding position allows your baby to control the flow rate of milk from your breast as gravity is minimised. 
  • Take your time and allow your baby to rest after a feed. If he/she has taken in too much milk, moving a lot or too quickly can cause her to vomit. 

Above, are only some challenges that new mothers may face when breastfeeding. It is important to not “suffer in silence” but rather to seek the assistance of a lactation consultant. Luckily there are plenty of lactation consultants around that will be happy to assist you and your baby. 

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