Here we look at common problems that can occur even if you have experienced a comfortable period of breastfeeding.
This article looks at the following issues:
Persistent sore nipples
Baby fights at the breast
Baby changes his feeding pattern
Baby refuses the breast
Small, tender lump in the breast
Red, inflamed areas on breast and a flu-like feeling (mastitis)
Over-supply of milk
Baby not gaining weight or gaining weight very slowly
Even after a period of comfortable, enjoyable feeding, women who are breastfeeding can face difficulties. Here we look at problems that are more likely to happen once your baby is past the newborn stage though they can happen in the early days as well.
For problems more likely to affect breastfeeding when your baby is newborn or less than a few weeks old, click here.
Check the way your baby attaches to the breast, as changes here can often make a difference and this is the most frequent cause of sore nipples. A small minority of babies may have a tongue tie that makes comfortable attachment more difficult to achieve. Read more about this problem here.
A baby who’s been feeding fine and then starts to struggle, with no obvious health problems, could be reacting to over-supply.
Feeding more is almost always linked with a baby’s normal increase in appetite. Traditionally, this is explained as your baby having a ‘growth spurt’ and because we know babies don’t grow predictably at the same rate, this makes sense. Find out what you can do here.
This can sometimes be a ‘nursing strike’ and it’s usually temporary. Your baby may refuse the breast entirely and be distressed and cross when you keep offering. Read more about this here.
This could be a blocked milk duct. Read our article here to find out more.
These are signs of mastitis, which is an inflammation of the breast. You may get mastitis when milk leaks into breast tissue from a blocked duct. The body reacts in the same way as it does to an infection – by increasing blood supply. This produces the inflammation and redness. The breast may feel hot and lumpy and you may also suddenly feel shivery, tired and emotional. Read more about mastitis and how to continue breastfeeding here.
Some women are very generous producers of milk, and this can sometimes bring its own difficulties. If you suspect over-supply, read our article here.
Most babies like this are basically healthy with no underlying illness or difficulty. They are either naturally slow gainers – that’s just the way they are or in need of more milk. If you're worried, read more in our article here.
Your own diet and lifestyle will have no effect on your baby’s milk intake. Women are sometimes advised to eat and drink more, or to rest, in the hope this will make a difference to the quality and/or quantity of their milk. Far more important is ensuring frequent, effective removal of milk – that’s what drives supply. The quality of your breastmilk remains fine, whatever you eat or drink.
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.
National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.
NHS information on mastitis.
Breastfeeding Network information sheet on mastitis and self-help measures.
Best Beginnings - Bump to Breastfeeding DVD Chapter 7 'Overcoming Challenges'.
Healthtalkonline.org: Managing Breastfeeding – dealing with difficult times.
The Breastfeeding Network provides information on thrush and breastfeeding.