What is engorgement?
Engorgement means “fill to excess“.
The breast is too full, slow flow of milk is accumulating and there is increased vascularity and congestion. However, engorgement may resolve spontaneously as supply adjusts to baby demand.
When does it happen?
Baby first week, with a peak at 3 to 5 days after delivery, when the milk supply increases in both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers
How long does it last?
Lasts approximately 24 to 48 hours.
Severe pain has been reported for up to 14 days.
Signs and symptoms
- Warm, distended, tense, and tender to the touch.
- Breast veins may be visible.
- Nipples are firmer and may have milk leakage.
- May have fever between 37.8 to 39°C, persisting up to 16 hours.
- Sense of heaviness as the breasts begin to fill.
This will help you relieve the discomfort of breast engorgement.
1. Make sure baby is latching
– Baby takes the nipple and areola into their mouth and suckle.
2. Nurse on demand or express milk frequently
– Initiating breastfeeding early and often reduce the risk for engorge breast.
– It may be necessary to use a breast pump if breasts are full and heavy after milk comes in.
3. Supportive brassiere
– Use a well-fitting bra or sports bra.
Bras are better for nursing moms if they are not too tight, but are still supportive, breathable and elastic with no underwires. Tight clothes can clog breasts and may have a negative impact on milk supply.
– Massaging toward the nipple.
– Massage gently while feeding
– Warm compresses with water or a strong tea.
– Steamed comfrey leaves stimulate the release of any backed-up milk letting it flow and preventing it from backing up, also reduces inflammation. They are left on breast until they soften, repeat throughout the day.
– Whole, raw cool cabbage leaves
Stimulate the release of any backed-up milk helping with engorgement and preventing infection with mastitis. Cabbage contains rapine (an antibiotic/antifungal substance).
– Hot ginger compresses
For lingering engorgement, put compresses under arms or in the upper, outer quadrants of the breasts
6. Warm bath or soak breast into warm water
– Soothes all your muscles, skin gets hydrates, and warm water can relieve aches and pains.
– Some women are already taking analgesic after delivery, these help ease engorgement.
Good to have these homeopathic remedies on hand
Prevents the onset of mastitis, when the breasts are engorged.
- Pokeroot tincture
- Echinacea tincture
- Aloe vera
Drying Up the Milk Supply
When there is a reason not to breastfeed for some mothers, there are things that may help dry their milk supply.
- Cold compresses
- Bra binders, when tightness is apply to the breast, the body thinks there is no more need for milk supply, reducing production.
- Sage tea, drinking this tea reduce milk production
Not recommended to suppress lactation: pharmacological or hormonal agents.
- Feeding problems
- Slow weight gain in the baby
- Sore nipples
- Damage to the milk-producing cells
- Decrease in milk supply
- Increased risk of mastitis
Warnings and must call health care provider:
- If breasts are increasingly or persistently hard and tender
- If breasts are severely painful
- If breasts are red and swollen
- If there are palpable lumps.