When it happens, you’ll know exactly what engorgement is. Maybe baby slept longer than expected (yeah!) and you wake up to painfully sore boobs (boo!). Maybe you got stuck in traffic and it took longer to get home to your breast pump or baby. Some women simply have an oversupply of breast milk, resulting in engorgement, no matter how often they breastfeed. However it happens, just know… although painful, engorgement is natural
Engorgement can occur at any point during your breastfeeding journey. However, it is most common when your milk first comes in (2 to 6 days after birth). During this time, a woman’s breasts become full and firm with milk as colostrum is replaced.
What does it feel like? Engorged breasts are swollen, hard and heavy; tender to the touch; and painful. And, your nipples may also become flattened or cracked. Yeah, not fun.
Engorgement left unchecked may result in mom having a low-grade fever, clogged milk ducts or mastitis, so it’s important to make sure you contact a doctor or lactation consultant if the problem persists.
As your baby gets older, engorgement may occur due to a variety of other reasons: your breasts have not been emptied for four or more hours; stress; lack of sleep; or variation in schedule due to trips or a change in routine. (Hello, holidays!)
HOW TO PREVENT ENGORGEMENT
- Breastfeed shortly after birth. This way, baby is given the opportunity to learn how to breastfeed before your breasts become full and firm.
- Once your milk comes in, nurse 8 to 12 times a day.
- If a feeding is missed, use a breast pump or hand expression to remove the milk.
- Make sure your baby is latching correctly.
- Let baby complete nursing on one breast before switching. Feedings will typically take 10 - 20 minutes.
- Avoid using bottles and pacifiers (unless medically necessary). This helps to prevent nipple and bottle confusion.
- Track nursing times, lengths and sides. Your healthcare provider should be able to point out any problems with nursing length of time.
- Do not stop breastfeeding cold-turkey. As you wean baby gradually, your supply will taper off.
- Reach out to a lactation consultant for any questions or concerns.
HOW TO ALLEVIATE ENGORGEMENT PAIN
- Just before nursing, place a warm compress on your breasts to get the milk flowing (3 - 5 minutes).
- Cold compresses may be used after feedings to reduce swelling (10 minutes or less).
- Keep baby with you! Body contact can encourage milk flow and make frequent nursing more likely.
- Hand express a small amount of milk, especially if you are uncomfortably full and your baby isn't ready to eat.
- Nursing or expressing milk every 2 hours guarantees fluid movement.
- Use a breast pump for a short time to soften the nipple and areola so baby can latch better. Pumping will help alleviate engorgement as well.
- Gently massage the breast that baby is nursing on. This encourages milk flow and helps to relieve discomfort.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can help relieve discomfort or pain. Check with your doctor before starting any new medications while breastfeeding.
- Gentle breast massage can encourage a shift in fluids. Laying down on your back also helps keep your breasts higher.
Did you know 1 Natural Way offers lactation consultation tele-health services to military families? Click here to learn more!
1 Natural Way offers a complete array of products and services to make moms more comfortable and confident throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journeys. We provide mothers with name brand breast pumps, monthly breastfeeding supplies, maternity compression stockings and postpartum recovery garments, as well as expert and compassionate advice and top-notch customer service. Click here to start the qualification process to get your breast pump at no cost to you.