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I’m Engorged, and It Hurts!

Here’s another question we get frequently…

Q: My baby was born on Friday, and this morning (Monday) I woke up with the feeling that Dolly Parton had taken over my body! My breasts are huge and so sore – is this normal? What can I do? I’m so full that my baby has a hard time latching on.

A: What you’re experiencing, Angie, is very normal. On the third or fourth day after birth, your milk production begins in earnest and the breasts become swollen with milk, and also from increased blood flow and lymph fluids. The best way to spell relief is B-A-B-Y! Be sure to nurse the baby at least every two hours, and gently massage your breast as the baby is feeding. The frequent feeding will help your body to establish the proper supply and demand ratio. Before each feeding, apply a warm moist compress for a couple of minutes to start the milk flowing. If the breast is so full that it is difficult for baby to latch, hand express some milk until the areola (the dark area around the nipple) will soften enough to allow the baby to latch on. If you use a pump to do this, be sure to pump only until the areola is softened – too much pumping will give your body the wrong message and will tell it to increase your milk supply! In between feedings, you can wet and wring out a cloth (a tea towel is a good size), fold it into thirds, and freeze in your freezer. Laying this frozen cloth across your swollen breasts provides wonderful relief! You can also try the midwife’s trick of using a cabbage leaf inside your bra on each breast. The tanic acid in the cabbage (not lettuce!) helps to relieve swelling without decreasing your milk supply. Using these techniques, most engorgement will subside in about 48 hours. Wearing a good supportive nursing bra day and night (no underwires!) will be helpful during engorgement, too.

Originally posted 2016-11-07 18:12:49.

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Do breastfeeding babies need extra water in hot weather?

Here’s a question from Kristine in Collingwood, ON:

Q: It’s been so hot this summer, and I’ve been wondering – does my two-month-old nursing baby need me to give her extra water?

A: No, Kristine, your breastmilk provides all the water your baby needs. Breastmilk actually changes in consistency as the feeding progresses – it is more watery at the beginning of the feed, and has more fat content as the feeding continues. The baby’s thirst is then satisfied by the greater water content at the outset, and then it is believed that the greater fat content at the end of the feed helps to signal fullness.

Nancy Lahn RN
Developer of the Cozy Cuddles Nursing Pillow

Originally posted 2015-08-01 22:56:21.

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Do my breasts need time to “refill” after a feeding?

Here’s a question from Carly in Huntsville, ON:

Q: I’m expecting my first baby soon. I’ve heard that in order to increase your milk production, you should wait at least 3 hours after you empty the breasts at a feeding to feed your baby again to allow the milk to fill up again. Is this true?

A: Good question, Carly, but this isn’t actually the case. Research shows that since milk is being produced at all times, the breast is never actually empty. In fact most babies remove an average of 75-80% of milk at a feeding, so there is always milk remaining in the breast after a feeding.

The strategy of waiting a set amount of time to nurse your baby (under the mistaken belief that the breasts need time to “refill”) will be counterproductive to your goal to increase your milk supply. This is because milk production slows down when milk accumulates in the breast. So, the best strategy is to feed your baby frequently, thus emptying the breasts as much as possible, especially in the early days. Newborns will often “cluster feed” which means that for a period of a few hours a day they will feed almost continuously, and this is very helpful in increasing your milk supply.

Nancy Lahn RN
Deveoper of the Cozy Cuddles Nursing Pillow

Originally posted 2015-04-28 13:13:10.