What are engorged breasts?

Engorgement is a swelling of the breasts, which is caused when the veins expand, and there is pressure caused by the volume of new milk. Lots of women experience engorgement around two to six days after delivery when the first milk, colostrum changes to mature milk (often referred to as ‘when the milks come in”). Engorgement can also happen later on if several feeds are missed or not enough milk is taken from your breasts.

We understand that engorgement can sound quite unpleasant but it shouldn’t last for long. Within a few days your breasts should begin to soften up and you’ll begin to feel much more comfortable.

If your breasts stay engorged, your baby might not be keeping up with the amount of milk you are producing. This might happen if your baby hasn’t learnt to attach properly or they are not being fed regularly enough. By staying engorged your breasts will stop producing enough milk, so it is important to remove the milk as explained below:

Easing the Pain

There are plenty of ways that you can ease the pain of engorgement and reduce the amount of swelling. Here are our top tips:

  • Wear a supportive feeding bra to keep you comfortable, just make sure that it is properly fitted and not too tight.
  • Feed your baby as often as they want. The best way to do this is keep them close to you and look out for signs they want to be fed, such as sucking their fist or seeming unsettled.
  • Don’t cut down on fluids. Drinking less won't help the engorgement.
  • At every feed, concentrate on your baby’s attachment as this is often the key to helping them get enough milk.

Most of the time using paracetamol or ibuprofen and a wearing a good support bra are the best ways to relieve engorgement. Sometimes if the engorgement is very severe, it is best to express some milk to relieve the tension in your breasts. You could also try taking a warm shower or use a warm flannel to help the flow of milk from your breasts. For more advice on expressing your milk, visit our express yourself section.

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