All About Engorgement

As uncomfortable as breast engorgement can be, swollen, hard, and throbbing breasts after delivery mean you're overflowing with breast milk and ready to feed your baby. 

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

So you thought that you'd finally escaped breast pain now that you delivered your beautiful baby, right? Sadly, this is not the case, as during the days that your milk comes in (usually starting three or four days after the birth) tend to be associated with full, even rock-hard, and painful breasts. This is known as engorgement and is normal and fortunately, temporary, and is a mere response to all that extra milk filling your breasts. Luckily, there are some solutions for breast pain and soreness that follows delivery. Keep reading to learn more.

What causes engorgement after delivery?

During the days that your milk comes in (usually starting three or four days after the birth), it's as if your body is throwing a dinner party for baby, and just to be sure she doesn't go hungry, is making enough for three! All that extra milk filling your breasts makes them feel full, even rock-hard. It's normal and fortunately, temporary.

What relieves breast pain caused by engorgement?

While you might cringe at the thought of having your baby latch onto your painful, swollen breasts, avoiding breastfeeding is the worst thing you can do. Nursing drains milk from your breasts, giving them relief. It also signals to your body exactly how much milk your baby actually needs, so your body adjusts the supply accordingly. If you skip feedings because you're afraid it will hurt, in the short term your breasts will just well up more, and in the long term you could hurt your milk production. Luckily, there are still ways to find relief. Here are a few tried-and-true remedies:

  • Nurse. Breastfeeding drains milk from your breasts and sets your milk production on the right schedule. You should breastfeed a newborn about every two hours around the clock, but sometimes infants need more frequent feedings. (And sometimes they'll sleep for a four-hour stretch, which you can allow at night but should never allow during the day. Wake your baby up and feed him, for his sake and the sake of your swelling breasts!)
  • Take a warm shower. This triggers letdown and releases some of the extra milk your body is making. Of course, washing your milk down the drain may seem like a bit of a waste, which is why you can...
  • Pump. Drain a half-ounce before a feeding, and it will be easier for your baby to latch on. Then after your baby is finished, you can pump extra breast milk and store it in the freezer.
  • Keep nursing pads in the freezer. When you put them in your bra, the coolness will work as a compress to gently relieve swelling until your next feeding.
  • Wear wireless bras. An underwire will increase breast discomfort if you're engorged. Soft cotton nursing bras or ones made of stretchy material are better bets for now and for as long as you're breastfeeding.
  • Try putting cold cabbage leaves in your bra. This simple remedy really works! Because cabbage has such a high water content, it stays cool between nursing sessions and makes a great cool compress. Just keep a head of cabbage in your fridge or freezer, and after feeding, pull off two leaves—they're conveniently breast-shaped! Wear them in front of or behind nursing pads, whichever works better.
  • Lie on your tummy. For some women, lying down on their engorged breasts is too painful. But for others, the light pressure eases soreness.
American Baby

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