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It is often believed that breastfeeding comes naturally to babies and mothers. But despite what you may believe the practice can be difficult for many new mothers. Not only does this affect the baby, but it can also adversely affect the mother too. Here are some of the most common causes that make breastfeeding difficult for first time mums despite proper lactation and what you can do about it.


Definition: When the breast tissue overfills with milk, blood and other fluids

Engorged breasts is common among new mothers any time between the second and the fifth day after delivery and childbirth. The most common cause of this is the inability to nurse and feed the baby frequently or to drain the excess milk produced in the breast effectively.

As a natural process, after childbirth, a mother’s breast prepares enough breast milk for the baby’s nourishment and needs. However, there can be a possibility that even after adequately feeding the baby the mother might be unable to drain the milk completely.

This excess milk remaining in the breasts could lead to engorgement. When the breasts get engorged they appear swollen, full, and hard. They can also be painful when touched.

Engorgement is a serious issue and should never be neglected as it would not only cause problems to the mother, but will make it difficult for the baby to get a proper feed despite the breasts being filled with milk. This is because a hard areola makes it difficult for the baby to latch on it correctly to continue with a smooth feeding session.

Blockage/Plugged Ducts

Definition: When a milk duct in your breast gets blocked or otherwise has poor drainage

Breast milk is produced by small milk-producing glands or tissues, called alveoli present inside the breast. The milk produced by alveoli then collects under the areola.

During a feeding session, the baby latches on to the areola and suckles to feed self and help you empty the breast. However, there can be times when a milk producing duct or alveoli is blocked internally. This usually happens if the production of breast milk and the suction by your baby don’t match each other’s speed and frequency.

Excess milk if not drained effectively can cause one of the ducts inside the breast to get blocked. This is because the duct keeps producing more milk without proper let down.

Sometimes even thickened milk can obstruct the flow from one of the alveoli leading to a blocked duct. With a block duct, there would be a swelling or a lump formed in one of the breasts that could appear hard or painful when touched.

If ignored, this situation can lead to engorgement too or any other kind of infection. An infection with blocked ducts can either lead to mastitis, where a part of the breast becomes hot, swollen and painful or an abscess where the breast appears to be full with fluid when examined.


  • Skin to skin

Try to place baby at the breast as soon as you are able after delivery. Delay can hamper feeding. Keeping the baby near the breast often may mitigate some breastfeeding issues.

  • Latch!

Seek guidance in latching your baby. Many mothers do not find latching baby on to be natural and easy. If baby isn’t latched well, they will not be able to transfer milk well, and your body will not respond by making more milk. This downward spiral is the reason many women feel they are unable to breastfeed. If you are having lots of nipple pain when feeding, please ask a lactation consultant or physician to examine your latch.

  • Supply & Demand

The more milk that comes out, the more milk you’ll produce. How to increase milk supply? Feed! Your body should make enough milk to feed your baby. Trust in that. If you are concerned that you don’t have enough, you can try pumping or hand expressing after feeds. This will stimulate a greater supply.

  • Compress

It will be beneficial that moms compress the breast when baby stops sucking to stimulate the baby to start sucking again. This also seems to calm babies like mine that want it fast!

  • Breastmilk Pump Use

As mentioned above, the more milk that comes out, the more milk you will likely produce. Some women respond well to pumping after each breastfeed to increase supply. However, if this decreases how much you have available for baby at the next feed, hold off.

  • Feed one breast fully, then switch!

It is good that moms fully drain one breast before offering the other. One breast is the meal and the other is dessert. By completely draining one breast the body will make more milk to refill this breast.

  • Stop timing feeds

Many parents watch the clock and assume that by 15, 30 or 45 minutes the baby should be full. Some babies who feed vigorously and with an excellent latch are full in 10 minutes, others take an hour.

The trick is to watch how the baby is sucking. Moms should look out for is strong suck, suck, suck, suck, … pause. This is the baby stimulating the let down and then pausing to swallow. If the baby is merely softly sucking with no pausing, they are likely pacifying and getting no milk transfer.

If you’re having trouble maintaining a good milk supply, having difficulty with getting your baby to latch on, experiencing painful blocked ducts, or suffering other lactation troubles, a one-to-one consultation can be arranged with our certified Lactation Consultant.

Have engorged breasts or blocked milk ducts? Trust the hands of our WSQ-certified therapists to reduce the discomfort and pain with our Lactation Massages, allowing you to enjoy your breastfeeding journey once more.