Breastfeeding is natural, so it should be easy, right?

For some moms and babies, breastfeeding goes really well and there are very few, if any, problems. For most moms, however, there are a number of nursing challenges that can interfere with how easy it is to breastfeed. The most common difficulties are from “latch on difficulties.”

This article will go through a quick list of those nursing challenges. It is important that you know you are not alone (even when it feels like you are). It will also offer you a few easy solutions. Be sure to see the Ask Dr. Linda Blog for more helpful tips!

If you are struggling with latch on difficulties, other breastfeeding challenges, or simply overwhelmed as a new parent, click here to schedule a Skype Consultation with Dr. Linda!

Common Breastfeeding Challenges:

  • Dr. Linda, my nipples are so sore and cracked, what’s wrong?
  • How will I know my baby is getting enough milk?
  • My baby wants to eat all the time. I need a break! What is going on?
  • Is breastfeeding supposed to hurt?
  • My baby nurses for 30 minutes on each side and cries after he is finishes eating. What is going on?
  • My breasts are swollen and sore. Should I worry?

The Latch On Challenge:

Making sure your baby is correctly latched on is one of the most common breastfeeding challenges. The “latch on” refers to how your baby’s mouth is positioned on your nipple and areola. “Latch on difficulties” are the most common cause of difficulties for both mother and baby. And, the solution to most of these difficulties is to make sure your baby is latched on right.

When your baby is latched on well :

First - importantly - your nipple won’t hurt.

Second, your baby will nurse efficiently. This means that you will make enough milk so your baby grows and thrives and avoid the problems that come with inefficient nursing.

Latch on challenges can result from:

  • Improper technique.
  • Tongue tie in your baby.
  • If you have inverted nipples.

How will you know your baby is not latched on properly?

  1. Nursing will hurt . More specifically, you’ll feel painful pulling on your nipple.
  2. Your baby’s mouth will not be open wide enough. The upper and lower lip will be very close together at the angle of the mouth.
  3. Your baby may make a clicking sound when nursing.
  4. Your nipple will look creased after the feed.
  5. Your nipples may begin to crack and maybe even to bleed.
  6. You will not feel your breasts empty during the feed and refill before the next feed.


What you can do to correct latch on difficulties:

If your baby is not latching on well, don’t get discouraged. This is a very common breastfeeding problem which you can fix, with a few skills, and plenty of patience.

The key to a great latch on is to have your baby’s mouth open wide enough that you can get all (or most) of your areola in his mouth.

The areola is the colored area around your nipple and is where the milk ducts are. When your baby latches on only to your nipple he can hurt it. More importantly, he will not massage the milk ducts so your body will not get the message to make more milk.

Since it is easier for your baby to latch on to your nipple and not the whole areola, he will probably get mad when you first start to change his habit. Be persistent, when you get this right, your baby will be able to nurse a shorter time and get more milk, making both of you happier.

  • Always start by consulting with your doctor or lactation consultant if you have access to one.
  • Take your partner with you to the visit so you both learn what needs to be done. Your partner’s support  will come in very handy as you change your baby’s old habits to new, better ones.
  • If you don’t have access to help right now, here are a few skills you may want to consider learning:

Skills to Solve Latch On Difficulties

Skill #1

Learn how to open up your baby’s mouth very wide without hurting him. Use your index finger to gently but firmly push down on his lower jaw and open his mouth wide.

Teach your partner how to assist you and your baby in this process. You will need help when you are first starting out. Your baby may be tiny but he can be very stubborn when he wants to be!

Skill #2

Hold your whole breast between your thumb and your other 4 fingers right near your ribs in a C hold. Keep your hand far away from your areola and practice putting as much of your areola as possible into your baby’s mouth.

Your baby will probably not like this and cry. This is just his way of telling you he does not want to change! (Very few people like change).  Don’t worry, be persistent, you are not hurting him.

Skill #3

Patience:  Hold your baby’s head in place, or, if you partner is helping, have your partner gently hold your baby in place. Rest assured, once your nipple hits the roof of your baby’s mouth, it will cause a suck reflex and your baby will start nursing. Once he nurses the new way, he will quickly figure out that your way is better!

Practice these skills for the next few feeds.

Expect some resistance from your little one, it is normal: despite being only 6 to 8 pounds, your baby is pure opinion. Babies are stubborn! So be persistent. Be patient. If at all possible you do want to nurse your baby, because in general, breast-fed babies will be healthier.

Know that with the new proper latch on, your milk supply will increase quickly, your nipples will heal, and, your baby will be happier and, he will learn to open up his mouth wide all on his own!

I look forward to seeing you,

To your holistic health,

Ask Dr. Linda