Pregnancy and childbirth create a lot of changes for your body. Your breasts will go through an entire series of transformations. By the end of it all, you may not even recognize your ladies anymore. However, you can be prepared for changes and prevent pain by recognizing, preventing, and relieving breast engorgement.
What is Breast Engorgement?
After giving birth you will experience colostrum, the process of your breasts filling with milk for the first time. This happens between 2 to 5 days after baby arrives. This can be met with excitement as you cheer for your breast milk coming in, but the technical term for it is engorgement. Engorgement can happen at any time while you’re lactating and can occur in either both or only one breast at a time.
Every mom is different so experiences with engorgement vary. Key indicators of this process starting include your soft breasts becoming heavier, warm, and tender. Sometimes the breasts can become swollen, red, and painful.
Your newborn can help relieve breast engorgement pain by emptying your breasts, but if your baby has trouble latching you may need to take matters into your own hands to get relief.
Engorgement causes include:
- Missing a feeding or pumping session.
- A sudden stop in breastfeeding due to your baby experiencing an illness or eating more solid foods.
- Your body may overproduce milk at times while trying to find the correct amount for your baby.
Breast Engorgement Symptoms
It’s important to find relief as soon as symptoms arise to stop severe breast engorgement that could lead to tons of painful swelling, cracked nipples, an infection, a weakened milk flow, and more.
Be sure to monitor your breasts for the following symptoms while lactating:
Swollen, tender breasts - You will go up a few cup sizes after giving birth, but if your breast seems larger than your new norm then you may be experiencing engorgement.
A warm/red area on your breast - If you discover a warm area like a welt or bruise, you could have an engorgement related infection. Contact your ob-gyn immediately!
Flattened/hardened nipples - As your breasts overfill with milk they may cause nipple issues such as then becoming flat or hard. This can lead to cracking and bleeding, so be careful!
Hard breasts - Too much milk will also cause your breasts to become stiff and hard. They may seem ready to blow at the slightest touch. In some cases, leaks will occur without being touched.
Breast Engorgement Home Remedies
There are many breast engorgement treatments you can use for relief right in your own home. Most moms feel relief right after emptying their breasts but breast engorgement can last for a day or two while resting.
Empty your supply - Wake baby up to feed, bust out your breast pump, or even hand massage your breasts to express milk. Allow your baby to fully empty one breast before switching to the other.
Stay on schedule - Regularly express milk or nurse your baby every 2 to 3 hours. You should be fine with waiting for between 4 to 5 hours during the night. Don’t over pump, as that could cause your body to continue overproducing milk.
Avoid tight clothes - Wear comfortable bras and loose fitting shirts to avoid placing too much pressure on your breasts.
Warm compress - Place a warm cloth on your breast before feeding or pumping to stimulate milk flow. Apply the warm cloth for about 3 minutes. Showering also helps.
Reduce swelling - Take painkillers that have been approved by your doctor and place an ice pack on your breasts to reduce swelling.
Enjoy Breastfeeding Engorgement Free!
You got this, Mama. By paying attention to your breasts to act as soon as engorgement symptoms arise you can prevent pain and swelling. Remember, the key to success is sticking to your regular pumping or feeding schedule as best as you can.