@sykesbriana asked me,
“Any tips to get through the engorgement period? Mine has seemed to last longer than most and I’m curious if I’m missing something that can provide relief.”
Look no further, Briana…I hope this post provides some relief
First off, what is breast engorgement?
Now, I’d love to share with you 5 tips to help with breast engorgement
Top 5 Tips for Engorgement
- Ensure a proper latch.
Sometimes new or expectant parents wonder why I spend so much time going over latch in my Breastfeeding Basics class. Having a proper latch is what ensures enough milk is being removed. If you are trying to breastfeed as frequently as recommended (8-12+ times in 24 hours) and as baby needs (on demand), but the latch is poor and milk isn’t being removed from the milk ducts, it makes engorgement worse! Also, when breastmilk stays in the breast too long (due to an improper latch), you become susceptible to something called milk stasis (milk just hanging out too long in the breast, letting bacteria build-up), which leads to the M word (mastitis) and breast infection. Remember, there are lots of visual examples of latch in my Breastfeeding Basics online course! Two quick pointers: 1 – make sure baby’s chin is in contact with your breast (this helps them open wide) and 2 – make sure they get lots of breast tissue in their mouth and they latch on deep (it’s called breastfeeding not nipple feeding!)
2. Feed Frequently: Feeding very frequently in the early days after your baby is born helps decrease your chances of severe engorgement. Think of engorgement as a spectrum. Since our bodies are all different, some women feel pretty severe engorgement (one end of the spectrum) and others don’t notice much at all (another end of the spectrum). While the majority will fall somewhere in the middle, feeling mild hardness, tenderness, and discomfort in their breast tissue during days 2-5 postpartum. Continuing to feed frequently also helps release any fluid pressure surrounding the breast and enables easier latching.
3. Use Hot/Cold: A warm shower or warm compress before a feeding and ice packs/cold compress after a feeding are all ways you can relieve some discomfort during the times when you are feeling engorged.
4. Many Moms find ibuprofen to be helpful. Even Moms who are not sore due to delivery may consider continuing an anti-inflammatory pain-reliever like ibuprofen during engorgement. Medications like this contain anti-inflammation agents that help reduce engorged breasts (an inflammatory process).
5. Hand Expression.
I teach hand expression in all my classes and personal consultations because it can be used in so many ways. For engorgement, it can be used to help facilitate latch. Sometimes latch can become difficult during engorgement, due to excess fluid causing tightly pulled skin around the nipple and areola. You can utilize hand expression before latching to express just enough breastmilk to soften the breast tissue and latch your baby. Think of it like letting some air out of an overly-filled balloon.
PRO TIP: Reverse Pressure Softening
I hope you found these tips helpful! If you have more questions, we’d love to welcome you into our courses and member-only platform, or see you in a one on one consult with our IBCLC experts/ lactation consultants.
Images by Broken Anchor Photography.
I’ve created this great e-mail course to help you get breastfeeding started on the right foot! Click the image below for more info.
Thanks for coming by today,
Lindsey, RN, IBCLC
Auerbach, K. G., & Riordan, J. (1993).and human lactation. Boston: Jones and Bartlett.