Ouch! Breast engorgement can hurt! It typically occurs when the milk comes in somewhere between day 2-5. Some mothers will experience only slight fullness and others will become very full, tender and lumpy. Engorgement usually is relieved within 24 to 48 hours, but the following suggestions will help to give you some relief even sooner:
- Nurse your baby frequently (every 2 -2 1/2 hours or sooner); do not let him go longer than 3 hours between feeding in the first week of life.
- Nurse baby at least 15 to 20 minutes after "let down" has occurred. Breasts should feel softer after feeding.
- Let baby "finish" first breast before offering second breast.
- Use cold packs on the breasts for 20 minutes after nursing and about once an hour between feedings.
- Fresh cold cabbage leaves may be applied to decrease swelling: (1) Wash leaves of cabbage and crush in hand or roll to break veins of cabbage, (2) Apply enough cold leaves to cover entire breast and underarm area, (3) Lay down on back to elevate breasts higher than heart. Ice packs may be applied over cabbage, (4) When cabbage is warm and wilted remove and reapply new cold leaves if engorgement is still present. Caution: Use only long enough to make yourself comfortable - cabbage can "dry milk up" if used after engorgement is over.
- Warm heat can be applied to breasts for 3 to 5 minutes just before nursing infant to help milk "let down".
- Hand express or pump breasts to soften areola if infant is having difficulty latching on to breast. Remember to pump only until comfortable because you don’t want to increase your milk supply.
- If you have excess then store the milk for a later date
- Ask your doctor about taking pain relief medication if needed for discomfort.
Remember, engorgement is a temporary condition and a GREAT sign that you have a wonderful milk supply. So keep up the good work!