Top 10 Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions

By: Melissa Portunato, IBCLC

You had envisioned yourself latching your beautiful new baby to your breast and it would instantly be magical. Pure bliss! Or so you thought. But, breastfeeding didn’t come as naturally as you thought it would and it feels far from magical. Instead, you feel frustrated, disappointed, and like giving up.r. The truth is, for most of us, breastfeeding is not what we thought it would be like at all. Just like with anything worthwhile in life, breastfeeding takes hard work and commitment. But once you can get past those pesky common challenges of the first few weeks, you can really start to enjoy your breastfeeding journey and begin to truly bond with your baby.

We came up with the 10 most common breastfeeding problems and answers to get you through those tough times.

#1 Painful latch

Every time you know feeding time is coming around, your toes curl and you start to get major anxiety because it hurts to breastfeed! Most likely, it’s because your nipple is rubbing on the roof of your baby’s mouth causing discomfort. So how can you work on perfecting the latch to get rid of this dreadful feeling? Start the feeding with your nipple on baby’s nose, wait for baby to open wide, and then bring baby quickly (chin first) towards you. This can help aim your nipple deeper into baby’s mouth. When done correctly, you should instantly feel a difference. Phew!

#2 Sleepy baby at breast

You changed baby’s diaper, tickled their toes, got them all undressed and still can’t seem to wake baby from dreamland. A newborn baby should be nursing a minimum of 8 to 12 times per day. If baby is still not at their birth weight, they most definitely need to be woken up to feed throughout the night. For the first 6 weeks, try not to swaddle baby or offer a pacifier. This can interfere with nursing cues and cause baby to feel full and cozy and not want to nurse. Hand express for a few minutes before offering the breast. Sometimes, just a few drops of breastmilk on a sleepy baby’s lips will get them to want to nurse. Use breast compressions while you nurse too! This can help keep baby awake with a steady flow of milk.

You can also try turning down the lights and keeping baby skin to skin. So, even down to a diaper with a light blanket on top of baby can help. This helps stimulate your milk makes hormones and the smell of your skin/breast can often help with feedings.

If your chubster is already back up at their birth weight, talk to your pediatrician. It’s most likely OK to hit the snooze button on that alarm. Finally rest!

#3 This kid won’t stop nursing!

You feel your baby is practically attached to you morning, noon, and night. You can’t catch a break and you’re tapped out! Cluster feeding is when baby bunches nursing sessions close together about every 45-60 minutes. This feeding pattern is normal for young babies and coincides with growth development, but cluster feeding is exhausting! But we promise, there is hope! These marathon feedings will increase your milk supply and are typically followed by long sleeping stretches for baby. Sit back, relax, and scroll through your favorite newsfeed, sleep is on the horizon.

#4 Baby refusing the breast

If your baby was nursing and suddenly is refusing the breast, you could be experiencing a nursing strike. Nursing strikes will typically last from just a few short days to over a week. They can be caused by a variety of different factors like an illness, teething, major changes in routine, or long periods of separation from your baby.

Take it back to the basics! Dim the lights and do skin to skin with baby on your bare chest with only a diaper. Offer the breast frequently but, don’t ever force baby! It should be a gentle “wooing” back. You can even have baby gently wake up next to your bare breast. Often, babies will be more willing to nurse when just waking up versus really hungry.

Limit bottles as much as possible and offer the breast first.  but, don’t wait until baby is too hungry. Try to have someone else give the bottle besides mommy.

#5 Sore nipples

Your nipple is elastic and as it begins to stretch you can experience soreness. Soreness in the first few weeks is normal but should subside after about two weeks. Continued soreness, pain, cracking, and bleeding is not normal. It’s best to work closely with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to ensure baby is latched on properly. The best way to treat sore nipples is with your very own breast milk! Yep, pretty incredible, huh? Studies show the antibacterial properties in breastmilk makes it the perfect substance to heal nipples and keep them healthy. Hand express breast milk on your nipples after every feeding and allow to air dry. Your nipples will be feeling better in no time!

Make sure you are changing your breast pads frequently, this will help prevent any infection and allow your nipples to heal faster.

#6 Engorgement

It’s been a few days and your milk has officially made its grand entrance. HELLO! Engorgement can make it difficult for baby to latch. To help, you can apply a warm cloth and softly massage your breasts a few minutes prior to nursing. It’s very important during this time to nurse frequently! Offer the breast often and ensure you do some helpful breast massage while nursing. If after nursing or pumping you still feel engorged, fill up a large basin with warm water and lean over it to let gravity naturally drain any excess milk from your breasts. Do this while softly massaging and hand expressing. After you’re done, you can ice or use a cold compress for 10 min to help bring down any swelling.

If you have redness on your breasts, they feel hot to the touch, you have a fever, or chills call your health practitioner, it could be a sign of an infection.

#7 Clogged ducts

Outch! Clogged ducts can be extremely painful but completely treatable. How did you even get them in the first place? A clogged duct can be caused by a variety of different reasons from prolonged time without milk removal, shallow latch, restrictive clothing or even stress. The fastest way to treat clogged ducts is by frequently nursing or pumping. Try nursing in the “dangling feed” position. Practice massaging your breasts while nursing or pumping, no matter what position you use each time. You want to start massaging above where you feel the clog and gently towards the nipple. You can use a warm compress before you nurse or pump to help with milk removal.

Alternate heat and cold on the area affected. If you find you have a milk blister, avoid trying to squeeze because it can make things worse. The milk blister or bleb will naturally draw out as the clog subsides.

The most important thing to remember with clogged ducts is that they are progressively getting better, not worse. Most clogged ducts subside within 48 hours. If pain continues, or other symptoms appear, give your doctor a call.

#8 Tongue Ties

You’ve spent countless hours looking under your baby’s tongue and upper lip comparing it to pictures you found on the internet to assess the issues. A tongue tie is when the connective tissue under your baby’s tongue is too tight, too thick, or both. A tongue tie is commonly accompanied by a lip tie – the upper lip tissue that connects to the gum can be tight or too thick too. Both tongue and lip ties can restrict mobility in oral function causing issues with breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, ties often go undiagnosed. If you hear loud clicking when baby is nursing, baby is not gaining weight, has reflux or you continue to experience nipple soreness it’s important to have baby evaluated by a specialist such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or a Pediatric Dentist.

In the meantime, pump if it is too painful to put baby to the breast. And be sure to be treating your nipples! See tip #5

#9 Thrush

Stabbing nipple pain, itchiness, and shiny or flaky skin on the nipple or areola can all be signs of thrush. Thrush is a common fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast or “candida.” Candida can be found in its natural environment pretty much all over the human body but when it starts to multiply it can cause an infection. Thrush can be a side effect of antibiotics too!  Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and suspect you have thrush. Both you and baby will need to be treated. Ask about starting probiotics for you and baby! This can help replenish the healthy bacteria in the gut for a quicker recovery and most importantly prevent thrush from recurring.

#10 Mastitis

Last but not least, you think you might have the most dreaded condition in the whole breastfeeding universe; Mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue. Symptoms of mastitis include redness of the breast, hard and hot on the affected area, and feeling like you’re catching a nasty flu bug. If symptoms persist or get worse after a few days, it’s likely your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat an infection.

There are many causes of mastitis including lack of breastmilk removal, worsening clogged ducts, change in breastfeeding patterns, and even a tight bra! It’s important to continue to breastfeed during this time and keep your milk flowing. Make sure you REST and get plenty of fluids as this often can occur due to a suppressed immune system. You need to take care of yourself so you are able to take care of your little one!

Tips for relief are the same as when treating a clogged duct. See tip #7.

If you are experiencing any one of these common breastfeeding issues and still can’t seem to find relief, trust your mommy instincts and seek professional help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Never quit on your worst day! Always remember why you wanted to breastfeed in the first place. You’re not alone in your struggles and you’re doing the very best you can. Surrounding yourself with breastfeeding support will make a world of a difference. Join our online community on Facebook and connect yourself with other moms who will meet you exactly where you are on your breastfeeding journey.


Bereavement Pumping: Our Senior IBCLC’s Journey

Bereavement Pumping: Our Senior IBCLC’s Journey
Jenn M. Foster, MA, CD, IBCLC, RLC

It’s been 4 months, nearly 5 months, since we lost our little “dove baby”, Nolan. His birth date was November 2, 2018. Yes, I say “birth date” because he was born. We held him in our arms, loved him and kissed him. My husband, Chris, even wrote him a poem which was read to him with such endearment.

Since his passing, his milk has helped so many babies. His story has touched so many lives, even reaching mothers in the UK!

I have pumped over 450 hours since November 4, 2018. Last week, I shipped 100oz to Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida and donated 400oz to local babies in need.

Yes, I do formal and informal milk donations. Formal milk donations through a milk bank and are provided to fragile babies in the NICU. Other babies in need receive human milk through milk banks that qualify.

For informal milk sharing, I seek to find local mothers in need. I find these mothers in need through Facebook groups, such as Human Milk 4 Human Babies. There is a lot of controversy over informal milk sharing. The controversy lies in the fact that such milk could be donated to milk banks across the country. However, there are babies who aren’t eligible for human milk from milk banks, such as our third (Emery) and fourth (Lincoln) babies.

I used 20% donor milk at breast with an SNS to make up for the supply that I wasn’t able to produce. They were our first little ones after having breast cancer and subsequent surgeries. Despite nursing on demand and pumping after every feeding, I was still only able to produce 80% of their daily intake.

For mothers who choose to obtain milk through informal milk sharing, there needs to be diligence on the mother’s part to ensure that the donor is free of harmful conditions, such as HIV and other illnesses. It’s important for the mothers who donate to follow the HMBANA guidelines to ensure they are healthy to donate the milk that is being shared is safe for ingestion.

Mothers can donate their milk through the Human Milk Bank of North America, by finding a milk bank in need that is within their region of the United States. There is always a need for human milk. In fact, there are measures being taken to ensure that insurance companies, including Medicaid, cover milk from a milk bank in order for NICU babies to have its’ life saving properties.

Now, back to my journey…

Every day, I pump my heart out to store Nolan’s milk. I use a hospital strength breast pump and express every 2 hours. I use a pumping app to track the time I’m pumping and quantity I pump each time. I even have alarms set on my phone to let me know when I need to pump.

I have a special pumping station set up that houses my milk storage bags, extra pump parts, breast pads and breast milk sanitary wipes. I keep my “Nolan Bear” (bear that was next to Nolan after birth at the hospital) next to me for every pumping session. Knowing that he is with me helps when it gets hard, and it is hard!

No one talks about bereavement pumping. It’s something that often isn’t even supported or offered at birth. When in the hospital, not one nurse or IBCLC talked to me about pumping his milk or even what I would do when my milk “came in”. Honestly, I hate when people say “when the milk comes in” because mothers at birth already have the perfect milk: colostrum. So, let’s say “when the milk increases in volume”.

I requested a pump to use at the hospital on November 4, 2019 (two days after his birth due to the trauma I was dealing with from his death). That started my journey of wanting to pump for one year.

Though I know that pumping is healing, it is hard to not have him at breast. Seeing all the posts on Facebook and Instagram of these amazing nursing photos and milestones that friends are experiencing with their newborns is heart wrenching. I want more than anything to have him here with us.

Every pumping allows me to still connect with Nolan. It’s so healing. I’m now looking into providing a webinar on “Bereavement Pumping”! I started a Bereavement Pumping group to find other moms that are on the same journey.

Support Resources:


mom shaming

How To Deal With Mom Shaming

In a social media savvy world, it’s easy to find entire groups of people that either fiercely supports or opposes any topic you can think of (politics, diet, exercise, etc.).  Unfortunately, this is also a very harsh reality for all topics related to raising your baby and mommyhood.  This can not only make for a confusing and exhausting existence as a mom, but it can be downright depressing when “mom shaming” comes into the picture.  Whether you are being lashed out at or having trouble holding your tongue at someone’s opinion, here are some pointers to keep in mind to navigate today’s opinionated world.  

Don’t react.

As humans, we get easily defensive when our ideas and values are challenged.  These gut reactions are important when it involves our safety but it can be extremely unproductive when trying to sincerely discuss an issue.  When you see something you don’t agree with or someone tries to pick an argument with you over something you believe or do, take a second to assess your reaction.  Is your reaction based solely on defense, does the differing opinion actually cause someone harm, or is it simply different than yours? Reacting without reflecting can cause a cascade of negativity.  Something that no one needs, especially busy moms! Plus, if it leaves you in a bad mood it may be affecting your baby.

Have empathy.

As you now know, being a mom requires all the support you can get.  This is true for all mothers no matter what walk of life they choose.  As you come across discussions online, keep this in mind. Try to put yourself in the other mother’s shoes to see if there is any validity in their differing viewpoint (and hope that they will do the same with you). Even if you still disagree (which is totally ok) and feel the need to comment, try to be constructive.  There is no point in tearing someone down for what they believe.  Try to get your point across in a way that is supportive and helpful without coming across as superior. On the other hand, if someone is trying to tear you down try to respond in a way that promotes discussion rather than argument, even if this requires you to be the “bigger person.”

Social Media Detox

If you take the two ideas above into consideration and continue to find being online overwhelming, it may be time for a detox.  This might mean limiting your exposure to social media each day. It could also mean getting rid of certain social media platforms temporarily (or, even for good) or unfollowing certain people and groups that aren’t benefiting you.  What and how you choose to read, follow and share your ideas is totally up to you.  Social media should be supporting you somehow in your daily life. Otherwise, you’re just letting the negativity of others drag you down for no reason.  

Discussion is important.

‘Agree to disagree’ is a popular statement for a reason.  If we all agreed on every issue out there, life would be pretty boring.  Keep this in mind as you take on each day and remember that most of us are trying to do the best we can.  Particularly as moms, we should be supporting each other and picking each other up when in need. So don’t be afraid to discuss! This is how we learn! This will not only make you a great role model for your kids but will build a world that is more positive for them to grow up and live in.

Want to be part of a supportive mom group? Check out the Spectra Baby USA blog and social media platforms.

how to deal with mom shaming

How can you help your partner breastfeed?

By Melissa Portunato MPH, IBCLC

An article just for new dads.

Congrats! You and your partner just welcomed a new bundle of joy earthside! But between mommy recovering and spending most of her time getting the hang of breastfeeding, where does that leave you? How can you help in all the chaos? The support you provide can determine whether or not your partner accomplishes her breastfeeding goals. That makes your job in all this, pretty important.

Here are 5 practical tips for dads who want to help their partner be successful at breastfeeding.

Compliment her and mean it

If seeing your partner carry your child for 9 months and spend brutal hours in labor didn’t change you, check your pulse because you might be dead. I mean seriously! This woman just created life inside of her belly and is now making food from her body to feed your growing child! She deserves the world. Buy her flowers. Kiss her gently on the forehead and tell her you are proud of her. Tell her you love her. Tell her what a great job she’s doing. Make sure you do it in front of others too, so everyone can know how amazing she is! Put your phone down, close your laptop and be present. Sssssmootches!

Give her some “me” time

Even a hot shower can feel like a vacation to the Galápagos Islands during this journey. Take the baby and give her some alone time to soak out all the stress of being a new mama. For an added bonus, prepare the shower or bath in advance and sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil in the corners of the tub for an even more rejuvenating experience. Take the opportunity to do skin to skin and bond with baby. Research tells us that skin to skin with dad is not only important for baby’s development but promotes the bonding process between them. Mommy gets to relax and you get to bond with your baby. Perfect combo!

Screen visitors

Listen, learning to breastfeed can be messy! Newborns are messy. Spit ups, poop explosions, and wet stains on everything from leaking and dripping breastmilk are just a few to name. Go to your partner first and ask if it’s OK to have visitors over the house. It’s OK to say no to visitors. Always ask her first. If an unexpected visitor comes by don’t expect her to have to entertain them. Right now her only worry in the world should be learning to breastfeed and bond with baby. It can all be so overwhelming dealing with cluster feeding and a fussy baby. Throw in your long-lost cousin and her runny nose toddler to the mix and you will have one grumpy postpartum mama. Have a plan in place to dodge visitors. Papa Bear to the rescue!

Keep her fed and hydrated

Provide her with cool water on all her typical nursing stations – night table, living room, coffee table, maybe even a balcony or porch. Did she have lunch? Does she need a snack? Keep the fridge stocked with healthy high protein / healthy fat options to keep mommy producing that super milk to power your little superhero! Keeping mommy fed and hydrated won’t necessarily make her produce more milk but it will help with her feeling relaxed and her milk will flow more easily. Join in and share a glass of water with your partner! Cheers to your health!

Find her support and get educated

Research tells us mothers who have breastfeeding support from their partners are more likely to meet their breastfeeding goals. So that makes YOU pretty important! The support you give is vital in making breastfeeding work for her and your baby. Educate yourself on breastfeeding. If you were not able to attend a class prenatally, contact your local hospital. Take the time to learn about how the female body makes breast milk and what is typical newborn behavior. The more you know about breastfeeding the more you will be able to support her and encourage her when the going gets tough. For help finding support, you can check out our local listings of SpectraBaby USA Certified IBCLCs.

Breastfeeding is a family commitment. It takes a village to support a new mom and baby. Arm yourself with the right tools and you will be ready to walk through any breastfeeding obstacle your partner will face. Walk alongside her not just behind her. She needs you and so does your baby. Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby and you can help make this journey even more beautiful.

Share this with a new dad today!

10 Breastfeeding Friendly Foods

By Melissa Portunato, MPH IBCLC

Alright, let’s be real. As a new mom, the only thing that gets you excited for dinner is pizza with a side of ice cream. And besides, with all the nursing and pumping you have been doing, who has time for self care anyway?? Though it’s totally fine to indulge every once in a while, maintaining a balanced diet will give you energy, keep you satisfied longer, and can help your breast milk flow easier. Try working the following 10 items into your diet rather than going for a full blow diet change off the bat.

Making milk for a tiny human is no joke so we created this list for you to take it along the next time you make a grocery run! Let’s go!

High quality protein

Scrambled, sunny side up, or a’la flambe! Pasture-raised eggs are a high quality source of protein and aren’t very expensive which makes them an easy go-to meal. Eggs have a long list of health benefits but the top of the list includes improving eye health, aiding in weight loss, and preventing disease.

A lack of iron can suck the energy out of you, consuming iron packed grass-fed beef can help increase your iron and Vitamin B-12 levels. Both are helpful in sustaining your energy and will aid in keeping up with your busy schedule.

Wild caught salmon

Salmon is a powerhouse loaded with DHA which is exactly what newborns need for healthy, neurological growth. All breast milk contains DHA, but pretty cool evidence tells us, moms, who intake DHA regularly have higher levels! Ah-ma-zing!

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, Legumes are loaded with iron and protein too! Especially the dark ones!

Leafy greens

Leafy greens are nutrient dense, low in calories and carbs, and packed with vitamins and minerals like Calcium, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, and Iron. Spinach is a heavy hitter when it comes to leafy greens! It can be cooked with pretty much any meal, raw in salads, and blended in smoothies. It can be pureed and added to sauces too!

Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit can be added to yogurt, oatmeal and is a simple, nutritious snack!

Blueberries are one of the most nutritious fruits in the world providing Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Antioxidants. Eating 2 servings a day of fresh fruit like berries can help amp up weight loss, decrease inflammation, and promote digestion which is beneficial to breastfeeding moms recovering from childbirth.

Nuts and seeds

Flaxseed is one of the world’s first superfoods. Its benefits include improving skin and hair, balancing hormones, and even helps to bust sugar cravings. Adding flaxseed to your diet is a quick and easy way to consume fiber and essential fatty acids. Flaxseed will ensure your body performs at optimal health to make your breastmilk and give you more energy to care for your newborn baby. Make sure you are grounding your flaxseed for best results. Ground flaxseed can be sprinkled on toast, yogurts, blended in smoothies, and even sprinkled on salads.

Packed with protein, calcium, magnesium, and iron, raw almond butter makes for a simple snack for busy breastfeeding moms. Spread almond butter on bananas, apples, or eat it straight from the jar! I mean why not, right? Read labels, sugar can be sneaky! Raw almond butter is best.

Healthy fats

Avocadoes make a great food for breastfeeding moms because of the variety of minerals, especially the high levels of Vitamin K. This vitamin can help with blood clotting and help postpartum moms recover faster from labor and delivery. The healthy fat found in avocados helps to keep you fuller longer. Load up avocados in salads, add to smoothies, or pour olive oil over it and eat it straight from the skin!

Complex carbs

Complex carbohydrates include many plant-based foods that are nutrient dense and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals needed for overall health and to support breastfeeding. Complex carbs like sweet potatoes are excellent in providing energy for busy moms on the go and they can help fulfill those carb cravings! Complex carbs from starchy veggies can help satisfy a sweet tooth without adding sugar or inflammatory grains.

Rather than spending your precious time preparing complicated meals, make it easy by preparing smoothies, soups and crockpot meals! Planning ahead will definitely make it easier to eat healthy. Overall, you will be burning 300-500 extra calories by breastfeeding. You want these extra calories to be full of nutrition to boost your energy. Though there is no particular breastfeeding diet, it’s important to eat balanced to maintain a healthy body for yourself and to care for your baby. Avoid empty calories and choose real fresh foods instead. Keep taking your prenatals or choose a non – gmo multivitamin.

And don’t forget to hydrate! An easy tip to remember – drink ½ your weight in ounces every day to stay hydrated! Carrying around a refillable water will help get those ounces in. Add some fresh lemon, berries, or cucumber for a hint of flavor.

Has breastfeeding made you feel hungry? Any cravings? Share with us! We would love to hear more!








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