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Common breastfeeding challenges - Engorgement

It is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender when they begin making more milk. Sometimes this fullness may turn into engorgement, when your breasts feel very hard and painful. You also may have breast swelling, tenderness, warmth, redness, throbbing, and flattening of the nipple. Engorgement sometimes also causes a low-grade fever and can be confused with a breast infection. Engorgement is the result of the milk building up. It usually happens during the third to fifth day after birth, but it can happen at any time.

Engorgement can lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection, so it is important to try to prevent it before this happens. If treated properly, engorgement should resolve.

What you can do

  1. Breastfeed often after birth, allowing the baby to feed as long as he or she likes, as long as he or she is latched on well and sucking effectively. In the early weeks after birth, you should wake your baby to feed if four hours have passed since the beginning of the last feeding.
  2. Work with a lactation consultant to improve the baby’s latch.
  3. Breastfeed often on the affected side to remove the milk, keep it moving freely, and prevent the breast from becoming overly full.
  4. Avoid overusing pacifiers and using bottles to supplement feedings.
  5. Hand express or pump a little milk to first soften the breast, areola, and nipple before breastfeeding.
  6. Massage the breast.
  7. Use cold compresses in between feedings to help ease pain.
  8. If you are returning to work, try to pump your milk on the same schedule that the baby breastfed at home. Or, you can pump at least every four hours.
  9. Get enough rest, proper nutrition, and fluids.
  10. Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra that is not too tight.

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