5 Tips for Dealing with Engorgement

While not all moms experience engorgement, it’s a very common, and often uncomfortable, aspect of early breastfeeding. Engorgement, or your breasts being swollen and over-full of milk, happens because your body is working hard to produce milk for your baby and needs time to regulate to how much your baby actually drinks. Engorgement usually only lasts a few days but can feel like much longer. So, if you’re feeling sore, full, and uncomfortable, check out the five tips below to ease your discomfort as you wait for engorgement to pass.

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Image via Flickr/ marki1983

1. Nurse your baby on demand

As you feed your baby, your body begins to learn how much milk she actually needs. In order to be sure that you produce just the right amount, nurse your baby on demand. Some babies nurse every 2-3 hours, but it’s very common for newborns to nurse much more frequently. Even if it feels like your baby is on the breast almost constantly, know that your commitment to meeting their needs is helping your body regulate your milk supply.

2. Pump for relief when necessary

If you’ve nursed your baby and are still feeling uncomfortably full, consider pumping for just a few minutes. When you pump, remember that your body will continue to make the amount of milk you express so don’t aim to empty your breast, rather just pump until you’re no longer uncomfortable.

3. Take a hot shower or use a warm compress before feeding

When you’re engorged, your breasts can develop what feels like hard knots under your skin. While these knots are simply milk filling your milk ducts, they can cause your breasts to feel sore and sensitive. To soften your breasts and ease the knots, consider using a warm compress or taking a hot shower before you nurse. If your breasts remain hard as you nurse, consider massaging your breast with a warm washcloth as you nurse to loosen the milk and bring comfort.

4. Use an icepack or cold compress after feeding

While engorgement is largely due to excess milk in the breast, it’s not uncommon for swelling to occur simultaneously. If you’re feeling sensitive and swollen try using a cold compress (a bag of frozen peas from the freezer works just fine!) immediately after you nurse. The cold will help ease swelling as well as let your body know that you’ve finished feeding your baby.

5. Wait it out

Engorgement can be uncomfortable, unpleasant and stressful. It’s also absolutely temporary. As you work through engorgement, take comfort knowing that you’ll only be uncomfortable for a few days and that the payoff, being able to produce just the right amount of milk for your baby, is wonderfully worth it.

Good luck out there, mamas!

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5 Tips for Dealing with Engorgement

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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