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Engorgement – hot or cold compresses?

Here’s a question from Ruth in North York, ON:

Q: I have a question – hope you can help! I just had my second baby three days ago – and I’m so uncomfortable with engorgement! It started yesterday, and my friend told me to put warm towels on my breasts and to pump to relieve the discomfort. Another friend told me today to use cold compresses. Who is right?

A: Well, Ruth, both friends ‘ advice can be helpful, when used at the right time. Engorgement is a very normal experience for new mothers – often on Day 2 or 3, or as late as Day 5, many nursing mothers feel a real difference in their breasts. Hormonal changes cause blood to rush to the area as the mature milk begins to replace the colostrum, and blood and lymph fluid causes swelling of the breast tissue. The best strategy to relieve your discomfort – your baby! Nurse frequently, every two hours or more often, so the baby can regulate the “supply and demand”. While I don’t recommend pumping in the first 6 weeks unless your baby is unable to nurse effectively (or your lactation consultant has advised this for a reason unique to your case), it can be helpful to hand- express some milk to soften the areola and make it easier for the baby to latch onto very swollen breasts. Excessive pumping or hand expression can actually make engorgement worse by encouraging increased milk production.

As for compresses, it can be helpful to apply cold compresses between feedings (try 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off and repeating this). My mother’s method was to wet a tea towel, wring it out, fold it in thirds length-wise and place it in the freezer. Applying the frozen tea towel across the breasts and under the arms felt wonderful and helped to ease the discomfort. A bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a towel, applied to each breast also works well, or the midwife’s trick of a leaf of green cabbage inside each bra cup. The tannic acid in the cabbage helps to reduce the swelling. Using the cabbage a couple of times a day is best, and it should be discontinued as soon as engorgement starts to ease, as some say that excessive use of cabbage can lower the milk supply. Warm compresses should be applied for a few minutes just before a feeding – a warm, moist washcloth works well. This will help the milk start to flow at feeding time but will not reduce swelling – in fact, if used between feedings warm compresses have the effect of increasing swelling.

Be patient, Ruth – engorgement usually lasts only about 48 hours! However, if it is not reduced using these methods, or is worse, or if you have a fever of greater than 100.5 degrees F, I recommend that you consult your Lactation Consultant or physician.

Nancy Lahn RN
Owner, Cozy Cuddles Baby Products
Developer of the Cozy Cuddles Nursing Pillow

Originally posted 2017-02-01 12:48:20.

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Summer Vacation Closures

Please note that Cozy Cuddles Baby Products will be closed from July 30 through to Aug 17 inclusive. While you will be able to put in your order during that time, we will not be able to ship any orders until Aug 19, 2024 at the earliest.

We also plan to be closed again between Aug 28 to Sept 9.

Thanks for understanding, and if there are any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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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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Am I Losing My Milk Supply?

Here’s a question from Hillary D. in Hamilton, ON:

Q: My son is now just over 3 months old. He’s been nursing well every 4 hours, but this week he’s been fussy and only settles when I feed him, and that has been every 2 hours instead of every 4. My neighbour said the same thing happened to her, and that it means I’m losing my milk supply! Is this true? Help!

A: No worries, Hillary – it sounds like your son is experiencing a very normal growth spurt! All you need to do is feed him on demand. Your body will respond by making more milk – it’s a perfect “supply-and-demand” system! After a few days, your supply will increase to meet his demand, and you will settle back into a longer spacing between feedings. For now, feed on demand and get lots of nutritious food and fluids yourself!

Originally posted 2014-07-30 13:33:53.