What Is Engorgement?
Engorgement first occurs when the breast starts producing colostrum. This happens during the first few days following the birth of your new baby. The breasts grow full, tender, and warm, implying the ‘coming in’ of the milk. This first milk (colostrum) has all the necessary immune factors that your newborn needs.
The breast produces just the right amount of milk. Some women, however, have a larger supply and appear to experience extra breast swelling. These women will experience a tougher engorgement period. The good news is the breasts eventually adjust with the baby’s feeding needs in time.
How to Prevent Engorgement
- Start breastfeeding your baby as soon as you can after birth.
- Breastfeed at least 8 times per day
- Avoid introducing your baby to pacifiers and bottles before he/she learns to breastfeed
- Avoid giving any other liquids unless medically advised
- Consult the lactation consultant if your baby has difficulty latching before leaving the hospital
- Pump out the milk with a breast pump or through hand expression when you miss a feed
- When you start weaning, do it gradually
The biggest cause for prolonged (severe) engorgement is your baby not latching or feeding properly. The firmness of the breasts can make it difficult for the baby to latch. Help your baby by placing him in the right position and holding the breast for him/her.
Other reasons may include:-
- Your baby is having trouble feeding due to a stuffy nose, tongue-tie or other illness
- You’ve started weaning your baby too soon
- Feeding your baby for short periods
- Your milk supply is excessive
- You have breast implants that are preventing milk flow
How to Treat It
- Use a warm towel to relieve the breast or take a hot shower for short periods (it will help the flow of milk)
- Avoid wearing tight clothing (bras) for long periods it may increase swelling
- Gently use your hands to compress and massage the breast between feeds to drain the breast
- Using a breast pump or hand expression to express milk, it can also help tender the nipple to make it easier for the baby to latch
- Use cold compresses after you breastfeed
- Feed your baby for as long as he/she wants
Please note that development differs from one child to another. Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.
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Last reviewed January 2019