Few days after delivery, your breasts might swell. This bothersome condition, known as breast engorgement, usually develops in the first week following delivery. The risk of breast engorgement is higher among first time mothers.
Symptoms of breast engorgement
Engorged breasts are swollen, lumpy and tender. You might feel that your breasts are uncomfortably full. The swelling might extend up to the armpit, producing intense discomfort. Breast engorgement might be accompanied by mild fever.
Causes of breast engorgement
The first yellowish colored milk produced in the breast soon after delivery is known as colostrum. This extremely nutritious fluid is the first food of the infant after birth. Within 72 hours after delivery, your breasts start producing mature milk. Breast engorgement occurs during this transition phase, when mature breast milk replaces colostrum. The sudden increase in mature breast milk in the breasts enhances blood flow in the breasts, swelling the tissues in and around the breasts, and producing engorged breasts. Women who fail to nurse their infants properly after delivery usually develop engorged breasts. The excess mature milk congests the breasts, leading to this uncomfortable condition.
Preventing breast engorgement
Proper breastfeeding could prevent breast engorgement. The gap between two breastfeeding sessions should not be more than 3 hours. Don’t miss night feeding. Women who miss night feeding are more likely to develop breast engorgement. Before nursing your baby, massage your breast in a circular motion from the top downwards towards the nipple to manually express some breast milk. This helps to soften the areola and prevents nipple damage. Allow your baby to suckle after the areola softens.
Make sure that your baby is latched properly. You can pump milk occasionally only to soften the areola or if your baby fails to latch properly. Excessive pumping worsens breast engorgement. Massaging the breast gently while nursing could promote milk flow and reduce the risk of engorgement.
Breast engorgement treatment
Fortunately, breast engorgement heals naturally within 48 hours. Women suffering from this condition should not avoid breastfeeding. A cold compress could alleviate the pain and discomfort. Applying chilled cabbage leaves to the breasts is a popular home remedy for treating engorged breast. Taking a warm shower before breastfeeding could help to reduce the irritation and pain caused by breast engorgement.