Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges during National Breastfeeding Month

Breast pain

If you recently read about the Top Five Benefits of Breastfeeding, you may have decided that you are ready to start breastfeeding. However, many women do encounter challenges when breastfeeding that can feel frustrating and discourage them from continuing. The benefits to both mother and child are worth the struggle, so we have compiled a list of the most common breastfeeding challenges and the solutions that we think may help.

Challenge 1: Nursing Strike

“Nursing Strike” happens when your baby has been regularly breastfeeding without issues, but then suddenly becomes fussy when breastfeeding or refuses to breastfeed. Often, nursing strike is a sign that something else is bothering the baby. It may be pain from an infection like thrush, an ear infection, or a cold sore. The baby also may be teething or have a cold or stuffy nose that makes it difficult to breathe like feeding. The baby could also be reacting to changes in routine, overstimulation, or stress.


Although the causes of nursing strike vary, there are several steps you can take to try to remedy it in any case. Try different nursing positions, in case something specific is causing the baby pain. Try to increase the amount of skin-to-skin contact, touching, and cuddling the baby while you are breastfeeding. It may also help to feed in a quiet and removed room with no distractions or stressors.

Monitor your baby’s waste to make sure that they are eating enough. If they are still refusing to breastfeed, try feeding them breastmilk in an alternate way – you can use a cup, bottle, dropper, or spoon. If they accept this method, don’t stop offering the baby your breast; they will likely return to it.

Challenge 2: Infections

Several types of breast infections are possible when breastfeeding. The first, often confused with a plugged milk duct, is mastitis. Often occurring only in one breast and caused by someone else in the family who is sick, symptoms include:

  • Breasts that feel warm or hot to the touch
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and other flu-like symptoms
  • Yellow discharge that looks like colostrum, or early breastmilk

Another common type of infection is fungal. Fungal infections are caused by the Candida organism – a naturally occurring bacteria. This type of infection may be caused by a weakened immune system, antibiotics administered during birth, or thrush passed from your baby’s mouth to your breast.


Often, mastitis clears up within 48 hours. To ease yourself, you can massage the area or use a warm, damp compress. It may be tempting to not breastfeed on the infected side, but you should continue to breastfeed on the infected breast in order to keep milk moving. If your infection does not clear up within two days, see a doctor to have an antibiotic prescribed.

To fight a fungal infection, you will need to apply medicine to your breast for about a week. It is also crucial to sterilize anything that comes into contact with your breast or with your baby’s mouth. This includes bras, nursing pads, towels, bottles, pacifiers, hands, and breast pump parts.

Challenge 3: Engorgement & Plugged Ducts

Engorgement occurs when you are not releasing enough milk to keep up with the amount you are producing. Although it is common for your breasts to feel fuller and heavier when producing milk, engorgement will be painful and your breast will feel hard. Engorgement may also cause additional swelling and redness, and warmth and fever. If left undealt with, engorgement will often lead to a plugged milk duct.

A plugged milk duct is a common issue for many breastfeeding mothers; it occurs when milk does not properly drain from a duct, causing the tissue of the duct to be irritated and enflamed.


To deal with engorgement, massage your breast and use a cool compress to relieve pressure. Breastfeed often, letting the baby eat for as long as they want. To relive some pressure before breastfeeding, pump or hand express a small amount. It may also benefit you to work with a lactation consultant, to make sure you baby’s latch is letting them get the most amount of milk possible.

Challenge 4: Sore Nipples

Some mild pain and irritation are normal during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. However, as both you and your baby grow accustomed to the activity, pain should decrease. If your pain worsens or your nipples appear damaged or cracked, you should take some steps to soothe them.


This is another situation that may benefit from a lactation consultant’s advice. Your baby keeping a good latch around the areola and not only the nipple is key in not experiencing nipple pain. This may mean that you should also try different nursing positions, to see if your baby can maintain a better latch. If your nipples are dry and cracked, use some of your breastmilk after feeding to moisturize the area. Other ointments like pure lanolin cream are also available to help with dry nipples. After breastfeeding, let your breasts air dry and make sure to wear a well-fitting bra that is not constricting. In order to avoid cracked nipples caused by trapped moisture, change nursing pads frequently.

Having trouble breastfeeding or worried about your baby’s nutrition? Capital Women’s Care can connect you with the right resources to keep you and your baby happy and healthy.

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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