Most mothers will notice increased fullness in their breasts 2-5 days after their babies are born. This normal swelling is due to the increased blood flow and circulation that provide the nutrients needed to make milk. If you miss or delay feedings, the fluid in your breasts can build-up and lead to an uncomfortable or painful swelling known as engorgement. Engorged breasts feel "hard as a rock" and may flatten your nipple(s) in a way that make it difficult for your baby to latch on.
Engorgement is common among new mothers, but can happen at any time. The best way to handle engorgement is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Things You Can Do to Prevent Engorgement
• Breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born.
• Breastfeeding often – don't let your baby go too long without feeding.
- Maybe as often as 12 times per 24 hours (every 1-2 hours).
- You may even have to wake your baby to do it.
• Avoiding pacifiers.
• Avoiding supplementing with bottles.
• Watching your baby, not the clock – don't limit the length of feedings!
• Making sure your baby has a good latch.
Helpful Tips for Dealing with Engorgement
• Start breastfeeding more frequently.
• Get help to be sure baby is well latched and positioned.
• Use warm water to help relieve the engorgement. Try:
- A warm shower,
- A warm, wet cloth over your breasts, or
- Soaking your breasts in a basin of warm water.
• Massage your breasts with warm compresses before feedings.
• Start feeding from the fuller breast first.
• If needed, hand express or pump a little milk to soften your breast so that your baby can latch on.
• Use cold compresses between feedings.
• Wear a bra that is supportive, but not too tight – even during the night.
• Talk to your health care provider about taking a mild pain reliever.