How Can I Ease My Engorged Breasts?
Engorgement is just as the word suggests – too much, a copious amount. It is a mixture of fluid retention, increased blood flow and milk hanging around too long in the breasts (stasis).
Lets first be clear that breast engorgement is quite common. Most women will suffer some degree of over fulness of the breast about 70 hours after birth – when baby is three days old. The time frame of onset can vary from mother to mother though.
What does engorgement look and feel like?
When your milk ‘comes in’ 3 days after birth your breasts usually tingle, swell, feel full, leak milk and the appearance the of the milk changes. If ‘coming in’ progresses to engorgement, your breasts may appear tight, shiny, swollen, a little red, and they may feel hot and painful. You may even have a mild fever.
Can engorgement be prevented?
There are a few reasons why it occurs in the first place with the most obvious being stasis of milk due to inadequate removal, as well as
poor or delayed latching after birth,
inadequate feeding or skipping night feeds and not expressing your milk instead,
poor sucking technique by baby and sometimes because of
previous breast surgery
Sometimes an excess of intravenous fluid in labour or at c section
As we know why it occurs its reasonably straight forward to prevent it happening, as follows;
Feed baby as soon as possible after birth
Ensure a good latch
feed frequently day and night
Express your breastmilk if you are unable to put baby directly to your breast for some reason
How is breast engorgement managed if I do get it?
Feeding your baby often is very important
Whilst you feed, massage any lumps gently and firmly to encourage better emptying of your breast
Allow baby to feed as long as he wants to on one side so that the breast is encouraged to completely drain
The other breast can be allowed to drip freely at the same time and if baby is too full to take this second breast express just enough milk to aid comfort. This enables milk to flow by itself without the need to hand express or pump more
If your breasts are still uncomfortably full you may remove just enough milk for comfort between feeds with the help of gentle massage
Applying warm cloths to the breasts before feeding encourages the milk to flow from full hard breasts
Ensure baby has a deep latch on to the nipple encouraging good sucking and milk removal
If your areola is so swollen that baby cannot grip and latch onto your nipple you may find massaging your breast away from your nipple helps. then quickly aim to latch baby on to your breast before the areola becomes swollen again. Do not use a breast pump at this time as it will increase swelling.
Apply cold cloths, chilled cabbage leaves or cold gel packs after feeding so soothe the breasts and reduce breast swelling and discomfort
Non steroidal anti inflammatory medication can be used if discomfort is severe and persistent
Engorgement is a transitory problem and with good management will usually subside in a day or two. Don’t let it daunt you. Its not a reason to stop breastfeeding – quite the opposite in fact.