After giving birth, you can expect that your breasts will become larger and tender as you begin producing milk. This condition will then ease after some time, typically around 2 weeks. However, if you feel that your breasts are throbbing and swollen, you might be experiencing engorgement. This condition happens when the breast is full of build-up milk, as well as blood and other fluids.
Breast engorgement can occur at any time that you are breastfeeding, usually when your baby is not feeding properly. The irony here is that the condition itself can make it difficult for your child to latch on properly. If breastfeeding is ineffective, you will not be able to drain your breasts from milk, which is needed to relieve engorgement. Ineffective breastfeeding even leads to a low milk supply because nothing is signaling your body to produce milk.
Thankfully, this condition is temporary, and even if your breasts are full of milk, they will not feel swollen. In the meantime, what can you do to ease the discomfort?
Quickest Option to Ease the Discomfort: Express Milk
The best option to relieve engorgement is by emptying the breasts. To get the milk flowing, you can place a warm compress on your breasts beforehand. However, take note of your time because too much warmth can increase the swelling.
While breastfeeding your baby, you can relieve some of the tightness by gently massaging your nursing breast. But if your baby is not ready to feed yet or is unable to latch efficiently, you can use a breast pump. Whether it’s manual or electric, pumps can help you drain excess milk. You can also pump if you still feel “full” after breastfeeding your baby.
You can opt for a manual pump, but electric models are more efficient in draining the milk and need no physical effort to use. The best electric breast pump on CuteLittleDarling automatically adjusts its vacuum relative to the user and the elevation of where she pumps.
Bonus tip: Expressing some milk before breastfeeding can also make your areola compressible and more accessible for your baby to latch onto. You can also soften the areola by moving the excess milk from it back into the breast. This technique is called reverse pressure softening, and it makes the nipples protrude more for easier latching.
And if breastfeeding with your baby is already going well, avoid pumping too much. You can still pump to relieve the tenderness from engorgement but put it on a low setting. This way, you are not triggering your body to produce more milk and prolong the condition.
Soothe Pain and Relieve Swelling Using Cold Packs
Putting cold packs on your breasts before or after nursing can alleviate pain and inflammation. Some women even use frozen cabbage leaves for the same effect. You can do this for 10 minutes until you feel more comfortable.
Is It Possible To Reduce the Chance of Breast Engorgement?
Similar to alleviating the symptoms, expressing milk often can help reduce the possibility of having engorged breasts. You should feed your baby on demand starting from birth instead of feeding him/her on schedule. Around 8 to 12 hours of feeding per day is excellent, (Don’t be afraid to wake your baby up for breastfeeding) and always remember not to limit your baby’s feeding time on your breasts.
You could pump every 2 or 3 hours if you’re unable to be with your baby. Making sure that you are expressing milk habitually also helps in maintaining your milk supply level, which is a win-win for every mom.
However, if these suggestions have no effect on your condition, it is best to talk to your doctor or to a lactation consultant.