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How to Avoid Breast Engorgement

Learn how to reduce the pain of engorged breasts, a common conditions many breastfeeding mothers deal with.

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-Hi, I'm Kimberly Durdin. I'm a board certified lactation consultant and I've been helping moms breastfeed for over 20 years. A lot of moms experience breast engorgement in the early weeks of breastfeeding. What is breast engorgement and is it normal? Breast engorgement is when the breast get filled not only with milk, but with blood and lymph fluid, which cause swelling in the breast and make it difficult for the baby to latch on and also causes a lot of discomfort for mom. Moms whose breast are engorged experience breast that feel very tender to the touch, very hard, and it feels really uncomfortable and sometimes moms even experience a little fever when their breast are engorged. It's just not a pleasant feeling at all. Breast engorgement is not part of the normal course of breastfeeding. After day 2 or 3 postpartum, mom's breast will usually start to feel a little full and that's considered completely normal as her milk supply is coming in, but breast engorgement is actually swelling of the breast and it happens when moms are breastfeeding frequently enough. In the early days of breastfeeding, you might be surprised if your baby will wanna nurse anywhere from 8 to 15 times in 24 hours. Sometimes, moms nurse less than 8 times and in that situation the breast get really full, engorged, again not only with breast milk, but also with blood and lymph fluids because the swelling to the breast make the breast feel really uncomfortable. So, in order to avoid breast engorgement, from day 1 that your baby is born, you wanna nurse frequently, keeping in mind that little babies nurse a lot. Their stomachs are really small. Their stomachs are about the size of their fist and so in order for them to get enough to eat, they're gonna feed frequently to fill up those little bellies. The milk will digest pretty quickly and then they'll wanna eat again. Newborn babies typically feed anywhere from every hour to up to 3 hours. So anywhere in between 1 hour to 3 hours in between feedings is normal for a breastfed baby and they will need to feed frequently in order for the breast to stay soft and also to make sure that the baby gets enough to eat. Avoiding breast engorgement is as simple as feeding your baby frequently. Newborn babies like to feed a lot and they need to feed quite often anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in between each breastfeeding. Newborn babies are gonna need to feed 8 to 15 times in 24 hours. If you're feeding your baby less than 8 times in 24 hours, you might find yourself getting engorged. One of the ways that we can deal with engorgement, if it happens to you, is by using hot compresses or cold compresses. So, if your breasts are engorged, but milk is leaking from the breast, then try using a hot compress on your breast such as a hot, wet washcloth, heating pad, or even taking a hot shower before you breastfeed your baby will help reduce the engorgement, release some milk, and soften up your breast so that your baby can latch on and-- and nurse. If your breasts are feeling very engorged, milk is not leaking from your breast, you might wanna start trying with some cold compresses to help reduce swelling. A frozen bag of vegetables makes a great cold compress, or a bag of ice, or cold wet washcloth on the breast can help reduce the swelling, which is adding to the problem of engorgement. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will help reduce the swelling and the discomfort of breast engorgement. Really important to breastfeed your baby frequently in order to avoid breast engorgement. Some babies find it really hard to latch on to a breast that's engorged. The breast is so full and firm that the baby can't get on and really can press the breast tissue like they need to to draw out the milk. So, it's really important to get the breast softer first before we latch the baby on if your breasts are engorged. That might mean using hot compresses, cold compresses, or even using a breast pump for a couple of minutes just to release some milk so that the breast feels softer and the baby can better latch on to the breast. You might even wanna use a breast pump to release some milk so that the breast will become softer and baby can better attach to the breast and draw out the breast milk. So, I hope that helps you avoid breast engorgement and also show you ways to treat breast engorgement if it happens to you. Thanks for watching.