When to Get Breastfeeding Help and Where to Find It

The first few days and weeks of breastfeeding can be both challenging and rewarding, and will set you and your baby up for a positive experience in the months ahead. When you get off to a good start, it's more likely that you will be successful with breastfeeding and will continue for a longer period of time. It's always a good idea to have assistance in the beginning, especially for new moms, but there are some situations in which having extra help is essential.

Get the assistance and support you need right from the very first breastfeeding so that you can have the best possible experience with your newborn.

When to Get Extra Breastfeeding Help

If you experience any of the following 12 problems, call your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible to address the issue.

You Had Difficulty Breastfeeding Another Child

If you've tried breastfeeding in the past and it hasn't gone smoothly, it can be stressful to think about trying again. You may be worried that you'll run into the same issues, which is understandable. However, it's still possible to breastfeed successfully this time around.

Before your baby is born, talk to your doctor and see a lactation consultant if possible. Tell them about your past experiences and the problems you encountered. Your health care team can work with you to figure out what went wrong the last time and find solutions to put you on the path to success with this baby.

Your Breasts Didn't Grow or Change During Pregnancy

Some women may not have noticeable changes in the size of their breasts and still make a healthy supply of breast milk. However, if you notice very few breast changes during pregnancy or none at all, be sure to tell your doctor.

You've Had Breast or Chest Surgery

It's definitely possible to make a full, healthy supply of breast milk with breast implants or after a minor breast surgery such as a lumpectomy. However, depending on the type of surgery and where the surgical cut is located on your breast, your milk supply could be affected.

Breast reductions and operations around the nipple and areola are more likely to have an impact on breastfeeding. Be sure to tell your doctor and your baby's pediatrician if you've had breast or chest surgery, and get extra breastfeeding help in the beginning to ensure you're making enough breast milk for your baby.

Your Baby's Birth Was Traumatic

A difficult delivery with many medications or an unexpected c-section can cause physical and psychological stress for you and your baby. Medications, fatigue, stress, and pain can also interfere with getting breastfeeding off to a healthy start. A good support system and extra breastfeeding help will make all the difference for both of you.

Your Newborn Isn't Latching On

Problems with your baby's latch can keep them from getting enough breast milk to grow and gain weight. In extreme instances, a newborn can become malnourished and dehydrated if the issue isn't addressed. Latching problems can also lead to a low milk supply and painful breast issues such as sore nipples, plugged milk ducts, and breast engorgement.

Contact your doctor, pediatrician, or lactation consultant if your child is not latching onto one or both sides, or if they latch on but do not empty your breasts completely at each nursing session.

You Have Flat, Inverted, or Very Large Nipples 

When babies latch on to the breast correctly, they take in more than just the nipple, also grabbing some of the surrounding areola. For this reason, most babies can latch onto almost any type of nipple that their mother has.

Many times, the baby's suck or a breast pump can draw out flat or inverted nipples. However, if nipples are flat due to severe engorgement or are truly inverted so that the baby can't latch on, there may be an issue. Very large nipples can also be difficult to latch onto for a preemie or a newborn with a small mouth. In these cases, extra breastfeeding help may be needed to allow your baby to nurse efficiently.

Your Breast Milk Hasn't Come in by the Fourth Day 

When you first start to breastfeed, you'll have a small amount of the first breast milk called colostrum. For many moms, milk production begins to increase quickly, and usually by the third day postpartum the breasts begin to fill up with transitional breast milk. For first-time moms, however, it can take a day or two longer.

A slight delay in breast milk production is usually not a problem. If it continues, however, it could be dangerous for your baby, as it puts them at risk of dehydration, jaundice, and weight loss.

If you don't notice an increase in your breast milk by the fourth day postpartum, talk to a lactation consultant. With their special training, they can provide you with proper guidance on how to increase your milk supply.

Your Nipples Are Very Sore 

While it's normal to experience some mild nipple tenderness during the first week or so of breastfeeding, painfully sore or damaged nipples are a sign that something is not quite right. A common cause of very sore nipples is a poor latch, so if you're in this situation, work with a lactation consultant to ensure that your infant is latching on well and learn how to heal and protect your nipples so you can breastfeed in comfort.

You're Suffering From Severe Breast Engorgement 

Breast engorgement is normal in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when milk production increases and fills your breasts. However, some women experience severe breast engorgement that can make breastfeeding difficult or painful.

If your breasts are so swollen, tight, and tender that your baby can't latch on, you should get some extra help. Once again, a lactation consultant is the best resource to help you relieve the engorgement and get your breastfeeding back on track.

You Have a Health Issue

If you're pregnant and you have diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or another medical condition that might interfere with building up your breast milk supply, get connected with a lactation consultant as soon as your baby is born (or even before your due date) to learn any specifics about your condition that may affect breastfeeding.

Your Baby Is Premature or Has a Health Concern

It's a smart choice to seek help if your child is born prematurely, has a physical problem such as a tongue-tie or a cleft lip, or is diagnosed with a neurological issue such as Down syndrome. It is still possible to breastfeed in these situations, but it often requires a little extra patience and education to learn the best techniques for success.

You Have a Fever

While some women experience fever, aches, and chills when their milk comes in, these symptoms can also be signs of an infection. If you do get sick, you'll want to continue to breastfeed—especially if you have mastitis, a breast infection that can worsen if breastfeeding is discontinued. Just make sure to call your doctor as soon as possible to ensure that you get any necessary medications or other treatment.

You'll want to identify and treat any infection as quickly as possible in order to help you feel better and avoid breastfeeding problems going forward.

Where to Find Breastfeeding Help

If possible, get help before you even have to worry about breastfeeding issues. During your pregnancy, consider taking a breastfeeding class, joining a breastfeeding support group (either in person or online), and asking your doctor to connect you with a licensed lactation consultant.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends trying to breastfeed your baby as soon after delivery as possible. If you had a natural birth, you can usually breastfeed in the delivery room within an hour of birth. However, if you had a c-section or your baby needs special care after the delivery, you may have to wait a little longer.

Once you're able to breastfeed, have your nurse, midwife, or doula help you get the baby to latch on correctly. Ask about breastfeeding positions and have someone show you the proper way to place your newborn in each hold.

If you deliver in a hospital, request a visit from the lactation consultant and take advantage of the hospital staff while you're there so you can feel more comfortable when you go home.

Of course, breastfeeding problems can still pop up once you're at home with your baby. Thankfully, there are many resources available for extra breastfeeding help. The U.S. Lactation Consultant Association is a great place to find a licensed lactation consultant in your area.

You can also:

  • Ask a friend or family member for advice and resources.
  • Call your doctor for recommendations or a referral.
  • Find an online breastfeeding community.
  • Join a local breastfeeding support group.
  • Keep a trusted breastfeeding book on hand for reference.
  • Take an online breastfeeding class.

A Word From Verywell

Breastfeeding can be stressful if it's not going smoothly, especially when you're exhausted from caring for your newborn and concerned about whether they're getting enough milk. Keep in mind that you aren't alone; breastfeeding issues are very common, especially with your first baby.

If you run into a breastfeeding problem, try to get help as soon as possible to ensure that your baby is getting the proper nutrition and you're both having a good breastfeeding experience.

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Article Sources
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  1. Cruz NI, Korchin L. Breastfeeding after augmentation mammaplasty with saline implants: Annals of Plastic Surgery. 2010;64(5):530-533. doi.org/10.1097/sap.0b013e3181c925e4

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birth defects. Updated September 21, 2020.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breastfeeding your baby. Updated August 2019.

Additional Reading
  • Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession 8th ed. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2015.