What are engorged breasts?
In the first week after you have delivered your baby, you might get a throbbing and lumpy sensation in your breasts. There would even be swelling which might go all the way to your armpits. This uncomfortable feeling which lasts for a day or two and then resolves by itself is called engorgement of breasts.
What causes engorged breasts?
In between day 2 to day 6 after you have given birth, breast milk starts filling up in your breast. More blood begins flowing to your breast which results in the swelling of the surrounding tissues. This causes breasts to become swollen and engorged. Every woman experiences engorgement differently. While some women find their breasts to be unduly full others experience these symptoms to a lesser degree. Once your baby gets into the groove of feeding regularly, this issue tends to resolve by itself.
How long does breast engorgement last?
If you feed your baby as many times as he wants and if he seems to latch on well to your breasts, then the engorgement should cease within 24 – 48 hours. Allow your baby to complete feeding at one breast and then offer him the other breast. Even if you are into formula-feeding your baby you might experience breast engorgement. In such a situation, wearing a support bra helps. You can also express a little milk by hand to help ease the pain.
How can I treat my engorged breasts?
The first thing you need to understand is that engorgement is a good sign. It signifies that you are making more than enough milk to meet the needs of your baby. Until the time you are able to establish a routine feeding schedule with your baby, you can:
- Wear a supportive bra that keeps you comfortable even at night. Ensure that it fits properly and is not overtly tight.
- Feed your baby as many times as he wants to. Watch our signs that indicate he wants to be fed. As a rule, you must feed your baby a minimum of 8 times within a span of 24 hours in the initial days.
- Do not cut down on your fluid intake as this is not going to relieve you of your symptoms.
- Softly massage the breast at which your baby is feeding. This will stimulate milk flow and provide you some relief from the heaviness.
- You can apply cold packs or crushed ice to your breasts after feeding your baby. This will help reduce the swelling.
Can I still breastfeed even with engorged breasts?
You can and you must. Try to feed your baby as soon as he is born and continue with this process regularly. Keep a lookout for signs that babies make when they are hungry such as crying and sucking their thumbs. Once the engorgement is over your breasts would become soft and tender but they would still be full of milk. It is at this point that breastfeeding would become a pleasurable experience for both you and your baby.