The problems of breastfeeding can be quite overwhelming especially for the new mothers. As easy as breastfeeding might look, it can be very challenging. Breastfeeding is cost-effective but not cheap if you consider the sacrifice needed to succeed. A lot of time, patience, loss of sleep, understanding and above all support will be needed for a successful breastfeeding experience.

When care is not taken, the problems and challenges of breastfeeding might result in a poor breastfeeding experience for the mother and child. Knowing the benefits of breastfeeding might just be the only encouragement to continue. Some of the problems and challenges of breastfeeding are outlined below.


In a woman with normal breasts, the breast milk is very adequate for the baby by nature’s design. The production is dynamic to meet the need of babies at each point in time in their growth and development. The production of breast milk is in two phases. The first phase starts from about 12 weeks during pregnancy. The second phase starts about 2 to 4 days after birth. The suckling effect of the baby is the key to unlocking the second phase.

Importantly, early commencement of breastfeeding is very crucial to achieving early and adequate milk production. It is recommended that babies should be put to breast immediately after delivery, at most, 30 minutes to one hour after delivery. Late initiation of breastfeeding or giving the baby other food will interfere with initiation of breastfeeding and adequacy of milk production.


Some people belief that the breast milk is not always enough for babies especially male babies. This is not true for a normal breast. After birth, the production is usually small for some women but it will later pick up. The gradual increase in production should not be a cause of concern, even if it is as small as 2 to 5mls that is produce at the initial feeding. With frequent stimulation by the baby through suckling, the production will improve. You should also note that the new born stomach capacity is very small, about 5 to 7ml on the first day of life to about 20ml on the 3rd day of life.

Moreover, women with adequate breast milk production still complain of their babies crying after a short while following feeding. This is not due to the milk not been enough, the problem here is quality of feeding time. The mature breast milk is composed of the fore milk and the hind milk. The fore milk is mostly fluid while the hind milk contains fat. It is this part of the mature milk that gives satiety and fills the baby. To get to the hind milk, the baby should suckle for at least 20 minutes on one breast without switching to the other breast.


The nipple can feel sore during or after breastfeeding, this should normally not happen. One of the common cause is mostly due to poor latch on. This result in the baby suckling on the nipple. After breastfeeding, take a look at the nipple, if it is flat or wedge shaped, the baby was not properly latched on the breast. If this continue, it can result in injury to the nipple called cracked nipple.

If the nipple is cracked, you should visit your healthcare provider for instruction on proper positioning and signs of proper latch on. Continue breastfeeding as before even on the affected breast to avoid engorgement. With proper latch on, you will not feel pain while breastfeeding on the breast with a cracked nipple. At the end of feeding, smear the nipple with breast milk. The breast milk contains enzymes and growth factors that will help with the healing process.

If you still feel pain with proper latch on, it might be from infection with candida. Look out for oral thrush in the mouth of your baby. These are whitish patches on the tongue, gum, cheek or roof of the mouth that won’t come off easily with gentle cleaning with a cotton bud. For this, both mother and baby will need antifungal medication for treatment. 


The breasts can become swollen and painful if left to accumulate due to missed feeding periods. This is common in women who work in establishment that do not support breastfeeding mothers. It is important to have crèche within the mother’s work environment where she can sustain continuous breastfeeding.

Consequently, the brain sends chemical signal to stop further production when the one already produced is not been used. Therefore, continuous breast engorgement will affect milk production. The solution to this is to express the milk and store in a refrigerator while at work. This will not only relief the pressure but sustain production.

contrary to certain belief, the breast milk while still in the breasts cannot get sour. Even if you have not breastfed your baby for more than 24hrs, do not express and discard before feeding.


The nipple is pierced by about 12 to 20 ducts that drain milk from the lactiferous sinuses. Please read here for a brief anatomy of the breast. When a breast duct is blocked, milk accumulate in the breast lobe drain by the duct to form a milk cyst called galactocele.

In this case, the blockage can result from trauma, inflammation or abnormalities of the nipple. Mothers who breastfed intermittently or use formula feed are more likely to develop a milk cyst. This is due to incomplete evacuation of the milk from the lactiferous sinus.

Usually, a galactocele is not painful and there is no fever. It is a firm, non-tender, single mass felt in the breast. Any mass in the breast has to be investigated to make sure it is not cancer. An ultrasound scan is useful. Treatment will be by aspiration of the cyst. Blocked duct can result in mastitis.

To be continued, the problems of breastfeeding part two.