Engorgement Relief for Breastfeeding Moms
You think you are prepared for motherhood and the breastfeeding journey that will be both beautiful and easy for you. You have talked to friends and read books, maybe you have even sat in on a La Leche meeting already!
Then you give birth, and your world is rocked. This tiny human that was just inside of you is now so fragile and amazing. Everything changes... your mindset, your heart, and you. It's as if the entire world shifts. Those first 48 hours are just miraculous. The 'Mother's High' that carries you through the days sleepless but happy is still going strong. Your body begins to heal and everything just feels dreamy. And then you wake up feeling as though someone attached cement blocks to your chest where your breasts had once been.
I am not kidding. As you grab your chest in pain and make it to the bathroom mirror, you realize that this is what it means when your milk comes in. THIS is ENGORGEMENT.
Holy Milk Explosion.
You want to cry. You want to wake your tiny baby up from peaceful slumber to nurse. You want to pump. You want to curl in a ball and pretend the pain will go away. Yes, this is engorgement. Welcome to motherhood.
Unless your body cannot produce milk, you will experience a version of this after birth. But for some reason, it is totally down played... maybe even forgotten about by most mothers just weeks afterward. You see, engorgement does not last forever.
Once your body and baby's body regulate to how much milk is needed throughout the day, your supply will meet your baby's demand. But there are a few things you can do during this engorgement period to help ease your discomfort and help your body regulate. Engorgement occurs 2-6 days after giving birth and is described as a heaviness, tightness, fullness, and warmth within the breast. For most women, it only lasts a day or so, but for some it can last a bit longer. If you are an over-producer, it can be hard to get your baby to latch well, and you will need to remove some milk before nursing. You may experience:
- Engorgement in the areola and/or body of the breast
- Engorgement occurring in one or both breasts
- Engorgement building to a peak and then decreasing, or staying at the same level for a period of time (anywhere from minimal to intense), or peaking several times
Engorgement ReliefAccording to KellyMom.com, a new mother should:
- Nurse early and often -- at least 10 times per 24 hours. Don't skip feedings (even at night).
- Nurse on her baby's cues ('on demand').
If baby is very sleepy: wake baby to nurse every 2-3 hours, allowing one longer stretch of 4-5 hours at night.
- Allow her baby to finish the first breast before offering the other side. Switch sides when her baby pulls off or falls asleep. Don't limit her baby's time at the breast.
- Ensure correct latch and positioning so that her baby is nursing well and sufficiently softening the breasts.
- If her baby is not nursing well, express her milk regularly and frequently to maintain her milk supply and minimize engorgement.
Recommendations from experienced moms:
Breastfeed on Demand NOT on a Schedule: You want your body to make what your baby needs to grow and develop properly.
Wake Baby to Nurse Often: Newborns sleep A LOT. The more you nurse, the faster engorgement ends -- wake that baby up!
Frozen Vegetables/Cold Compresses: This can reduce inflammation.
Warm Showers (while massaging and hand expressing): The warm water will encourage milk to leak out. (Hand Expression)
Pump, But NOT a lot, and NOT often: You do not want to pump too much because your body will think that it needs to make that much milk again. You only want to pump for a few minutes, and just enough to alleviate the swelling and pain.
Make sure you avoid:
- Excess stimulation (for example, don't direct a shower spray directly on the breasts).
- Application of heat to the breasts between feedings. This can increase swelling and inflammation. If you must use heat to help with milk flow, limit to a few minutes only.
- Restricting fluids. This does not reduce engorgement. Drink to thirst.