In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (the first week of August), we’re bringing you a week of posts all about – you guessed it – breastfeeding!  From the basics of nursing to identifying common issues and where to get support when needed, this week we’ve got you covered.

Breastfeeding is not without its own share of complications.  Thankfully most are easily treatable and shouldn’t prevent you from being able to successfully nurse your baby in the long run.  Some of the most common issues you could potentially encounter include:


Thrush is essentially a yeast infection that your baby has in their mouth that can transfer to you during nursing (and then back to the baby…then back to you…so on and so on). Yeast (a normal part of everyone’s digestive system) thrives in warm, moist, sugary environments, which is why your baby’s mouth – and your nipples – is a perfect place for it to thrive.

Symptoms of thrush include:

  • Itchy, pink, red, shiny or burning nipples
  • Deep, shooting breast pain during or after feedings
  • A vaginal yeast infection
  • Young babies typically present white patches on the inside of the lips and cheeks, crying when nursing or sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and/or have a raised, patchy bright or dark red diaper rash with distinct borders

How to Treat:

If you think you might have thrush, call your doctor. Thrush is easily treatable and can be taken care of in a few days once a treatment regimen begins. Your doctor will likely prescribe an anti fungal medicine for you and your baby. It usually takes a week to ten days for the infection to clear.

Cracked or Bleeding Nipples

Exactly what it sounds like, an improper latch, infection or misuse of a pump can result in nipples that are cracked and bleeding.

How to Treat:

Call a lactation consultant. She’ll be able to help determine if your issue is due to an improper latch or something more serious like thrush or tongue-tie.

Before nursing, check your baby’s latch. One way to achieve the ideal latch is to line up her nose with your nipple so her bottom gum is far away from the base of your nipple when she opens her mouth. Once her mouth is open, push her on quickly. Your nipple should be far back in your baby’s mouth; you should only see a bit of your areola when your baby is properly latched.

Try different nursing positions – you might find certain positions are easier to get the right latch and offer more comfort. Be sure to nurse on the less injured side first, and apply a cold pack prior to nursing.

After nursing, gently clean your nipples, apply an antibacterial ointment (if instructed to by a doctor), and slather on lanolin. These Lansinoh Soothies also provide comfort and encourage your nipples to heal.


Once your milk arrives (two to five days after giving birth), your breasts will feel very full and heavy. This fullness usually eases after a nursing session, and begins to wane a few weeks postpartum. But, if your breasts continue to feel hard, swollen, painful or uncomfortably full, you’re likely engorged. Engorgement can occur if you’re not feeding your baby frequently enough, draining your breasts fully or if your milk ducts have become obstructed.

How to Treat:

To avoid engorgement, nurse often, and don’t alternate sides until 20 minutes of nursing or so (until the breast feels soft again). Massage your breast while the baby is nursing. If your baby falls asleep before emptying the breast or misses a nursing session, pump to express milk. Apply a cool or warm compress beforehand and afterwards to soothe sore tissue.

Engorgement usually resolves itself within 24 to 48 hours if you begin nursing and/or pumping frequently. If left untreated engorgement can last ten days or longer, and has the potential to evolve into something more serious.


If you wake up one morning feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck and your boobs are on fire, there’s a good chance you’ve got Mastitis.

Mastitis is when your breast becomes painfully inflamed. It may be red, sore, hard to the touch or unusually warm. The swelling may or may not be caused by an infection; signs of an infection include chills, a high fever and fatigue. Mastitis is commonly caused by an infection, but can also be caused due to milk staying in the breast, engorgement or plugged milk ducts. Cracked nipples can also allow germs to enter the breast which can lead to an infection.

Stress, fatigue and being a first-time mom can increase your risk of Mastitis. While it can occur at any time while you’re breastfeeding, it’s most common in the first month after you’ve had your baby.

How to Treat:

Call your doctor. Your doctor will be able to prescribe antibiotics to help clear up any infections. Be sure to nurse frequently to keep breasts drained and to prevent further clogs or engorgement. Delaying to treat mastitis can cause serious complications such as breast abscesses, which require surgery and antibiotics to treat.

Clogged Milk Ducts

If you’re making milk faster than you’re able to express it, there’s a chance it’ll get backed up in your ducts, causing swelling and inflammation. The early signs of a plugged duct include an area that may be red and warm to the touch on the breast, or a small, hard lump that’s tender to touch.

How to Treat:

Nurse, nurse, nurse. Nurse frequently and vary your position to ensure that all milk is being drained. Keep your baby nursing on one side until you feel your breast is softer (i.e., has been drained), which means typically at least 20 minutes of nursing per side. Massage the area that feels clogged. Take ibuprofen for comfort and be sure to get some rest (no problem with a newborn, right?!)  Clogged ducts should clear up within 24 – 48 hours of treatment. If you start to develop a fever call your doctor immediately as there’s a chance you may have an infection.

For more information regarding these or other common breastfeeding issues such as oversupply, nipple confusion and more, be sure to check out BabyCenter’s awesome breastfeeding index, or visit KellyMom, our go-to website for any and all breastfeeding questions and concerns.