Postpartum Breast Engorgement
Breast engorgement usually occurs 2-3 days after delivery. This is perfectly normal and is attributed to the milk “coming in”. Up until this time the breasts produced colostrum, highly concentrated first milk but the your breasts probably did not feel “full.”
When the mature milk is produced breasts may become overly full and engorgement may occur. It can be downright painful! Luckily if treated, engorgement usually only lasts a few days. However, be careful – unrelieved engorgement can lead to breast infection.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to treat and prevent engorgement is frequent nursing. Luckily, most babies are more than willing to oblige. Nurse your baby often, approximately 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, especially in the first few days. Make sure breasts are completely emptied and that the baby is positioned and latched on correctly. A lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group in your community can help to assure your baby is feeding correctly.
Apply a warm compress such as Gerber Warm or Cool Relief Packs just before breastfeeding. Heat stimulates milk flow and also helps to soften the areola. Along with heat or immediately following, massage breast are a in a circular motion to promote milk flow.
Expressing some milk after heat application will also help to lessen any pain and make it easier for the baby to latch on. There is nothing wrong with pumping your breast some if it helps relieve the pressure. You can always save the milk to feed baby later!
Cold compresses can be used between feedings to reduce swelling. After nursing, apply cooled relief pads directly to breast area to relieve the pain of engorgement.
Taking a pain reliever may also help. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) are anti-inflammatory medications and they can reduce swelling and lessen any pain. Also make sure to wear a comfortable nursing bra and avoid bra’s that contain under wire.
Mastitis and Breast Engorgement
Luckily breast engorgement is short lived and can be resolved fairly quickly. However, if engorgement has not cleared up nor has not much improved, you will want to contact your health care provider…especially if you experience any flu-like symptoms, fever, extreme soreness or pain, hardness or redness. This could be a sign of mastitis or breast infection and should be treated right away.
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