After giving birth, a woman will experience a shift in hormones, causing more blood in the breasts. Two to five days postpartum the breasts will begin making more milk, causing swelling and a large amount of milk to become stored in the breasts. The breasts will be bigger, harder, tenderer and warmer. The areola will become taut and hard. Milk will not flow well and the nipple will shorten as the areola stretches, making it difficult for your baby to latch on to breastfeed. You may experience a fever that lasts less than 24 hours. Engorgement usually occurs in both breasts, and if the retained milk is not removed, milk production will stop for a time, until the milk has been removed.
Causes of Engorgement
- Your body produces more milk than your baby needs.
- There is too big a gap between breastfeeding sessions, your baby is not breastfeeding often enough, you limit the time that baby breastfeeds, or you did not pump milk while baby is not breastfeeding, causing too much milk to become retained in the breasts.
- Baby is not breastfeeding correctly and so milk is not being removed efficiently.
- Wrap your breasts with washcloths soaked in very warm water before nursing your baby to allow milk to flow more efficiently. Place warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Use cold compresses after breastfeeding to reduce pain and swelling of the breasts. Use cold compresses for approximately 10 minutes. If needed, take painkiller, such as paracetamol.
- Gently massage your breasts while breastfeeding to help you relax and stimulate milkflow.
- If the areola is taut and hard, making it difficult for your baby to latch on, pump some milk out so the areola softens and your baby can nurse more efficiently.
- Nurse more frequently during the day and night, maybe every two to three hours or more frequently if your baby demands it. Don’t limit the time your baby breastfeeds.
- If you are in too much pain to breastfeed, stop for a while and pump the milk to relieve engorgement.
- Avoid feeding formula from bottle or offering an artificial nipple too frequently.
- Wear a supportive bra and avoid one that is too loose or too tight.
- 9.If engorgement persists for more than two days, visit the Breastfeeding Clinic.