feeding and nutrition

Common breastfeeding concerns solved

Most breastfeeding issues can be avoided by good attachment and baby‑led feeding, here’s some things that may help

Helping hand for breastfeeding concern

Understanding common breastfeeding issues can help you avoid them, here are some to be aware of

Common breastfeeding problems

You may hear certain terms related to breastfeeding but not be clear what they mean. Here’s a breakdown of common breastfeeding problems and what they mean.


Engorgement is caused by a temporary hormone imbalance and causes your breast to become hot, painful and overfull. This usually settles down in a few days.

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To relieve discomfort try:

• Feeding your baby. If your areola is engorged, too, you may need to use some of the techniques below, to relieve the swelling before you can feed

• Bathing your breasts with warm water and gently expressing some milk by hand 

• Applying cold compresses to constrict the blood supply and reduce swelling – try a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a muslin square 

Blocked milk ducts

If one of the tubes from your milk glands to the nipple becomes blocked, milk gathers above the blockage and can’t escape, causing a red patch. 

Clear the duct by bathing it over and over again with warm water and massaging the red patch downwards towards the nipple. If you then feed your baby, the blockage should clear. If it doesn’t, see your GP the same day to avoid developing mastitis.

Boosting your milk supply

To boost your supply keep your baby at the breast as long as possible and feed frequently. You can also express between feeds. Make sure you are eating and drinking well and try to rest as much as possible.

Coping with mastitis

Mastitis occurs when milk leaks into the connective tissue of the breast causing pain and inflammation. There are two types – non-infectious mastitis, which is caused by milk blocking a duct, and infectious mastitis, which is a bacterial infection caused by a blocked duct.

What are the symptoms?

• A high temperature/fever (38°C or 100.4°F)

• Flu-like symptoms such as aches and shivering

• Breast tissue may also look red and inflamed. 

How can it be treated? 

See your GP on the same day if you suspect you may have mastitis; he may have to prescribe antibiotics in severe cases. If left untreated, a painful pocket of pus called an abscess may develop – although this is unusual.

What about self-help? 

Keep feeding your baby as frequently as you can bear – it may be painful but it will help to release trapped milk and help you get better quicker. The milk is safe for your baby to drink. 

You should also express any leftover milk your baby doesn’t drain away.


Thrush is a yeast infection that thrives in moist, warm conditions – including the milk ducts in the breast. This can cause sore nipples and pain on feeding and also cause white patches of yeast to grow in your baby’s mouth. Don’t panic though, it’s easily treatable, but both you and your baby will need to have treatment with an anti-fungal medication. See your GP for a prescription or ask your pharmacist for advice.

Feeding when you’re back at work

You can still continue breastfeeding exclusively if you express milk and store it. If you prefer, your baby can have a combination of breastmilk when you are there and formula with her carer. If you are doing this, you should reduce the number of breastfeeds you give gradually over a week to 10 days, and give your baby time to get used to feeding from a bottle. Most supportive employers will provide you with a private room where you can express milk.

How partners can help

The first weeks of feeding can be very demanding so it will help if your partner can take some leave. Get them cooking, shopping and looking after older children but don’t forget to involve them with your baby – they can help with nappy changes, but bathing and giving skin-to-skin cuddles are really important too.

Common breastfeeding concerns solved