Breastfeeding journey

For a new mom, pregnancy and labor were difficult but there were lots of resources. Labor was a lot of pain, but it went by fast at least. On the other hand, breastfeeding was the most challenging part of motherhood in the first few weeks for me. I thought I had read a bunch and attended classes at the hospital during pregnancy, but in reality, it took so many days and nights with tears and stress to get the hang of it. Every woman has her own journey, and I’d just like to share mine in case it might help anyone with similar struggles.

I keep updating the post as long as I am breastfeeding, so far three months in!

Getting help

I didn’t have many friends with kids or long-term breastfeeding experience, it’s also not easy to describe my breastfeeding techniques easily. My mom would certainly help if she could, but she didn’t have a smooth journey herself. In Taiwan, lactation consultations are expensive and not covered by insurance. I first tried watching many videos online on how to position correctly, but there were blind spots and I resorted to professional help eventually. In the first two months, I had three sessions with two different breastfeeding consultants (one is IBCLC certified) and two doctor visits to Dr. Mao in Taipei who specialized in various breastfeeding problems and is also an IBCLC consultant.

Through the recommendation of the doctor, I also joined a private Facebook group in Taiwan where people with breastfeeding experience answer questions and give advice. It’s nice being part of a community, and I appreciate the help I’ve got from there.

Issues I ran into

Incorrect positioning

The root cause of most issues is incorrect positioning, and it takes both the baby and mom to work it out. One thing the doctor pointed out that changed my breastfeeding journey early on was that I shall bring the baby to the nipple, not the other way around. For positioning, I’ve tried a few different holding positions and cradle hold is the most convenient for us.

With correct positioning, there should be minimal pain and the baby moves their mouth about once per second. Sometimes, I can hear the baby swallowing and it always makes me smile. Typically, the breast would become soft afterward. The doctor also emphasized the importance of the mother’s comfort, like having enough support under the elbows with a pillow or towels. When I first demonstrated how I breastfeed to the doctor, she immediately noticed that my arms were not relaxed subconsciously and I started becoming more aware these days.

Even after I became more confident about breastfeeding, shallow latching could still happen at times. When the baby started having longer sleep and I stopped waking up for feeding at night, it’s also harder for the baby to latch deeply with engorged breasts. I usually hand express for a few minutes until the breasts soften a bit.

Cracked nipples

The first three days postpartum at the hospital were the most intense in my life. Even with plenty of help from the nurses, I had cracked nipples at the hospital from shallow latching. The baby was just 1-3 days old and the same for my parenthood, we both had a lot to learn! I prepared lanolin oil, but applying breastmilk also works. Breastfeeding with a cracked nipple is okay, it just could be really painful and each bite feels like a needle. Extra caution is recommended in this case to prevent infections (I cleaned the nipples with water after feeding). When there was a visible wound, I let the cracked side rest and expressed by hand while breastfeeding on the other side for a few days. The doctor recommended putting on olive oil or lanolin oil, and also prescribed me an ointment (no feeding within half an hour) and the wound eventually healed.

After working out the positioning with the baby, I haven’t had cracked nipples for a while. Two months in, I had a few days of painful breastfeeding sessions most likely because of engorgement from the night. I didn’t see a wound, so I applied some olive oil to the nipple after each feeding and tried preventing the baby from pulling out or twisting abruptly. (I also asked the baby to be gentle, and I felt like she sometimes did become slightly softer? 😇)

Clogged milk ducts

My body generally has an oversupply and a tendency to get clogged milk ducts. I never thought having more could be a problem! If the same milk cannot be removed after about three days, some serious problems could arise like mastitis. Because of this fear, I became so nervous whenever I noticed a clog and couldn’t express milk from that area. After learning how to self-help with the following steps, I was able to resolve the clog a few times.

  • First, try not to panic and realize that it might take 2-3 days to be back to normal. I dreaded the feeling of not being able to express any milk and getting mastitis so much, but the stress only made it worse. Even now, I still worry about it when I get a clog but I try to distract myself from focusing on it too much.
  • If breastfeeding is possible, try positioning the baby’s chin to the hard part. However, for me, the hard part is often very deep (close to my chest) and the baby couldn’t reach it.
  • Every few hours, try unclogging the milk ducts by first using two fingers to locate the tip of the hard part. When the fingers are at the edge of the hard part and the closest to the nipple, try expressing and a drop or two shall come out. Try repeating a few times throughout the day, the area on the nipple where milk ducts connect to becomes unclogged and more milk would come out gradually.
  • If the clog cannot be resolved on my own for more than 2-3 full days, it’s time to seek medical help.

Q&A from sessions & experience

Q: Should I set an alarm to wake up for feeding at night?

If the baby does not wake up at night, the doctor recommended seizing the time to sleep. For me, I still woke up for feeding around 3-5 am automatically from fear of engorgement for a week when the baby starts sleeping through the night. After that, I started trusting my body and catching up on long stretches of sleep – it’s a wonderful feeling after not having a long sleep since the third trimester!

Q: What causes the clogged milk ducts and how can I prevent it?

From the doctor’s experience, it’s often from a combination of stress and certain food consumption. From my own observations, food is most likely the main cause. Everyone could have different food that causes oversupply and thus clogged milk ducts. For me, cream and glutinous rice are two obvious ones and I sadly found out from two Mother’s Day cakes and my dad’s cooking. Whenever having a clog, I try thinking about the food I had in the last day or two and if I encountered any stress. For me, I validated the cream by having a clog again and again after indulging in a chocolate ice cream bar and ice cream birthday cake 🥲.

Q: Should I worry if the baby only eats for five minutes or so?

For me, the baby usually eats about 5-10 minutes and I wasn’t sure if it’s enough. The doctor first said that there is no need to even track how long it takes, as long as the heavy diaper amount is good. Babies have big and small meals just like adults, and they aren’t shy to show their hunger.

Q: What about side-lying position?

Because we don’t co-sleep with the baby, I haven’t had much experience with the side-lying position. For a few times I tried, it usually took longer for the baby to latch on and the milk could leak onto the bed. I usually use a diaper pad with towels under the baby’s head to make it less messy. For late-night feeding, I still prefer cradle holds since I had to sit up to burp the baby afterward anyway. So far, I only do side-lying position for early morning feeds when needed. However, from my sessions with medical professionals, they personally found the side-lying position very helpful for late-night feeding especially in the winter. It’s really up to the mother to find a position they are comfortable with.

Q: Why does the baby keep turning her head while breastfeeding?

The doctor said the baby turns their head often from unsatisfying milk flow. I notice this most often from the first few feedings of the day with engorged breasts, when the flow could be too strong. On the other hand, when I had clogged milk ducts, the baby also keeps turning her head probably because the flow is too slow.

Q: How can I use a nursing pillow?

I showed the doctor a nursing pillow that I bought earlier, and the doctor said it wouldn’t work for me. Whether a pillow is useful heavily depends on the woman’s body, I’m glad I didn’t over-spend on the pillow.


After getting the hang of it about two months in, I started enjoying my time with the little one a lot more without fear. There are still recurring issues now and then, but I’ve learned to self-help. I am thankful for the support in many ways – having generous parental leave time from the company, help from nurses at the hospital, and my husband offering to bottle or even formula feed if it’s too much for me. Breastfeeding would certainly be a precious memory when I look back later on, because it is the first best gift I can give to my child 💝.