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Engorgement – ouch!

Here’s a question from Angie in Cobourg, Ontario:

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.

To see past questions, go to “Ask Nurse Nancy” under “Breastfeeding Q&A / Info”.

Originally posted 2013-02-18 21:01:22.

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