Oh my engorged breasts!

Engorgement is not fun! You’ve been feeding your baby day and night hoping he/she gets enough to eat then by day 4 or 5 your milk suddenly comes in. Breast engorgement occurs when milk replaces colostrum and the milk supply increases quicker than your baby’s appetite. Your breasts may feel overfull, warm, hard, tender, or very painful. Engorgement may tighten the areola, flatten the nipple, and make latch-on difficult for the baby. You may also be having a hard time sleeping during those precious few hours of sleep you get. What can you do to relieve the pain?

One of the best ways to relieve some of the pain is to use warm compresses for atleast 15mins before each feed. I have found the most effective compress is to actually use one of your baby’s diapers. Run warm water (not too hot you don’t want to burn your nipples) on to the inside of the diaper, then wrap the diaper around your breasts. You can actually use the the tabs to hold it in place. or just keep it in place with your bra. It will feel so good to have the warmth on your breasts and it also helps with the flow of the milk when your baby is feeding. Another way to do this would be to have a hot shower before you feed your baby, but this isn’t so easy to do before every feed. However when you do have the opportunity to take a shower, make it as hot as you can tolerate and massage your breasts while you are in there. It is fine for some of the milk to leak out, this will actually give you a little relief. Then feed your baby as quickly as you can straight after the shower.

If you nipples are flattened or so hard your baby is having a hard time latching on you can try to compress the areola to soften the nipple area. You can also twiddle the nipple a little to try to make it stand out so your baby can latch on. If that doesn’t work,  you may need to pump for a minute to pull your nipple out far enough for you baby to latch on. Don’t pump for more than a minute as you don’t want to increase your milk production.

Then after your baby has had a full feeding you can use a cold compress to get a little relief. (a bag of frozen peas works wonders) To help avoid getting plugged milk ducts and mastitis, it is best to wear loose fitting bras and clothing. The engorgement should subside within  5 days, then you will notice your breasts become heavier before each feed and feel less full after a feeding.

If you get a fever at any time you should call your doctor immediately. If you notice any hard lumps you should try massaging them as you feed your baby and definitely while having a shower. This is a sign of a blocked duct and you need to work it out before you get an infection. Your baby breast feeding will help this, but the warm compress and massage will help to remove it quicker. If one breast is lumpier than the other then let your baby nurse a little longer on that side during one feeding to help relieve it. Don’t however do this at every feed as you will end up looking lopsided as one breast will produce more milk than the other!

Remember this is just temporary and you will be past it soon. Breast feeding is a joy after this.

I always recommend starting to pump when your baby is about 10-14 days old. If you are heading back to work and need to build up a little supply pumping once or twice a day will give you a little head start. The best time to pump is in the morning.