How to Handle Engorgement
Engorgement is when the breasts are full of milk – to the point of feeling and looking very full and swollen. Engorged breasts are increased considerably in size, can be very firm to touch, very hot to feel, and very tender or painful. Sometimes, the skin of the breasts can have a shiny look to it, due to the skin being stretched so much.
The first bout of engorgement usually happens a few days into the postpartum period. This is due to the hormones in the body switching over from supporting the pregnancy, to producing milk and sustaining lactation. During the latter months of pregnancy, the breasts are only producing colostrum. However, once the placenta is delivered, a hormonal shift begins, which increases milk production (so that the body will have enough milk to start nourishing the newborn baby). The peak of engorgement is usually around three days postpartum, which is about the time that breast milk has fully come in.
Engorgement, however, can come at different times within the breastfeeding journey as well. It can be a result of the baby not being positioned well at the breast, a poor latch, and infrequent feedings. These all have an effect on how well breast milk is being let down and released, as well as if the baby is taking enough milk out of the breast. Engorgement can also be a result of having breast implants and over pumping. Women who have been pregnant more than once also have reported to experience engorgement more than others.
There are several ways to relieve engorgement. First, however, the cabbage leaves home remedy must be addressed. Cabbage leaves are not advised, due to the fact that cabbages are, more often than not, imported. Even if they are locally grown cabbage leaves, they are ill advised. This is due to the fact that cabbage could have harmful pesticides, or other chemicals, on them – even if they are washed. Therefore, it is quite dangerous to place them on the breasts, and then feed the baby. The baby can ingest these harmful chemicals, and make them very ill.
There are plenty of other safe at home remedies that can help with engorgement relief. The first and very basic approach to engorgement relief is to continue breastfeeding the baby. Breastfeeding the baby helps relieve milk from the full breasts, so that they start to go down. Many women think that they should stop breastfeeding and wean the baby when engorgement happens, but the opposite is true. Sometimes, continuing to breastfeed the baby can become a problem while engorged (because the breast can be so full that the nipple gets flat, and the baby can’t latch). To help relieve the flattened nipple, so that baby can latch, massage the breasts. Massaging the breasts helps milk to come out of the breasts, and relieve fullness from engorgement. Gentle hand expression of breast milk is another way to ease engorgement. Taking a warm shower also helps, as the warm water streaming down the breasts helps the milk flow, and relieves pressure. Cold water treatments, in the form of an icepack or a cold compress, can also aid milk release.
Engorgement should be relieved within a short amount of time; however, be sure to get checked out by a physician or lactation counselor if it is not relieved by the aforementioned advice. If you are experiencing redness, fever, and/or flu-like symptoms, call your doctor as soon as possible, as it may warrant immediate medical attention.