What is breast engorgement?
Breast engorgement is breast swelling that results in painful, tender breasts. It’s caused by an increase in blood flow and milk supply in your breasts, and it occurs in the first days after childbirth.
Breast engorgement is the result of increased blood flow in your breasts in the days after the delivery of a baby. The increased blood flow helps your breasts make ample milk, but it can also cause pain and discomfort.
- -hard or tight
- -tender or warm to touch
- -heavy or full
Things that help
- If you are breastfeeding, treatments for breast engorgement include:
- using a warm compress, or taking a warm shower to encourage milk let down
- feeding more regularly, or at least every one to three hours
- nursing for as long as the baby is hungry
- massaging your breasts while nursing
- applying a cold compress or ice pack to relieve pain and swelling
- alternating feeding positions to drain milk from all areas of the breast
- alternating breasts at feedings so your baby empties your supply
- hand expressing or using a pump when you can’t nurse
- taking doctor-approved pain medication
For those who don’t breastfeed you can use one of the following treatments:
- using a cold compress or ice packs to ease swelling and inflammation
- taking pain medication approved by your doctor
- wearing a supportive bra that prevents your breasts from moving significantly
Engorgement goes away on its own within a few days, and the worst of it only typically lasts for 12 to 24 hours. But it’s worth contacting your doctor or a lactation consultant if:
- Your baby isn’t able to get a good latch, even after you try reverse pressure softening.
- Breastfeeding is painful.
- You still feel swollen and engorged after a week.
Engorgement certainly isn’t fun. But like many of the speed bumps you’ll hit as a new parent, it’s a problem that will pass almost as quickly as it came on. In the meantime, do what you can to power through and stay as comfortable as possible.