What Causes Engorged Breasts?
Engorgement usually happens within the first few weeks of breastfeeding. The mother's breasts contain expanding cells, causing uncomfortable pressure, due to the new breast milk contained inside of them.
Engorgement is sometimes apparent in the areola and/or the breast; in one breast or in both breasts.
Dealing with engorgement on top of having a new baby to care for day-and-night may be discouraging to a mother. The good news is, there are ways to treat breast engorgement.
How Long Does Engorgement Last?
Engorgement is temporary and usually only lasts three days, or until the mother's body has adapted to the needs of her baby.
Engorgement can also happen as a result of missed feeds or incorrect latching, which results in milk being left behind in the breast. Breast engorgement after abrupt weaning is also very common.
It has been found that incidences of engorged breasts are less with each child, since mature milk comes in quicker.
Many mothers give up on breastfeeding because of milk engorgement, but this will just increase the pain and discomfort!
Breast Engorgement Symptoms
- A swollen breast.
- Tender breast, with some throbbing.
- Breasts feel hard.
- Slightly lumpy when touched.
- Your nipples might be temporarily flattened.
- The areola is sometimes very hard.
- Swollen lymph nodes under the armpits.
- A slight increase in body temperature.
Mastitis and Breast Engorgement
Engorgement of the breast, if left untreated, can turn into a breast infection (mastitis,) which is when you might start to feel flu-like symptoms, like fever and dizziness.
Breast Engorgement Treatment
How to Reduce the Pain of an Engorged Breast
- Breast engorgement relief can come from the use of a properly fitted nursing bra, which will provide support and comfort for engorged breasts. This bra should not be too tight, as this will just cause even more pain.
- You can use a breast pump to reduce some of the pain.
- Breast engorgement pain can be reduced via hand expression.
- Breastfeed as frequently as possible; this will empty the breasts and reduce the pain.
- Using a cold compress to relieve engorgement: Ice packs or chilled cabbage leaves can be used after a breastfeeding session, to reduce pain and swelling of engorged breasts. These should not be used before a breastfeeding session, as this might hamper the flow of milk.
- Use a hot compress or have a warm shower before breastfeeding, but for only a few minutes to reduce engorgement and get the milk flowing easily.
- Use gentle breast massage before and during breastfeeding.
- Relaxing during breastfeeding will also help drain your breasts more effectively.
- Use a breast pump to empty your breasts, if your baby does not empty them.
- Learn more about latching issues related to nipples that are flat or concave.
- Avoid artificial nipples and pacifiers.
- Relieve engorgement by making sure that your baby is latched on properly.
- You can take a pain reliever like Ibuprofen.
- Try different breastfeeding positions; this will ensure that most of the milk is drained, for the relief of breast engorgement.
How to Prevent Engorgement
- Breastfeed your baby at least eight times every 24 hours.
- Do not supplement your baby with any extra fluids, for the first four weeks.
- If any feeds are missed, the mother will need to express milk manually.
- Breast engorgement from weaning: When the mother needs to wean her baby, it should be done gradually.
- Engorgement at night: Do not skip night feeds. It would be helpful to learn more about co-sleeping.
- Dangle feeding is often used to prevent clogged ducts as well as to prevent engorgement.
Engorged Breasts Home Remedy
Postpartum Breast Engorgement Remedies
Cabbage leaves breast engorgement remedy: Put a cold cabbage leaf against your breast for a few minutes. It is believed that the cabbage gives off enzymes, that ease engorgement, but this is not scientifically proven.
Use breast compression while breastfeeding, this will help drain the breast more efficiently.