Information on Engorgement

 

Your baby is 3 or 4 or maybe 5 days old and your breasts are beginning to feel firmer, heavier and maybe even hot to the touch. This is known as engorgement.

 

  • The bad news is you're hard, lumpy and tender.
  • The good news is that it only lasts 24 to 48 hours.

You'll be surprised to know that engorgement is not entirely just breasts full of milk. The accumulation of milk is part of it, but engorgement also involves increased blood supply and swelling of the breast tissue itself.

Some moms never even notice being engorged; some may actually run a low fever and experience a lot of discomfort.

The main thing you want to accomplish during this time is to get the milk out of the breast. Leaving the milk in decreases your milk production.

Recommendations

  • Prevention: Breastfeed often giving your baby unrestricted feeding time.

  • Heat/cold: We always used to say heat before feeding/pumping, cold after. Current research indicates cold both before and after is a better approach. So try cold first. Apply ice for no more than 10-15 minutes (a bag of frozen peas is great).

  • If the cold doesn't give you the relief you want, try heat. Take a warm shower or apply heating pads or warm packs to your breasts before breastfeeding. To make a convenient warm pack fill a couple of disposable diapers with warm water or heat a wet towel in the microwave (do not overheat!).

  • Hand express gently around the nipple to release some milk so the nipple is soft enough for your baby to latch onto. You may also have to squeeze the nipple between two fingers to make it easier for your baby to latch onto.

  • Pump your breasts with a cycling electric or manual breast pump prior to nursing to soften the nipple and initiate a letdown of milk. Pump again after nursing just until you're softer and more comfortable.

  • Nurse more frequently (every 1-2 hours) and longer at each feeding (20+ minutes, provided you are not experiencing extreme nipple tenderness).

  • Hand massage the milk toward the nipple with the palm of your hand prior to and during breastfeeding.

  • Finally, a mild pain reliever such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen will bring relief without bothering your baby.

Remember, getting the milk out is your goal during engorgement. By doing this you are not adding to engorgement which is a temporary overproduction of milk and congestion in response to your milk coming in. You are simply relieving the pressure and maintaining your milk supply until this temporary condition subsides. The baby's sucking demands will soon dictate how much milk you produce.

© COPYRIGHT 2012, Bosom Buddies, Inc. Lone Tree, CO 80124