Breast engorgement occurs during the first few weeks of breast feeding; the colostrum turns in to mature milk, and the pressure of expanding veins due to the new breast milk causes the breast to become engorged.
You may feel fullness and heaviness, and occasionally, the breasts feel painful and tight.
However, the breasts do not remain engorged forever. The pain tends to subside in 4 – 5 days. Ice compress, cold cabbage leaves, etc., are effective home remedies to manage the condition successfully. Here are a few guidelines to manage engorgement of the breasts.
Home Remedies for Engorged Breasts (For Nursing Mothers)
- Wear a well fitting bra. This is the most important guideline to follow. It should not be too tight / too loose.
- Place ice packs around the breast; it relieves the congestion, swelling and engorgement. Wrap ice in a napkin and place it on the breasts. However, don’t do it just before feeding, the coldness inhibits the milk let-down.
- As you near feeding time, you may lessen the pain by using hot packs. You could use a hot water bottle, an electric heating pad, etc. Warmth causes some milk to flow and will consequently alleviate the tightness and fullness in the breast.
- Cool cabbage leaves are known to help cases of extreme breast engorgement. Place a couple of cabbage leaves in the freezer for half an hour. Then, make holes in the center (to accommodate the nipples). Wear a bra to keep the cabbage leaves in place.
- Once, the leaves have become warm and have wilted, change, and put fresh leaves.
Relieving Engorged Breasts
- Make sure that you breast feed your baby a minimum of 8 times every 24 hours; that will diminish the pressure and heaviness within the breast.
- Never supplement the baby’s food with extra liquids for the first 4 weeks; that will reduce the baby’s intake of your milk.
- If case the feeds get missed, express the milk manually. Express only a little bit at a time.
- Weaning should never be sudden; it should be a gradual process.
- Do not skip feeds at night; it causes immense engorgement in the night and morning.
Engorged Breasts Treatment Not Breastfeeding
- Mothers who are not breast feeding will need to express the milk manually. It is essential to reduce the fullness and tension in the breast. Hand express a little bit of the milk. This releases some heaviness and tightness in the breast. Never use a breast pump to express out all of the milk from the breasts. This causes the body to produce greater quantities of milk.
- Cold compresses are recommended. They allay pain and reduce the swelling and fullness considerably. You could use ice packs or cold cabbage leaves. You may use the ice compress several times a day; it promises to manage the fullness and pain almost immediately.