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How To Relieve Engorged Breast And Make Breastfeeding More Comfortable | Hea Boosters

Motherhood is one of the best feelings a woman goes through ever, but the first few weeks or even after is not without challenges. Your body undergoes tremendous physical changes after you give birth like your breasts producing milk, this is to help you nurse your newborn baby. However, one of the challenges that may arise during nursing is breast engorgement.

Breast engorgement is when the breast is full of milk and swells, either becoming tender or hard, sensitive, painful and a bit warm to the touch. This happens when there is overproduction of milk and it is not expressed from the breasts. You may typically experience breast engorgement a few days after you give birth as your body is yet to determine a regular feeding pattern.

Breast engorgement also occurs later on even after the first week or so due to different reasons. If you do not intend to breastfeed, you may also experience engorgement which typically goes away a few days after.

Breast engorgement can also be due to the rush of fluid and blood to your breast which can make it sensitive. Other causes of breast engorgement are:
  • If a mother is receiving IV fluids which may cause edema
  • If a mother has been separated from her child and is not nursing
  • When the baby is not latching on enough to properly remove milk
  • Taking lactation stimulating supplements which may lead to overproduction of milk
Breast engorgement can be really painful and uncomfortable, and sometimes the swelling can go all the way to your armpit. There are tips you can follow whenever you experience breast engorgement that will give you some relief:

  • Breastfeed often: It’s essential to nursing multiple times a day, at least 8 times a day. You should nurse as often as possible, and it's recommended to nurse every 1 to 2 hours a day.
  • Use a cold compress: You can apply a cold to your breast after feeding for about 15 - 20 minutes. The cold temperature can reduce inflammation and swelling. You can make use of a bag of cold peas which can be reused, by placing it on your breast. It is advised not to apply an ice bag directly onto your skin.
  • Applying heat: It is also recommended to apply some heat to your breast just before nursing to soften the clumps and get the milk flowing. Apply heat for 5-10 minutes before nursing your baby by using a warm compress or taking a hot/warm shower. Gentle massage your breast while taking the hot shower to get the milk flowing. You shouldn’t have the shower spray directly on your breast as this can be painful.
  • Using cold cabbage: Some people recommend using cold cabbage leaves on the breast to relieve the pressure. It isn’t exactly clear if it’s the substance or the cold temperature that provides the relief. Remove a few leaves from the cabbage that has been placed in the fridge and crush the veins a little. Wrap them around your breast leaving only your nipple exposed, and hold them in place with your bra. You can leave them on for about 20 minutes and continue the process until the engorgement is reduced.
  • Wear supportive nursing bras: Wearing a supportive nursing bra can prevent excess movement and make you feel a bit more comfortable. It is advised not to wear a wired bra during this period so you’re more comfortable.
  • Give a gentle massage: You can massage the lumpy areas of your breast with your fingertips while nursing your baby. Performing breast compressions and gentle massaging the area will allow the milk flow more easily while nursing.
Following these steps can help reduce engorgement and make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and your baby. There are also a few other ways to make breastfeeding more comfortable like;
  • Changing your breastfeeding position: Switching your position while nursing can help you feel more comfortable during the nursing period and also reduce potential engorgement.
  • Changing the breast for nursing: You can nurse your baby from one breast during a nursing session and then from the other in the next session to help relieve some of the pressure. This ensures that the breasts are properly drained which prevent engorgement and make you feel comfortable throughout the day. You can keep alternating to get some relief.
Engorgement is something that may occur when nursing your baby, but it is treatable. It should not be left unchecked for too long as it could lead to an infection. The symptoms may also be signs of a possible infection, especially if there is some fever. You should report your symptoms to your doctor and seek help from a lactation expert if needed.

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