Engorgement is common among breastfeeding mothers, but there are simple solutions that can help relieve the soreness. If you recognize engorgement early and follow these steps for treating engorged breasts, your discomfort could subside in as little as 24 – 48 hours.
- Tender breasts
- Swelling and hardness
- Reddened areas
- Larger, flattened nipples (baby may struggle to latch)
- Most importantly, continue to breastfeed or pump frequently to relieve “fullness.”
- Apply warm, wet compresses and gently massage breasts 10 minutes before feeding to help with milk flow.
- If baby is having trouble latching, express a little milk by hand or by pumping on a low setting, until the areola has softened enough for baby to latch.
- Cold compresses applied for 15 minutes every hour between feedings can help relieve pain and reduce swelling (Small bags of crushed ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin dish towel work well). Some moms use cool cabbage leaf compresses 3-4 times per day for relief as well.
- Rest, rest, rest!
- Call your medical provider if you have a fever higher than 101° F or severe pain. That may be a sign of a breast infection called mastitis.
- Nurse or pump often. Lactation Consultants recommend breastfeeding at least 8-10 times in a 24-hour period.
- Establish a proper latch. If a baby latches deeply to the breast, that will help ensure your breasts are releasing milk efficiently.
- Nurse on or pump each breast until it is “empty” before switching.
- Express milk from breasts after each feeding if your baby has not completely relieved fullness.