What is the condition of breast engorgement?
Normally 2 to 5 days after your delivery, you will see changes in your breasts. They will become larger, somewhat hard, and slightly soft as they start to make more milk.
This is breast engorgement. Breast engorgement is ordinary. However, breast engorgement may makes it hard for your infant to get milk.
Your baby might not be able to attach himself on correctly and your nipples might get swollen.
If your baby is having trouble getting milk, the pressure because of breast engorgement can make you produce less milk or even stop making milk.
Knowing how to deal with breast engorgement should help you avoid this inconvenience.
What causes breast engorgement?
After having a baby, hormones in your body change and your breasts make much milk. The milk, swelling, and the blood flowing to the breasts cause them to engorge.
When your milk comes in, engorgement usually is just for a few days until your body gets used to making milk.
You might think that you are making more milk than your baby needs, but making milk flow is more the problem than making over-needed milk.
Once your baby is getting milk well and your milk is flowing easily, there will be not as much swelling. Within a few days, your breasts will adapt to your baby’s needs.
Then you will possibly make just as much milk as your baby sucks from your breasts. By the end of the first week, your breasts will have adjusted and will be less swollen.
How do you relieve breast engorgement?
Nursing often could make your breasts less engorged. Make plans to feed your baby at least every 2 to 3 hours until you have less engorgement.
Feeding less during the night is OK. You can keep a 4 to 5 hours period between feedings at night,
but don’t go that much between feedings more than once daily in the first month. Keep in mind that you need to feed your baby 8 to 12 times a day. Your infant should nurse a lot at least 10 minutes on the first breast before moving to the second one.
Use heat and cold to lessen discomfort
Warm your breast just before feeding your baby. Heat betters blood flow. Try taking a warm bath just before feeding.
Or cover your breasts with a warm cloth. Cold items such as frozen vegetable bags after breast-feeding can decrease the swelling.
Use reverse softening and express milk
The reverse pressure softening tactic uses gentle pressure to soften an area of the breast near the area surrounding the nipple.
This helps move some of the swellings around the nipple so that the baby can attach himself more deeply into the breast.
It could help you to lay flat to allow gravity to move the swelling elsewhere.
Put the fingertips of both of your hands down your nipple and softly press in the direction of your chest. The pressure must be tough but not painful.
Once the area around your nipples is soft, you can more easily let out milk.
Before each feeding, use your hands to express a small amount of milk from both breasts.
Express enough milk to soften the nipple and the area around it so that your baby can better hold the area around the nipple.
Softly massage your breasts before and during nursing to help empty and soften your breasts.
Express or pump milk as needed
It’s important to be able to empty your breasts and relieve engorgement because the swelling puts pressure on the glands that produce milk and can quickly decrease your milk supply.
If your breasts are so full that your baby cannot latch on or if your baby is not feeding well after your milk has come in immediately,
you might need to use a breast pump. If your baby is not nursing well, pumping your breasts will let you relieve discomfort and keep making much milk.
If your breasts are still uncomfortably swollen after feeding your baby, pump milk for a few minutes until your breasts are soft and you have less discomfort.
Soon your baby will feed from your breasts well at each feeding and you will no longer need to express.
If it is not necessary, the milk you express can be put in the fridge for future use.
Many women don’t like pumping or hand expressing milk while they are engorged because they fell it will cause them to make even more milk.
However, breast engorgement is a problem of not so good milk flow, and it is not a problem of too much milk.
If you are feeding your baby with formula and not breast milk, uncomfortable breast engorgement will normally get better after 3 to 4 days of not nursing your baby.
During this time, wear a comfortable bra. Ice packs put on the breasts for short periods of time will supply relief. Also, you might take ibuprofen to relieve the pain.
Can breast engorgement cause mastitis?
Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissues, especially the milk glands, in a woman who feeds her baby from her breasts.
In the 6 months after delivery, mastitis affects about 20 percent of breastfeeding women. Mastitis is very common in the first 6 to 8 weeks after having a baby.
It also sometimes occurs after you decide to stop breastfeeding (wean your baby).