What Is Breast Engorgement: Symptoms & Relief

by manthananam.erem

Though breast engorgement can be uncomfortable, with proper attention, you can free your breasts and have an easing breastfeeding journey. Once your baby starts to feed on you, your body stimulates to open up the milk gates and it’s production. 

A proper milk flow establishes within a time period of 1-5 days. Given your new start to breastfeeding, irregular milk flow & stimulation, your breasts will naturally swell up to extra milk. This extra milk, when kept for long without a drain, can make your breasts stiff, heavy, and painful. 

Although bulky and full breasts are normal initially, they can cause discomfort, tight nipples and eventually lead to engorgement. 

What Is Breast Engorgement?

Engorgement is a state of heavy breasts with extra milk, blood, and other fluids. This over-filled milk can cause painful alterations while breastfeeding and otherwise. Along with pain, you can feel stiffness & hardness in your nipples. 

As we speak of it, engorgement can be undone with a few steps but it can also be a prolonging sign of babies not feeding enough indicating an improper latch. 

Engorgement can hang around anytime your breastfeeding journey. Breast Engorgement can also become a problem when you start to wean off your baby. It can also be caused due to a change in the baby’s breastfeeding or pumping schedule! 

Breast Engorgement Symptoms

Easily noticeable, symptoms of engorgement can be visible on the 4th or the 5th day of milk production. Depending on your milk supply, this date can vary. Mothers with extreme milk supply will feel breast engorgement more often. 

Engorgement can appear at any stage of your breastfeeding journey. It can be in the initial days or the middle or the weaning period. Anytime, you pause the natural milk flow, engorgement would be a by-product. 

These certain breast engorgement symptoms can hint you a pause:

  • Stiff areola/nipples. Hard and painful when touched.
  • Pain in the breasts raised to the armpits.
  • Hardness in the complete breasts. 
  • Nipples flat out making latch harder for the baby.
  • Can be witnessed in both or a single breast
  • The pain might not be stable and alleviate/decrease at times.
  • Skin stretched and tight, throbbing sensation along with pain. 

Breast engorgement can also be a result of an improper latch. That is, your baby not feeding enough or is unable to latch. If you are having less dirty diapers, check for the latch and consult your doctors asap. 

Engorgement Relief

Engorgement treatment is most of the time easy & effective. You must initiate milk flow to release the tension. There are more than ways to initiate the milk flow. 

Since you breastfeed more than half the hours, engorgement can be extra uncomfortable. These in-between reliefs for engorgement can make you feel better while breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding,

  • Cool Compression: Cool another breast while feeding on the next.
  • Hand Expression: Hand-express the milk and hand massage the next one.
  • Massage your breasts in-between breastfeeding sessions. 
  • Breastfeed on one, manual pump, or use Haakaa to express letdown on the other. 
  • Reposition your baby to readjust the lost latch and nipple size.
  • Booby Tubes: This one’s my favorite. You can cool compress your breasts without disturbing your baby from nursing. It would just wrap around your breast ever so delicately and provide you with instant relief for engorgement.

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After/Before Breastfeeding,

You can be more fluent while the treatment for breast engorgement when not nursing. 

  • Warm compression: Warm compression should be done in consideration since it can affect the swelling even further. Few minutes of the warm washer or a warm shower will relieve your breasts from engorgement. You can warm up booby tubes too and use it for engorgement treatment
  • Cool Compression: Cool compression is similar to that of ‘while nursing’. Use booby tubes or cabbage for engorgement. 
  • Hand massage your breasts and area around it including chest, armpit, shoulders to relieve tension.  
  • Pumping: You can either manual pump or use a good quality electric pump. But excessive manual/electric pumping can empty your breasts which can induce your body to produce more milk. Instead, you can use Haakaa, Haakaa just expresses the let down without emptying your whole breast. 
  • If sore breasts still do not go through these ways, emptying out your breasts might be the best option.

How To Prevent Engorgement?

No engorgement is always better than Engorgement.  Try to not stop the flow of milk. There would be times when your baby will be full and you still would have leftover milk. Don’t let it hang around for long. 

  • Instantly use a Haakaa after nursing to express extra leftover milk. In fact, use Haakaa/manual pump/electric pump every time your breasts fill full. 
  • Massage your breasts often to soften and increase blood flow in your breasts
  • Don’t schedule breastfeeding/pumping sessions at least in the initial months.
  • Don’t skip breastfeeding or pumping sessions. 
  • Wear a nursing bra that allows airflow in and out. It is comfortable to breastfeed without blocking any of your milk ducts or milk flow. 

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Cabbage For Engorgement?

Engorgement cabbage treatment is very widespread, given its wide-ranged benefits. It’s cheap, is natural, and does relieve breast engorgement.

Studies have conflicting researches on engorgement cabbage’s efficiency. But it’s anti-inflammatory properties speak otherwise. It’s natural and there is no harm in trying.

Though studies suggest drugs have a better effect on breast engorgement. Cabbage for Engorgement is not a completely flawed idea. Some studies have turned positive, too. So give it a try.

It’s not hard to use cabbage for engorgement. Just wash cabbage leaves. It doesn’t have to be cold. Cold or room temperature, their efficiency stays the same. But you can always chill out cabbage if you like the cold effect on your body. Cabbage in a lotion or cream has turned out to be more effective!

All in all, if Engorgement still persists, it’s time you visit your doctors and have the problem mapped out for a solution. Until then,



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