When a new mom’s breast milk comes in after giving birth, breasts can become full, hard and uncomfortable–especially if baby is having trouble latching or keeps falling asleep during breastfeeding sessions. The more time that goes by between feedings, the more breast milk will “back up,” so to speak, which can lead to clogged milk ducts or painful mastitis–an infection that often requires antibiotics. Here are some engorgement treatments that may help relieve that pressure.
Heat Before Feeding
Use heat on your breasts before feeding or taking a warm shower. This helps to soften tissue, promote milk let down and ease engorgement.
Cold After Feeding
Apply a cold, moldable compress (not ice directly) to your breasts after nursing to reduce swelling and soothe soreness.
While struggling with engorgement, avoid going longer than three hours between feedings, even at night. Nursing between ten to twelve times in a 24-hour period should help.
If you need to relieve some pressure, use an electric or manual breast pump for a few minutes. Just be mindful of how often and how long you use it, especially if you do not need to pump for storing and feeding purposes. The more breast milk is “extracted,” the more breast milk the body makes, so engorgement can be a recurring problem if you don’t need to produce a lot.
This method has been passed down through generations for a reason. It provides a cooling, soothing relief for sore breasts. Simply wash and cut a refrigerated cabbage in half and place a leaf on each, leaving your nipple free, for 30 minutes or as long as they provide relief.
Try a Different Feeding Position
If you’ve been feeding in the same position, trying a different one–such as the football hold. Utilizing different areas of the breast may promote more milk removal.
When an areola is experiencing swelling, it can be really tough for baby to latch properly and draw out breast milk, which perpetuates engorgement. Reverse pressure softening with the guidance of a lactation consultant can help.
Breast Massage and Milk Expression
Apply strong, circular pressure to your breasts, massaging from the outside (under your armpits and upper chest) down toward your areola. The more breast milk you can release, the less painful pressure you will feel (and the easier it will be for baby to latch).
Whatever you may be going through, just remember, you can do this and you will get through this! And don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything, whether that’s getting a good night’s sleep with the help of overnight newborn care, daytime newborn care and postpartum support, or nanny placement.