In the initial days after delivery a mother when nursing her baby produces colostrum and not the milk. Colostrum is the first form of milk that is produced. And only after 3 to 5 days a mother starts to produce milk. Colostrum is considered as healthy as breast milk and doctors around the world encourage mothers to nurse this to the baby.
Moving forward when a mother decides to nurse her baby she may face breast engorgement issues. Breast engorgement is something where the breast is swollen. This swelling can be severe and painful. However, there are some simple remedies which are helpful and provide relief.
Before we go onto the remedies, let’s read how breasts are engorged.
Starts after 3 to 5 days of childbirth. Due to milk production in the breast, a mother faces engorgement problems.
Less or no nursing can cause breast engorgement.
Skipping to nurse can cause breast engorgement.
Improper or difficult latching or sucking can also cause breast engorgement.
Intake of supplements for more milk production even when mother is able to fulfil baby’s requirement for milk.
Not pumping the milk when it is full can cause breast engorgement.
How it feels when the breast is engorged
Breasts are swollen and feel like a stone
It might feel heavy or hard
It might feel hard lumps in the breast
Latching becomes more difficult due to hardness
Issues a mother might face while breast is engorged
Body pain due to heaviness in breast
Discomfort while feeding
Unable to feed due to excessive breast pain
Uncomfortable or wrong position while feeding
How long does it lasts
As engorgement happens after 3 to 5 days post delivery, it lasts for about 12 to 48 hours. If not treated properly, it may last longer. It is not necessary that both the breasts are engorged. Sometimes when a mother is feeding more frequently from one side of the breast, the other side of the breast is engorged.
How to treat engorged breast
Consult the doctor if you are a first time mother. Talking to a doctor will really help as it helped in my case as it was a new concept for me.
Take a warm shower or use a warm compress.
Massage the breast in a circular motion. Starting from down. Use your index finger and middle finger to massage.
Pump little milk using your hand and then nurse your baby.
Pump the milk if not nursing. When taking a warm shower, massage the breast and express the milk.
Sometimes wrong positions can also cause breast engorgement, so ensure your feeding position is comfortable for both you and your baby.
If you are taking supplements to increase the milk production, ensure to nurse that much or pump out the milk and store correctly.
Wearing a supportive bra even in the night.
Feeding alternatively. This means, feeding from both breasts.
Like every mother, I too faced breast engorgement issue. For me it started post 5th or 6th day after delivery. I faced this issue as I was unable to nurse my baby correctly. Latching was an issue for me as we both my baby and I took time to understand how to latch properly. Initial days were stressful in my case as nursing wasn’t smooth and I did not know breastfeeding by default. I discussed this with my doctor and she suggested that I pump the milk using hand when I am not able to nurse through breast. I bottle fed the pumped milk. I used a hand to pump the milk as using a device be it manual or electric was more painful to my already swollen breasts.
I also faced this issue almost after 15 to 20 days again for 2 to 3 days. I slowly learnt to feed properly and the milk supply was increasing. However, feeding from the right breast was still an issue. So my right breast was engorged. Due to excessive pain, I had fever and body ache. I spoke to my doctor and she suggested pumping out the milk until I and my baby learn to latch correctly. I did massage using oil and used a hot compress. Everytime I felt a little tightness in my breast, I would pump out the milk if I was not nursing. Second time when I faced an engorgement issue it was also due to discomfort in the feeding position.
From my experience I can tell you, breast engorgement is the part of this journey, try to relax and learn the art of breastfeeding. It takes time so don’t stress too much.