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Common Breastfeeding Problems

Solutions to sore nipples, infections, and more, plus resources for breastfeeding moms.
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WebMD Feature

Whether you are an experienced mom who has breastfed before, or a new mother nursing for the first time, you may run into a number of common problems.

Although most are not serious enough to keep you from breastfeeding, some can make breastfeeding a more uncomfortable and less fulfilling process for you and your baby.

The good news: Often you only need make a few minor adjustments in technique or style to get your body and your baby in perfect sync. "Breastfeeding should be a pleasurable experience for both mother and baby. If it's not, then it's important to identify the problem early on and make whatever changes are necessary," says Pat Sterner, a lactation counselor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Some of the more common breastfeeding problems - and solutions - follow.

Sore Nipples

"Many women find that their nipples not only feel sore after every feeding, they are red and pointy instead of round and smooth -- all indications that your baby is not 'latched on' properly," says Sterner.

The "latch" as experts call it, is the way your baby connects to your breast. When done correctly, your baby will open his or her mouth very wide and take in a good deal of breast tissue. This means that your nipple ends up way in the back of your baby's mouth where the hard and soft palates meet.

"When your nipple is sitting way back there in the hollow, there is nothing to pinch, so it should not cause any nipple soreness at all," Sterner tells WebMD.

If, however, your nipple is sitting in front of your baby's mouth, you're going to feel the pinch every time baby's tongue comes up -- and baby is not going to have an easy time feeding.

The solution, says Sterner, is to insert your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the latch as soon as you feel pain -- and then try latching on again. Ideally, your baby should take at least one inch of your areola into the mouth. 

Experts say you can further ease pain by avoiding the use of soap on your breasts, which can be drying and irritating. Instead, wash with plain water. You might also want to let some milk air dry on your breast after feeding, which can help reduce some inflammation and soreness.

To keep nipples soft and supple, try any of the lanolin-based creams specifically for nipple inflammation, such as Lansinoh, Belli Cosmetics Pure Comfort Nursing Cream, or PureLan 100 Nipple Cream by Medela.

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