Breastfeeding challenges

baby breastfeeding

There may be times when breastfeeding is challenging. Never ignore any issues you may have – talk to your health visitor, midwife, GP or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible, they will be able to help you sort it out quickly.

Here are some common breastfeeding issues, and tips on what to do.

Sore nipples

When you first start breastfeeding, you may have sore or sensitive nipples. This is very common in the first week of breastfeeding, and is usually because your baby is not latching on (positioned or attached) properly. If you do have nipple pain, speak to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible – breastfeeding should not be painful!

What causes sore nipples?

The most common cause of nipple pain is when your baby does not latch on properly. It's very important that you correct this as soon as possible – ask your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding specialist for help, they can show you how your baby needs to be positioned when feeding. Have a look at our step-by-step guide to latching on

Whatever you do – do not stop breastfeeding! Breast milk is created on a supply and demand system, so the less you feed, the less you produce. If you are finding it really painful to breastfeed try expressing your breast milk to keep up the supply.

Breastfeeding Friend from Start for Life

The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start for Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24 / 7.

Other possible causes for sore nipples

Tongue tie

When the strip of tissue under your baby's tongue (attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is shorter than normal – this can prevent them from latching on properly.


Thrush (or 'candida') is an infection that can occur when your nipples become cracked or damaged. Symptoms are usually severe pain in your nipples after breastfeeding (it's described as burning or shooting pains) lasting up to an hour. Your doctor can prescribe treatment for you and your baby.

Tips for soothing sore nipples

  • Some women find rubbing breast milk onto their nipples can be soothing.
  • Products like Vaseline or lanolin can help with dry or cracked nipples (although there's little evidence to show what really works well).
  • After each feed, let your nipples dry before getting dressed – change your breast pads after every feed.
  • Avoid using soap, as this can dry out your skin.
  • If possible, only wear cotton, non-underwired bras.
  • It's best to avoid using nipple shields and breast shells – these will not improve your baby's attachment to the breast.
  • Try not to shorten feeds – doing so will not ease the pain and may reduce your milk supply.


What can I do about sore nipples??

How do I know if my baby is properly latched on?

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.

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